'Is Hizbullah here? Only children here.' City mourns air strike dead
Israeli attacks on Lebanon port hit canal near Palestinian refugee
By Clancy Chassay in Tyre
07/18/06 "Guardian" -- --
Twelve-year-old Nour lay heavily bandaged
and fighting for her life in a hospital in the southern Lebanese
city of Tyre. She is one of many children killed and injured in
Israeli air strikes on this Mediterranean port in past days.
"We are praying for her," said Fatima, a laboratory technician
doubling as a nurse at Jabal Amal hospital, which is overloaded with
the victims of the air strikes. Ali, the doctor treating Nour, said
he did not know whether she would survive her injuries. "She has
large burns all over her body, she is losing a lot of fluids. She
probably won't live; her life is now in God's hands."
More ambulances streamed into the hospital and doctors hurried to
treat the victims of the latest bombing. Whatever the Israelis'
intended target, the bomb fell on a small water canal next to the
Qasmia refugee camp, home to about 500 Palestinians. Its victims
were 11 children taking an afternoon swim in the canal.
The first blast left a crater nearly four metres deep, burying many
of the swimmers deep under the orange earth. Seven of the children
were injured, three critically. Three others have not been found.
The scene was littered with small plastic sandals, several caked in
blood. Ismael, the father of one of the children, sat on the edge of
the crater, his head in his hands weeping. "Children! Children!" he
roared through his tears, "Children here! My son here." He stood and
looked down into the crater: "Is Hizbullah here? Only children
here," he said, referring to the militant Islamist group that
kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and which Israel says it is targeting
in the wave of attacks.
Another man staggered around behind Ismael, also unable to control
The children were taken to the intensive care unit, many caked in
earth, having been buried deep in the ground. The victims of the
blast joined scores of injured from previous attacks across the
south of the country.
Ahmed Mrouwe, the hospital's director, said more than 200 wounded
people had been brought into the hospital - one of three in the
area. "We have received 196 wounded and 25 dead; the majority of
them are children and women."
It was the one of the bloodiest days so far in Lebanon, with 41
dead. In Sidon, 25 miles south of Beirut, an Israeli air strike on a
road bridge hit two vehicles, killing 10 civilians and wounding at
least seven, medical sources told Reuters.
They said both vehicles had been crossing the Rmeileh bridge,
heading from the south towards Beirut. Leaflets dropped from Israeli
planes have been urging residents in Hizbullah-controlled areas of
the south to leave.
Nine of the dead were in one vehicle. A woman died in the other
vehicle and six members of her family were wounded.
Canada said seven of its nationals had been killed in an Israeli
strike while holidaying in the southern Lebanese village of Aitaroun.
It was targeted again overnight with six killed, according to local
Early morning attacks left two men dead in the port of Beirut, and
eight Lebanese soldiers were killed in a rocket attack on an army
position near Tripoli in the north of the country.
An annex of the hospital in Tyre had been bombed the day before. The
attack came as doctors were tending to victims of a strike on a
12-storey residential building, which also housed the civil defence
offices, in Tyre. That attack left 21 dead, including several
children. Dr Mrouwe said nine people in one family had been killed;
only the father had survived.
At the site of the strike, rubble lay strewn hundreds of metres from
the building. The face of the building had been ripped off,
revealing the insides of homes. Furniture dangled out over the
charred wreckage of a cargo truck flipped on its side by the force
of the blast.
Huge chunks of cement bricks lay scattered between dozens of
crumpled cars. One resident, Mohammed, said he had seen the blast
from his house nearby. Amal, his sister's friend, had been killed in
the attack; she had just turned five.
At the hospital, small children were grouped in clusters throughout
its corridors, many displaced by the strikes on their homes. In one
room, a 50-year-old woman lay motionless in her hospital bed, burns
covering much of her body. She had narrowly survived the attack on
the building. She did not know it yet, but her son had died in the
operating theatre earlier that morning.
Asked how it compared to 1996 when Israel launched an attack on the
south, killing scores of civilians, Dr Mrouwe said: "It's
incomparable, incomparable. In 1996 the majority [of casualties]
were fighters. This time we have yet to receive any fighters."
Drones circled overhead almost continuously throughout the day,
interrupted by distant roar of fighter planes above.
Dr Mrouwe said: "We only want one of the human rights, we don't need
democracy - we just want to live."
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006