From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: Palestine | International
86 corpses into plain wood caskets. Many just big enough to fit a small child
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Saturday Jul 22nd, 2006 7:58 AM
Dozens of dead buried in temporary mass grave until fighting ends
Clancy Chassay in Tyre
Saturday July 22, 2006
The Guardian

In the driveway of Tyre's Government hospital yesterday the sour smell of rotting flesh mingled with spray paint as the chief coroner wrote the names of the dead on their coffins.

Empty wood caskets, which had been neatly stacked by a large white freezer truck - one of two being used to store the bodies of many of those killed during Israel's bombardment of south Lebanon - were now being filled; 86 of the 150 corpses in the truck were to be buried in the afternoon.

The continuous drone of Israel's Apache gunships could be heard over a clamouring crowd that had gathered to witness the burial. As an old man nailed coffins shut, friends and family members of the victims wept or stared at the bodies, loosely wrapped in plastic or bloodied blankets, as they were passed out of the truck. The noisy gathering quietened each time a smaller bundle emerged from the makeshift morgue.

Once sealed, the coffins were placed along the length of a wall outside the hospital each underneath a large black painted number. Several hours passed before they were finally ferried to a nearby field where two trenches had been dug to serve as a mass grave. It will not be their last resting place. They will lie there until the fighting subsides and the bodies can be exhumed and handed over to their families. The caskets, many only big enough to hold a small child were laid in two large trenches, less than 100 metres long, two metres wide and no more than a metre deep.

Watching the burial was Qasim Shaala, the chief medic at Tyre's Red Cross offices. "Most of the casualties are women and children," he said. "They [Israel] are not letting us save them. Ambulances aren't allowed into areas after they are shelled."

For the past four days, Mr Shaala and his team of 50 volunteers have been ferrying people from the Red Cross centre in Tibnin, near the border with Israel, to Tyre. Earlier that day Mr Shaala described the dangers and difficulties his ambulance workers had faced.

"We are being bombed as we try to get to the victims, and when we try to bring them back. Many of the roads are destroyed so we have to take detours through the orchards and farmland."

He said that on every trip the teams had to stop their vehicles several times to clear large chunks of debris from those stretches of road that could still be used. Several of his drivers had been wounded by Israeli air strikes and one of his five ambulances was rendered useless.

by more
Saturday Jul 22nd, 2006 8:02 AM
Soldiers laid 72 coffins in two trenches, a mass grave for victims of Israeli bombards. Elsewhere, mounds of rubble sat undisturbed; rescue workers were too fearful of missiles to search for bodies.

Lebanese have streamed out of south Lebanon since fighting erupted between Israel and Hezbollah last week, leaving some villages almost deserted. But many people are believed trapped in their homes - too poor to live anywhere else, too afraid to travel or unable to go because bridges and roads have been destroyed.

Volunteers placed the bodies of 72 victims - many of them children - in hurriedly made wooden coffins, their lids spray-painted with the names of the dead and an identifying number.

Army troops loaded the coffins three or four high onto trucks and took them to an empty lot outside their barracks, where two trenches had been dug.

The soldiers lowered the coffins into the grave as Israeli warplanes flew overhead, diving to fire missiles on targets in the nearby countryside.

Only a few dozen mourners looked on, a sign of the mass flight of Tyre's residents.

An estimated 400,000 Lebanese make their home south of the Litani River, 30 kilometres from the Israeli border, and it's not known how many remain - but those that do risk being caught up in an Israeli ground offensive against Hezbollah.

More than a half-million people, two-fifths of whom are children, have been driven out of their homes in the Shiite regions of Lebanon and the southern Beirut suburbs by Israel's 10-day-old aerial onslaught.

Thousands of them now sleep rough in Beirut parks, cram into schools or bunk with relatives and friends. At several schools around the city, headscarfed mothers and children can be seen peeking out of windows from classrooms turned into sleeping quarters.
by Time (Reposted)
Saturday Jul 22nd, 2006 9:46 AM
On Scene: As residents leave the war zone to head north, the humanitarian disaster in the south is getting worse


The southern hinterland beyond Tyre has become a killing zone. Here the dead lie under the rubble of houses destroyed in air strikes and the wounded die in the streets for lack of medical attention. Almost all the roads that criss-cross the hills and valleys of the south have been heavily cratered from multiple air strikes, making them impassable. Even United Nations peacekeepers with their armored personnel carriers have abandoned the effort to resupply or evacuate residents of southern villages because of the conditions of the roads and the Israeli shelling and air strikes. "We are in close contact with the Israelis to request safe passage but their answer has not been forthcoming," says Milos Strugar, senior advisor to the UN force, known as UNIFIL.

by Daily Star (reposted)
Saturday Jul 22nd, 2006 5:15 PM
TYRE: Wrapped in blankets and plastic bags bound tightly with tape, the bodies were lowered from the truck into simple pine-board coffins doused with a chemical spray to mask - without much success - the cloying odor of death. With the numbers of dead steadily rising with each passing day, the initial victims of Israel's 10-day onslaught against South Lebanon were removed Friday from make-shift morgues and buried in a mass grave on the edge of Tyre.

