Geopolitics

Exclusive: Inside The Secret Beirut Hospital Treating ISIS

In a secret location in the Lebanese capital, a 60-bed hospital treats ISIS and other Islamic extremists whose backers must pay cash in advance. Enemies share doctors where medicine is a blind business, and cash is king.

In another Beirut hospital
In another Beirut hospital
Eva Marie Kogel

BEIRUT When George Chamus* comes into the operating theater, he looks first at his patient's legs. Shattered shinbones, festering wounds, badly healed dying tissue. Chamus is a surgeon in Lebanon, one of the best in his field, and complicated breaks are his specialty. And word has gotten around, in Syria too. After looking at the legs, Chamus looks at the face. It's a young man with a beard, a full beard with only the part between the upper lip and the nose shaved. Then the doctor knows: Before him lies another fighter from the ISIS terror militia.

It's not just civilians who flee Syrian war zones to seek protection in Lebanon. Severely wounded ISIS fighters are smuggled from the front into the neighboring country when the field hospitals in Syria can do nothing more to help them. Lebanon has accepted more Syrians than any other country, but there are no official camps for the refugees. They are dispersed across the nation. The situation is chaotic: Many require help, many provide help, but nobody has an overview of who is committed to whom. This means that Lebanon is full of secret activity.

Transportation from Syrian field hospitals to the emergency rooms in the neighboring country is handled by aid organizations about which little is known. They also pay for the cost of care rather like a health insurance entity for jihadists. Where these organizations are headquartered and who runs them is unclear. They can easily cover their tracks amid Lebanon's confusion. There are indications, however, that the money comes from the Gulf states.

Qatar, the ISIS financier

Chamus believes he knows exactly who is paying for the 16,000-euro operation on a shattered shinbone that he is going to perform this morning. "The money comes from Qatar," he says. It takes Chamus several hours to perform the operation. When the fighters leave the operating theater, they spend a few days recovering at the hospital.

The doctor's prognosis for today's patient is that he will walk again, but with a limp. His minimum goal for his patients is to spare the young men life in a wheelchair. They are mostly aged between 20 and 22, and some are still teenagers. But they are also terrorists whose barbaric brutality is feared the world over. The slaughter in Syria and Iraq, the horrific acts they commit, are a declaration of war on the whole world.

Should he be healing such brutes? "As a doctor, you have to help everyone," he says. Even when the help is just prolonging the war? "Yes and no," says Chamus. One thing to bear in mind: "After the patients leave the hospital they are no longer apt for frontline fighting."

As a doctor, he sees the wound, the pain, the suffering first. Only after that does he see the person. How much pain and suffering this patient has inflicted on others is not something he has the luxury of considering. He doesn't know how many fighters he's treated. "We're not the only ones who provide care for the fighters," he says.

The hospital director is a determined woman with black hair and alert eyes. Her two phones ring incessantly. Mona Shalub* is sitting in her office in front of a large window, and at the end of her phone conversation she notices that she's forgotten to offer her visitor coffee. This embarrasses her. At her large, neat desk, she handles the finances. Only people who can pay receive care. "Up front," she adds smiling. She knows every patient and their medical file, and financing poses an ethical problem for her — particularly when terrorists are being treated in her clinic.

Medicine is just another business

The money for ISIS fighters is paid just as it is with other patients: promptly and in cash. A representative of the aid organization delivers an envelope. When asked where the money comes from, she replies, "From Qatar or Saudi Arabia."

The small, natural gas-rich emirate of Qatar is under permanent suspicion of supporting ISIS financially, but nothing has been proved to date. The emirate also pays for part of the Lebanese army and for building entire areas for the Shia Hezbollah militia, even though Hezbollah sides with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who in turn is fighting Qatar-financed Sunni rebels. The use of billions in gas money is a contradiction in itself.

"Medicine is not political," Shalub says. "You help people, not their political outlook." She conducts a tour of the premises with pride. It's a nice hospital with modern operating theaters, and the elevator works, which is never a given in Lebanon. Shalub points to the rooms in which there are Sunni ISIS fighters. The doors are ajar, and there are bearded men inside. "If they only knew," Shalub says, chuckling, "that there are Hezbollah fighters on the other side of the wall."

In the Syrian war, Lebanon's Shia militia is also fighting ISIS. "We make sure not to put them in rooms together," the director says, barely able to contain her laughter. War humor. Enemies from Syrian battlefields together in a hospital with 60 beds, with the same casts, the same bandages on their battered extremities, being looked after by the same doctors. All wounds are equal in war.

ISIS and Hezbollah are among the worst terror militias in the Middle East. Why does Shalub tolerate the presence of their fighters in her hospital? Her reply is brief. "Business," she says. Nevertheless, if it were to become known where exactly this hospital was located, chances are good that somebody would blow it up. There are certainly enough groups that would like to. "But fear," says the clinic director, "is not something we Lebanese can afford."

She fears neither bombs nor the hospital's patients. "They're little boys," she says, wounded and woundable. "Push them and they keel right over." Mona Shalub and Chamus laugh and sound almost tender. "They're quieter than other patients," Chamus says.

Other patients scream more often, but the ISIS fighters are mostly silent. "That's possibly also because when they arrive here, they're pumped full of pain relievers." They are traumatized, severely wounded junkies. "When they're brought here, there's no sign of life in their eyes," Shalub says. "After a couple of days, you get a glimmer. They are grateful."

Burying body parts

Sometimes Chamus can't mend a jihadist's bones, so he has to amputate the leg. In this case ISIS fighters are entitled to an additional service. The aid organization sends a man to wait in front of the operating room, where the amputated leg, wrapped in cloth, is handed over to him.

He carries it in a taxi that takes him back to Syria, where the leg is buried in a place of the fighter's choice. The ritual is in line with an Islamic belief that the body parts of an individual should be buried in one and the same place even if it is years before the body parts are reunited.

So the fighters assume that after their death they will be buried in the place where their leg is. Chamus says that sometimes the doctors and nurses in the operating theater joke about that. It seems absurd when the chances are pretty good that a bomb will destroy their body, and there will be nothing left to bury. "Why go to that much trouble for a destroyed leg when the person is probably going to end up as mincemeat?"

Then again in Lebanon they've long gotten used to the absurd.

*The names have been changed to protect their identities.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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