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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 July 2006, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Human cost of Israeli campaign
By Martin Asser
BBC News, Tyre

Hospitals in Tyre have treated hundreds of civilians injured in Israeli shell and missile attacks since Israel began bombarding southern Lebanon 11 days ago.

At the Jabal Amil hospital, for example, they have received 275 bombing victims. Of those, 27 (including eight children and five women) were either dead on arrival or the doctors were unable to save them.

Survivors of Israeli raids tell their stories from Tyre hospital beds

This is part of the human cost of Israel's war against the Hezbollah militants who captured two soldiers in northern Israel on 12 July and have since stepped up rocket attacks on Israeli population centres.

But hearing some of the survivors' stories, it is hard to understand why they were targets of the Israeli bombing campaign.

Ill-fated convoy

Zeinab Haidar smiles sweetly but nervously as she sits up in bed and points to where she has shrapnel wounds in her chest arms and legs.

Zeinab, 13, is one of four people still at Tyre's Najm Hospital who survived an ill-fated civilian convoy that left the village of Aitaroun last Friday to escape from one of the most bombed areas in south-east Lebanon near the Israeli border.

Bombed road
Roads have been destroyed or made impassable in many places
As the convoy's three cars approached Tyre, the first was hit by an air strike, killing everyone on board.

The two remaining cars tried to escape, but one was also hit by a missile, causing more deaths and injuries.

The Haidars jumped out of their car and ran to a nearby orchard, but the Israeli jets returned to drop two more bombs, wounding Zeinab, her mother and grandfather, and killing her grandmother.

After about 30 minutes hiding among the trees, Zeinab's father went back to the car. He found it was still working and drove to Najm hospital, on the southern edge of Tyre.

Ambulance drivers say two charred bodies still remain trapped in the first car, and two days later dogs and cats have started to eat their remains.

Stretched resources

Throughout the Najm and Jabal Amil hospitals, doctors are treating other civilian victims of the Israeli bombardment with similar stories to tell.

As quickly as possible, patients are transferred to Beirut by ambulance, so that beds, medical staff and equipment such as respirators are kept free in the expectation of further casualties.

My daughter is nine, she is clever and a good pupil in school... I will not tolerate what they did to her and her younger brother
Father of victims

Dr Ahmed Mroueh, director of Jabal Amil, has two of his five respirators being used by victims of an overnight bombing on a family home in Qleileh, about 10km (six miles) south of Tyre.

He is angry about the kind of patients he has had to treat: "I say to Israel and the world, enough killing of civilian people; normal war is between soldiers, not targeting civilians".

I put it to him that Hezbollah is also targeting Israeli civilians with its indiscriminate rocket fire in cities like Haifa and Nahariya. Pointing out of the window, he replies: "Look, there is no Hezbollah here."

Dr Mroueh says many of the deaths around Tyre are caused by deliberate Israeli air strikes on civilian traffic and roads, which means ambulances cannot reach the villages where the attacks occur.

This disruption meant it took six hours to get about 20 injured people from Qleileh to Tyre, passing from civilian cars to ambulances several times - a journey of normally less than half an hour.

Another patient, Hatim Hassan, had to walk about 1km - despite being badly wounded - to find help after his car was bombed overnight on an isolated road near Jouaiya.

Family attacked

In two rooms at Najm hospital lie two sisters and the two children of one of them. They are from Aita, another village on the front line with Israeli.

Soon after the bombardment started last week the family took refuge in the nearby Rmeich, one of the sisters told me.

Rmeich is a Christian village where they thought they would be immune from attack, because Hezbollah is an overwhelmingly Shia Muslim organisation.

But after a week all their food had run out and, anyway, the centre of Rmeich had still been targeted by Israeli artillery, the sisters said.

Heading back down to Tyre, their car was hit by an Israeli missile at the Kafra-Yatar junction. Two of the sisters were killed and the others received fractures and shrapnel wounds.

After flagging down an empty taxi, the two women's bodies were put in the boot, and the four survivors were brought to hospital in Tyre.

The children's father paces the hospital corridor. His dress, language, beard and the fact that he was "elsewhere" when the attack occurred, all indicate he may be a member of Hezbollah.

"My daughter is nine, she is clever and a good pupil in school," he says with tears beginning to well up in his eyes. "I will not tolerate what they did to her and her younger brother."

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