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News: Daily Dispatches from the War-Torn Lebanese Capital
By Dahr Jamail
Returning from traveling to Sidon on Saturday, I was emotionally exhausted, physically sick from what I saw.
The first hospital I visited with two photographer friends was the largest in the south, Hamoudi Hospital. After asking permission, we were taken to several rooms of patients there.
In the first room, I met 77 year-old Mousa Sif, an old man who sat on the end of his bed, his eyes expressing a mixture of shock, fatigue, grief and sadness. “The second day of the war the Israelis bombed my home,” he told me.
He, his family and several neighbors had gone to the UN building nearby their home, seeking shelter, but the UN people sent them back to their home.
“We were bombed by the Israelis during our trip to the UN, then on our way back home, several of the vehicles were hit,” he told me wearily, “Then they bombed our home. There were 15 of my family in our house, and now many of them are dead.”
In the next room I met an ambulance driver with one of his arms blown off. Khuder Gazali, 36 years old, talked to me, his eyes fixed on mine, almost never blinking — from the shock, anger, and disbelief.
“Last Sunday people came to us and asked us to go help some people who’d lost their legs when their home was bombed by the Israelis,” he explained of the events that took place in a small southern village, “We found one of them, without legs, laying in a garden, so we tried to take him to the nearest hospital.”
On the way, an Apache helicopter rocketed his ambulance. The rocket took off his arm before exploding behind him, critically injuring everyone in back.
“So then another ambulance tried to reach us to rescue us, but it too was rocketed by an Apache,” he told me while gesturing with his one arm and explaining that everyone in that ambulance was killed, “Then it was a third ambulance which finally managed to rescue us.”
He pointed to his shoulder, then at another patient who had ridden in his ambulance laying in nearby bed, shrapnel wounds all over his body. “This is a crime,” said Khuder, “I want people in the west to know the Israelis do not differentiate between innocent people and fighters. They are committing acts of evil. They are attacking civilians and they are criminals.”
After visiting several more patients with similar stories of atrocities, we found ourselves sitting out in front of the hospital, numb from the experience.
“We can go to the other hospital now,” our interpreter Ayman informed us. So we loaded into our mini-bus and drove to the Labib Medical Center, also in Sidon.
Unlike in so many of the hospitals in Beirut, the staff at Labib was more than eager to show us their patients. They were desperate to get the information out to the world. A kind nurse, Gemma Sayer, took us around to each room.
The first person we met was a 16 year-old boy, Ibrahim Al-Hama. He lives in a village just north of Tyre, and was swimming with 12 of his friends in a river when they were hit by an Israeli rocket.
“Two of my friends were killed, along with a woman,” the boy told us.
In the room next door, a father talked with us whose wife and two small children, 5 year-old Hussien Jawad and 8 year-old Zayneb, looked on. One of Hussein’s legs was in a cast, while Zayneb had multiple injuries to her body and butterfly stitches on the bridge of her nose.
They’d stayed in their village near the border during the first three days of the bombing-but the bombs were getting so close they fled to another village for eight days.
“We ran out of food, and the children were so hungry, so they left with my wife and her sister in a car which followed a Red Crescent ambulance, while another car took the two other sisters of my wife,” he explained sternly, “They reached Kafra village, and an F-16 bombed the car with my wives two sisters. They are dead. And now you see my wife and children are injured, and we have nowhere to go.”
I could fill pages with the other cases we saw, but this is already long enough. I didn’t sleep well last night, and still feel sick inside. I woke up Sunday and turned on Al-Jazeera, to watch bodies being pulled from the wreckage of a shelter in the southern city of Qana which was bombed by Israeli warplanes.
At least 21 children and dozens of other civilians are dead. Dozens remain buried in the rubble. So far only three survivors have been pulled from the wreckage.
The Israeli army rejected responsibility for the deaths, and said that Hezbollah bore the blame because it used the village for launching rockets.
The same Qana where on April 11, 1996, the Israelis bombed a shelter in a UN peacekeeping base, killing 102 and wounding 120.
Originally posted on Mother Jones website