Beirut Diary 3:
Terror of war interrupts quiet evening in Shiyyah

Daily Star Staff

SHIYYAH/BEIRUT (9 August 2006) - HUNDREDS OF LEBANESE relived their worst nightmare late Monday as the Israeli military struck the Shiyyah area for the first time, a place where a large number of the displaced fled after earlier raids on the southern suburbs of Beirut. "They can't leave us in peace," said 15-year-old Fatima Ismail, one of 80 people recovering from wounds from the two Israeli strikes on Monday that demolished one building and split two others in half.

"We thought it was safe here as there are no Hizbullah people or offices here, but we were wrong," said Ismail.

She suffered fractures to her arms and legs and head wounds and is now recovering at Hayat Hospital in Shiyyah.

Ismail's family moved from the Dahiyeh to the densely populated and predominantly Shiite area of Shiyyah with the onset of war, believing Shiyyah to be "a safe area" since it is closer to the heart of Beirut and farther away from the targeted Hizbullah stronghold area.

According to several witnesses in the area, either six or seven "bangs" came before the two louder "booms" at the time of the strikes.

"It sounded like someone was shooting into the air," said nearby vegetable store owner Ali Bashir, who was covered in dust and debris when the buildings were struck.

"We heard the [drones] hovering over us, and then what sounded like gunshots, perhaps some kid trying to shoot them down, and the Israelis responded with two deathly blows," said Bashir, echoing statements by others interviewed by The Daily Star.

"We got comfortable and thought they would at least throw us some leaflets warning us to evacuate before they start pounding us, but I guess we were wrong," said Ismail, who was sitting outside with 10 family and friends, "chatting and just trying to entertain ourselves."

One of her friends, a 19-year-old man, was killed in the attacks, which left 29 dead, 75 wounded and several people still missing under the rubble, according to statements issued by Civil Defense.

The strikes took place close to a shopping complex and a school in a heavily residential area in which buildings are built close to one another.

Ali Mahmoud, in his twenties, was visiting his uncle's family in Shiyyah when a bomb exploded very close to him.

"I was sitting with my family when I heard a horribly loud roar and suddenly plenty of rubble was falling on my head," said Mahmoud, who was wounded in the head and had burns on his back and legs.

Mahmoud was running out of the home when he heard his uncle's wife screaming that her grandson was still inside.

"I ran back to get him. I was removing the rubble with my own hands when I saw a little foot moving. I thought, thank God, the little boy was alive," he said.

"I held him and took him to the hospital with me. The boy's name is Mohammad Ismail. His mother brought him to life after waiting for 11 years to get pregnant," he said.

Two wounded people are currently lying at the Intensive Care Unit in Hayat Hospital with their own tragic tales.

Inaam Nour al-Din lost her twin fetuses and was suffering from ruptures in the womb and liver, according to Mohammad Qassem, an emergency medic at the Hayat Hospital.

Hassan Ali al-Rai, 13, had wounds all over his body and a fractured skull but was in stable condition, Qassem said.

Rai doesn't know he lost his sister and brother in the bombardment and was still in shock the next day and kept calling for his mother to come.

Residents of Shiyyah dug into the rubble along with Civil Defense and Red Cross workers, with some of them suffering injuries themselves as the rest of the building collapsed.

"We all know each other, so I couldn't just stand by and not help my neighbor," said Mahmood Mazeh, 30, now lying in Hayat Hospital with 15 stitches in his head and wounds along his back.

Mazeh worked alongside the rescue crew until the early hours of the morning, when the targeted building and the one next to it completely collapsed.

"We kept trying to listen for sounds of any survivors under the rubble," he said. Earlier, he had pulled out the crushed bodies of two young men.

Unfortunately, this neighborhood is not new to tragedy, as it lay once at the front line that divided East and West, with its buildings still bearing Civil War-era bullet and shrapnel holes.


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