Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Qana, Bint Jbeil and Tyre

Qana: The southern Lebanese town of Qana is believed by some to be where Jesus performed his first miracle, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee mentioned in the Gospel of St John.

But in modern times it is blood - not water and wine - that is indelibly linked with the town, the blood of Lebanese civilians killed in Israeli bombing.

In 1996, one of the deadliest single events of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict took place there - the shelling of a UN base where hundreds of local people were sheltering.

More than 100 were killed and another 100 injured, cut down by Israeli anti-personnel shells that explode in the air sending a lethal shower of shrapnel to the ground.

Ten years later, the town is again in the headlines, this time because of a single massive bomb dropped by an Israeli aircraft, causing a building to collapse on top of dozens of civilians - many of them children - taking cover in the basement. [...]

Israeli officials say leaflets had been dropped in the area warning civilians to leave their homes, so it could step up its anti-Hezbollah operations.

However, with the number of civilian cars and convoys which have been bombed on the roads heading to Tyre, many residents were too scared to take the Israeli warnings or were unable to flee because they had no means of transport.

Bint Jbeil: The town of Bint Jbeil is no longer a place of the modern world. [...] Israelis shelled the town into rubble.

In the ruins of houses we found old people trapped by the fighting. One woman was desperate for water.

There were no rescue workers in this part of town so it fell to journalists to carry them out to the ambulances. [...] They had survived and it seemed as if they were astonished by that. [...]

Across south Lebanon refugees were on the roads. One man was walking an elderly neighbour north towards safety. He was furious as he approached us.

"Tell the UN to come and see the hungry women and children, the bodies under the rubble being eaten by dogs. There's no conscience left in this world," he said. [...]

Two armies fighting have bombed this town back to the Stone Age and it's happened in the 21st Century.

It's happened in spite of the existence of the United Nations, in spite of the promises made to civilians that they will be protected during time of war.

For the people of Bint Jbeil there was no protection at all.

Tyre: City under attack - in pictures

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