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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 July 2006, 21:02 GMT 22:02 UK
Beirut families with nowhere to go
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Beirut

One of the families staying at the school
Families have fled their homes because of the bombings
Abu Mohammed, 31, fled his home with his wife, six children, a budgie and the sound of Israeli shells ringing in their ears.

Having packed blankets, cups, medicine and coffee, Mohammed's family are now sleeping in a small park located in Beirut's city centre along with about 100 other families.

"We are hoping that this is only temporary," says Mr Mohammed. "But it's okay for now."

Since the beginning of the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, thousands of Lebanese citizens and foreigners have left the country.

Some residents are escaping to join relatives in the mountains to escape the bombardment.

But others like Mr Mohammed and his family have nowhere else to go.

Stranded families

They are from Beirut's southern suburbs, subject to fierce Israeli bombing after Hezbollah killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others on Wednesday.

The suburbs are a Hezbollah stronghold and the many of the inhabitants support the militant organisation.

When somebody hits you first, then you have hit them back twice as hard
Abu Mohammed

They are generally poor.

Israel has dropped leaflets from their air telling residents to leave the area.

But the thunderous explosions that roll the part of the city meant many people need little excuse.

"The children were crying and I wanted to get them out of there," says Mr Mohammed, sitting on a red rug in Saneya park with litter strewn round him.

"But I'm happy to be here. When it gets dark everybody falls asleep. It doesn't really matter where you sleep."

Local Lebanese volunteers are providing rugs and food for the stranded families.

When a man arrives with a box of water and chocolate bars a scrum of children knock him to the ground.

Accommodation

Even after Hezbollah's cross-border raid into Israel triggered the current crisis and meant he was forced to leave his house, Mr Mohammed says that he firmly supports the militant group's actions.

Abu Mohammed's family in a park, Beirut
Mr Mohammed's family have nowhere else to go

"When somebody hits you first, then you have hit them back twice as hard," he says. "Israel has hit us many times in the past."

The Lebanese government began to ease the situation by opening schools to accommodate those who have fled their houses.

The families are being transported by khaki-coloured military trucks.

At a school in Beirut's prosperous Ashrafiyeh area, 20 families occupy a class room each.

Two women lie on mattresses sleeping in one classroom. A boy sits at a school desk smoking while his mother wearing a floral-patterned dressing gown stands in front of the blackboard.

Like Mr Mohammed and his family, they have fled their homes because of the bombing.

We have two of theirs (Israeli soldiers) but they have hundreds of ours in Israeli jails
Mr Faka

Many of them are Hezbollah supporters and they blame Israel for their current predicament.

"Everybody has escaped from their homes," says one woman, who refused to give her name, sitting in the school's tarmac playground.

"God willing, things will get better".

Hussein Faka, 35, says that the world does not understand what is happening.

According to Mr Faka, his cousin has been in Israeli jail for over 20 years for killing an Israeli civilian.

He says he does not know if his cousin is dead or alive.

"We have two of theirs (Israeli soldiers) but they have hundreds of ours in Israeli jails," says Mr Faka. "That's what this is all about."




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