TYRE, Lebanon - Israeli warplanes have attacked the Lebanese Red Cross repeatedly,
members of the medical aid group say.
"The night of July 23, we were called to rescue a family whose home was
bombed," Kassem Shaulan, a 28-year-old medic with the Lebanese Red Cross
in Tyre told IPS. "Just as I finished loading the three injured people
in my ambulance, it was struck by a rocket and all of us were injured."
The ambulance, now parked outside of the Red Cross headquarters in this coastal
city, had a hole through the center of the red cross painted on its roof. The
inside was heavily damaged and pieces of the metal frame of the van hung limply,
riddled with shrapnel holes.
The Red Cross worker had several wounds on his body and stitches on his chin
and leg. He said he could not hear very well any more.
"There was an old man on a stretcher in the ambulance who lost his leg
from the bomb," Shaulan said. "And a child with us is now in coma.
The third person is critically injured."
Shaulan, who has worked with the Red Cross for 13 years, is also training manager
at the headquarters. He said that minutes after his ambulance was bombed, another
ambulance nearby that was collecting injured people was also bombed.
Nobody seems to feel safe anywhere any more. During the brief letup in air
strikes after Israel's disastrous strike on a shelter in Qana that killed at
least 60 civilians more than half of them children villagers are
fleeing their homes in southern Lebanon by the tens of thousands.
The United Nations World Food Program and other relief agencies have been working
tirelessly to take advantage of the short window to ferry truckloads of aid
to stranded civilians.
The brief halt also revealed more death and destruction. Members of the Lebanese
Red Cross in Tyre told IPS that their rescue workers retrieved more than 30
bodies from destroyed homes, streets, cars, gardens, and ditches as they began
their search. They continued to receive calls about the dead and injured from
villages throughout the south.
Shaulan said his headquarters had received calls from Qana pleading for rescue
assistance at 5 a.m. on the morning of the Israeli strike. The shelter was bombed
at 1 a.m.
"Immediately after we got the call, we took three ambulances and headed
to Qana," he said. "But three bombs nearly hit our first ambulance,
so we turned back."
They attempted to head out to Qana a second time, but again their ambulances
were attacked, and they returned to base. "They were keeping us away,"
Shaulan said. They succeeded a third time, just before 9 a.m.
"You can see here that everyone the Israelis are attacking are civilians
and the Red Cross," Shaulan said. "And now we are having trouble reaching
villages to collect bodies because they've bombed most of the roads and bridges
before they told people to leave their homes."
Mohammad Zatar, who has been working for the Lebanese Red Cross in Tyre since
1993, said he had never before seen attacks on rescue workers.
"As a Red Cross volunteer, I need to be very clear that we are not political
we rescue anyone who needs help," the 32-year-old Zatar told IPS.
As a colleague unloaded bodies from bloody stretchers, Zatar said "whether
they are civilian, a resistance fighter or an Israeli soldier, our policy is
to help any human who needs help. But the Israelis seem to be attacking us now."
Zatar said that most of the bodies they were picking up were of women and children.
"Sometimes we pick younger or middle-aged men, but that is uncommon."
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Israeli Parliament Monday that
Israel plans to "expand and strengthen" its attack against Hezbollah.
"It's forbidden to agree to an immediate cease-fire," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said there would be no cease-fire, and that
Israeli forces will continue fighting from the air and sea and on the ground
(Inter Press Service)