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Mothers wail, ‘What human would ever do this?’

Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed


Updated Aug 9, 2006

BEIRUT (IPS/GIN) - About 55 percent of all casualties at the Beirut Government University Hospital are 15 or younger, hospital records show.

"This is worse than during the Lebanese civil war," Bilal Masri, assistant director of the hospital, one of Beirut’s largest, told IPS.

Not only are most of the patients children, but many of the injured are in serious condition, he said. "Now we have a 30 percent fatality rate here in Beirut. That means that 30 percent of everyone hit by Israeli bombs are dying. It is a catastrophe."

The fatality rate was high, he said, "because the Israelis are using new kinds of bombs which can enter shelters. They are bombing the bomb shelters which are full of refugees."

Mr. Masri blamed the "widespread and indiscriminate nature of the bombings," noting that "children are least able to run away when the bombings commence."

The crisis forced the new 544-bed hospital to open its emergency room six months early. The hospital has handled "scores and scores" of casualties, according to the assistant director.

Mr. Masri said he had barely slept in the 13 days since the Israeli bombing of Lebanon began. His hospital, he said, was functioning with only 25 percent staff because "most are now unable to get here because so many roads and bridges are bombed. Those who are here are eating, sleeping and living here 24 hours a day because if they leave they fear they may be unable to return."

On July 23, Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief chief, toured the devastated areas of south Beirut. He described what he saw as "horrific" and said the destruction "makes it a violation of humanitarian law."

He said UN supplies of humanitarian aid would arrive within the next few days, but "we need access," and "so far Israel is not giving us access."

Aid is now a matter of life and death. Mr. Masri said his hospital would soon begin to run out of medicines and supplies.

"We are concerned about what is to come because we cannot continue at this rate," he said. "Already we’ve had to go to the Ministry of Health to get extra supplies. If the UN succeeds in opening safe passage from the south, we will be deluged with patients."

He said hospitals in Sidon and other southern cities are overwhelmed with patients, who are being treated in the corridors and lobbies. According to him, many of the injured there are suffering from the impact of incendiary white phosphorous. The Lebanese Ministry of the Interior has said the Israeli military has used this weapon.

"We don’t know why we aren’t getting help from the International Committee of the Red Cross," Mr. Masri said. "The Lebanese Red Cross is helping us the best they can, but no foreign agencies are helping us. Why not?"

As the IPS correspondent was speaking with the assistant director, an enraged man was led out by several security guards. His wounded son had just been discharged.

"I want my son to stay here because we have no place to go," the man was shouting. "Our home has been flattened. If we leave here, we must go to a refugee camp in a school, or sleep on the dirt in a park. I demand you allow us to stay here."

Mariam Mattar, a 50-year-old mother sitting on a mattress in a park in central Beirut along with hundreds of other refugees from southern Beirut, said no home there was safe.

"We left our house because they are bombing everything in the civilian neighborhoods," she told IPS. "They are killing all our children. What human would ever do this kind of thing?"

They had moved to central Beirut because it was safer. But living out in the open has meant another kind of hell. "We are without our shoes even. We are living in the dirt. Would Israel allow her children to live like this?" she asked, pointing at her bare feet.

She pulled a little boy toward her and said, "What have these children done? The other children who didn’t escape are rotting under the destroyed buildings as we speak."

Israeli warplanes roared above as several refugees spoke with IPS.

"We are very afraid from all the bombings," said Ramadan, a 12-year-old boy in the park. "I hope they stop. This is all we want now."

© Copyright 2006 FCN Publishing, FinalCall.com


:: Article nr. 25619 sent on 10-aug-2006 05:10 ECT

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Link: www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_2832.shtml



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