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As the bombs rain down, a refugee crisis unfolds on the streets of Beirut
Lebanon was on the brink of a humanitarian crisis yesterday as Israeli forces continued their bombardment and thousands of Shia Muslims either fled their homes or found themselves trapped.
In Beirut, where Israel has dropped leaflets from the air urging residents to leave the teeming suburbs controlled by Hizbullah, schools are being overwhelmed as families set up temporary homes in classrooms. Hundreds of others are sleeping out in the open.
Among them were 600 homeless Shia, 70% of them children, who spent Saturday night in Sanayeh park, not far from the city centre. Police were turning journalists away yesterday. "No photographs," one said. A volunteer relief worker said the Lebanese authorities had been slow to act during the first few days of the crisis and would be embarrassed by published pictures.
Before the war began, more than half a million Shia were believed to be living in Dahiyeh, the suburb most heavily targeted by the Israelis. The Lebanese authorities opened dozens of schools at the weekend but these are now overflowing. The Chakib Arslan school in Verdun was considered suitable for up to 180 people, but now holds 850. Most had only brought what they were wearing or could carry.
As the sound of three bombs shook the school, a teenage girl burst into tears. Faten and her 16 relatives are living in a classroom. "Our house was not safe," she said. "Hizbullah told us to go and we left four days ago. We have $100 [£55] between us and my father needs medicine. We can't get it for him."