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Cut-off Lebanese village struggles as food, medicine dry up
RMEISH, Lebanon, July 27, 2006 (AFP) - Cut off from the rest of the country but still relatively unscathed, the border village of Rmeish in southern Lebanon is reeling under a wave of refugees as food, fuel and medicine grow scarce.
The most pressing concerns, though, is the lack of basics and fears that diseases such as cholera may soon take hold.
"There has been no water for two weeks, no more bread, no more fuel, no more medicine," the mayor, Khalil el-Hage, told AFP.
The few humanitarian aid convoys that are cautiously venturing into the south have not arrived.
"Now we are forced to fill baby bottles with the scum-filled water from the pond," Hage says, pointing to a stagnant pool of water in the middle of the village, surrounded by charmless grey concrete buildings.
With only four deaths from Israeli attacks, Rmeish is considered a relative sanctuary for residents from worse-hit areas nearby, many of which have suffered more than twice the number of casualties.
As a result, refugees have streamed in, believing that Israel will spare the place because of its Christian roots.
The population, previously around 8,000, has swelled to more than 30,000 with the influx, and homeless families fill the streets or squeeze into locals' homes.
"The children have lice because they can't wash themselves and they're packed in like sardines -- 60 people living in apartments with just three bedrooms," says one woman, Samia.
She shows a reporter her father's house which is accommodating around 100 refugees from Ait-el-Shaab, a neighbouring village that has been gutted by Israeli firepower.
"Once again, Israel has destroyed Lebanon," says an old woman who does not give her name. She comes from another nearby village, Ein Ebel.
"The Jews won't leave us alone. Isn't it enough what they've done to the Palestinians?" she cries.
"The only thing we can do is flee to Israel," says another woman, afraid that Rmeish will soon be caught up in the bloody battle between Hezbollah and the Israeli army.-AFP