The few remaining residents of Tyre were steeling themselves in expectation that the Israeli offensive is about to get much worse. The air strikes continued with a remorseless intensity. The massive explosions in the low hills east of Tyre were marked by pressure waves sweeping the town and rattling windows while thick columns of roiling gray smoke and dust hung in the air for minutes afterward.

A hollow thump and a puff of smoke in the sky above the Christian quarter on the tip of Tyre's promontory signaled another leaflet drop from the Israelis. A cloud of yellow paper rippled down like confetti blown by the sea breeze inland east of Tyre, the plastic barrel which had contained the warning slips crashing next to the Catholic bishop of Tyre's residence.

An hour later, the Maronite and Catholic churches had closed and a convoy of more than 20 cars, most of them with white sheets fluttering from windows, departed the Christian quarter and headed out of town.

Families lugged suitcases down the narrow alleys of the quarter to their cars. Not all wanted to leave, however. One exasperated man pleaded with his elderly mother to get in the car with the rest of his family, but she refused.

"How can I leave my home?" she asked.

Some residents refused to leave, mainly the elderly, who sat outside their front doors sipping tiny cups of coffee and gloomily watching their neighbors depart.

"We just don't know if they will hit this area. People are panicking," said one elderly man.

Most Christian residents earn their living as fishermen. But none of the wooden fishing boats have left the small harbour since the conflict began.

"If we go out to fish, we eat, if we don't go out to fish, we starve," said Fouad Gerges.

Food is beginning to run low, especially bread, a key staple for many. But only one bakery is still making bread each morning and it cannot supply the needs of the remaining population. Fuel has also run dry, although it is suspected that the gas stations are hoarding what meager stocks they have left. One gas station which opened for a short period in the morning attracted a small queue of cars - shades of Baghdad in South Lebanon.

Despair is setting in at the offices of the mayor. There is little the municipality can do to avert the humanitarian disaster which has already befallen the villages outside Tyre and now threatens the town itself. Local officials are angry at the lack of help from the government.

"We've had a lot of promises but so far nothing has happened," said Hassan Dbouk. "People keep coming to our offices asking for help but we have nothing to give them."

At the government hospital in the area's Al-Bass Palestinian refugee camp, preparations were under way for the grisly task of burying 86 bodies which had begun to decompose despite being stored in a refrigerated meat truck.

Even as the back doors of the first truck swung open to reveal a pile of wrapped bodies, a carpenter was hammering together planks of wood to make another coffin to join a pile of more than 100.

Each body was inscribed with the victim's name, which someone would read out to a soldier who would tick a list on a clipboard. The second body to be squeezed into a narrow coffin was that of Alia Alieddine, a 30-year-old woman who had been badly wounded in an Israeli air strike against the village of Srifa, 15 kilometers east of Tyre. This reporter had witnessed her fight for life, clearly in vain, just two days earlier in the intensive care unit of Tyre's Jabel Amel hospital.

By the time the third body had been lifted from the truck, the green canvas stretcher on which they were carried to the coffins was streaked in black blood which had oozed from the plastic and cloth shrouds.

Three unidentified bodies were set aside so samples could be taken for DNA testing.

A crowd of wide-eyed Palestinian children from the surrounding camp clambered up the wall of the hospital to stare at the morbid scene in the courtyard. Grieving relatives of the victims sitting in a line nearby quietly sobbed. Some of the bags were pitifully small - hospital staff said that more than half those buried were children. Other coffins were filled with more than one bag, grim evidence of the destructive firepower of Israeli ordnance.

Almost a quarter of the victims had been killed in a helicopter attack last weekend on a convoy of three vehicles - two cars and a flatbed truck - filled with residents fleeing the border hamlet of Marwahine. One missile hit the truck, in which 25 people were crammed into the open back.

"Israel is an evil state that cannot confront the resistance and retaliates against civilians," said Kamel Abdullah, 35, who lost his pregnant wife, six children and his father in the attack.