BEIRUT - Among hundreds of thousands of refugees scattered across city parks,
schools, and abandoned buildings in Beirut, new and chilling words have been
doing the rounds.
A senior Israeli air force official announced on Israeli army radio that "Army
chief of staff Dan Halutz has given the order to the air force to destroy 10
multistory buildings in the Dahaya district [of Beirut] in response to every
rocket fired on Haifa."
Hezbollah rockets continue to be fired into northern Israel. The rocket fire
has led to 17 deaths in Israel so far.
But the Israeli officer's announcement came like warning of more collective
punishment of civilians for the Hezbollah attacks. The Geneva Conventions seem
And the attacks seem set to continue. Brig. Gen. Alon Friedman of the Israeli
army announced on Israeli army radio that "the scope continues to grow
in recent days
we are advancing." Friedman said Israeli military
operations will continue at least another 10 days.
The announcements sounded new alarms of more death and destruction to come
and more refugees.
Reports of new fighting were coming in Tuesday, and more violence was bound
to add to the swell of refugees. The Israeli military pushed deeper into Lebanon
toward the town of Bint Jbail.
Hezbollah has been hitting back. Two Israeli soldiers were killed and at least
17 were injured in fighting there, according to local reports.
Hezbollah claims it shot down a U.S.-built Israeli Apache helicopter inside
Israel. Thus far, at least 20 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the worsening
conflict. Hezbollah claims it also destroyed five Israeli tanks in the area.
Fierce fighting was reported again in southern Lebanon, with nearly constant
gunfire and explosions.
And as the Israeli advance continued, Beirut was preparing for yet more refugees.
It is estimated that at least 600,000 Lebanese have been displaced already from
their homes by the Israeli onslaught.
"The Israelis bombed all around our house, so we left 12 days ago,"
50-year-old Supinesh Attar from the southern city Nabatiye told IPS at a refugee
camp inside a city park in downtown Beirut. "We had no water or electricity
since the beginning of the attack, so we fled for our lives."
Attar, sitting on a bench holding a piece of bread he had just been handed
by a volunteer, said he was always hungry and did not know where he would go
from here. "My family of 12 is scattered all around Beirut. I am the only
one in this park."
Sarjoun Namdi, a relief worker at the camp, told IPS that the camp in the park
had dealt with between 3,000 and 4,000 refugees. "Each day we have between
600-700 coming, and we try to move them to a safer place," he said as Israeli
jets roared above. "This place has bad hygiene, and not enough food and
Nearby, a relief worker pleaded with a large family to relocate to a school
in the area so they could have shelter. The family refused to leave the park
for fear they would have no food and water at the new location.
Relief agencies continue to struggle to operate effectively in war-torn Lebanon.
International relief groups continue their appeal for safe access to southern
Lebanon, as tens of thousands of refugees, and countless wounded, remain stranded
there with little assistance.
International relief agencies are warning of a humanitarian disaster unless
their supplies are allowed through. Aside from being impeded by the violence,
they are being held back by the ongoing Israeli air and sea blockage. The widespread
destruction of infrastructure by Israeli air strikes is also limiting access.
The Lebanese Red Crescent is still continuing to work round the clock to reach
the wounded, and to distribute food, water, blankets, and mattresses.
The International Committee for the Red Cross has provided some assistance,
but remains mostly limited by lack of safe passage to the south. The United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office is primarily distributing potable
water, and other supplies when possible.
Given the limitations of the refugee agencies, the bulk of relief to the displaced
and wounded is being provided on a grassroots level.
The various refugee camps in schools and city parks that IPS visited were being
managed by Hezbollah, local non-government organization groups, mosques, churches,
and just ordinary people.
(Inter Press Service)