Casualties of War: The Death of Doua Abbas & Lebanese Civilians Flee to Palestinian Camps

August 6th, 2006 - by admin

Matthew Kalman / SF Chronicle & Christopher Allbritton / SF Chronicle – 2006-08-06 08:55:18

Casualties of War: The Death of Doua Abbas
Arabs are Among the Dead and Wounded
in Hezbollah Rocket Attacks on Israel

Matthew Kalman / San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service

MAGHAR, Israel (August 5, 2006) — Fifteen-year-old Doua Abbas was sitting with her older sister, Hana, quietly reading a book at her home high on the hill in the picturesque village of Maghar when they heard the eerie wail of the air-raid siren.

The village of 18,000, a model of peaceful coexistence among Muslims, Christians and Druze in the Galilee region of northern Israel, had never been attacked. But seconds later, there was a deafening explosion as a Hezbollah rocket slammed into the hillside not far away.

Doua’s mother was sitting in the next room. Shaking with fear, Imtiaz Abbas called her daughters to come to her. Seconds later, a Hezbollah rocket launched from southern Lebanon smashed through the roof of the one-story house, burst through the wall of the next room and sliced through Doua where she sat.

The Iranian-made Raad 2 rocket kept going, smashing through the window, sailing over the next house and landing 200 yards down the hill.

Doua’s body was cut to pieces, her blood and flesh spattered across the walls and furniture. Hana escaped with minor injuries but suffered a trauma that will haunt her forever.

“Doua hated the war,” her mother said. “Whenever she saw something about the war on the television, she said she was against it. She hated the killing. She would ask me, ‘Why? Why are people being killed like this?’ I told her that hopefully, with God’s help, the war will soon end. But it was too late for her.”

More than a week after the tragedy, Imtiaz Abbas doesn’t know if she can ever go back to the home where the youngest of her six children died. It lies in ruins, a gaping hole in the roof and wall, the metal reinforcements in the concrete torn and twisted.

“She was such a clever girl, and she had so many dreams,” she said, her eyes filled with sorrow. “She was an outstanding student at school and dreamed of going to university to study pharmacy or law. She could have done either.”

The family are strict Muslims. Now they live with relatives a few yards away.

“My faith in Allah helps to sustain me,” Imtiaz Abbas said. “My family and their support are helping us through this terrible time. It’s very difficult. I pray every day to God to help all the mothers who have lost their children. I feel their sorrow. I pray for an end to the war and an end to our pain.

“I call on all the mothers around the world to rise up and tell their leaders to end this killing of children.”

Doua’s father, Hosni Abbas, an unemployed laborer, said their faith and close-knit family has sustained them through the tragedy, together with the support of the whole village, which turned out by the thousands to bury Doua in the tiny cemetery halfway up the hill.

“There is a terrible sadness, but we do not feel any anger,” he said. “We do not blame anyone. We do not seek revenge. We find comfort in our faith, and we accept the will of Allah, but we pray that the killing will stop.”

This week, the rockets returned to Maghar. Five landed in open fields around the village Wednesday, but no one was hurt. But Friday, Manal Azzam, a 27-year-old mother of two, was killed and two other residents were seriously wounded when a rocket hit an apartment building.

About one-third of the Israeli civilians killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks since July 12 have been Israeli Arabs, most of them children. Three teenagers died Thursday when a Hezbollah rocket hit a field near their village of Tarshiha on the northern border. Two Israeli Arab children were killed when a Hezbollah rocket landed in Nazareth on July 19.

Lebanese Civilians Flee to Palestinian Camps:
Hundreds Fleeing Air Strikes
Find Shelter at Camps of Once-scorned Palestinians

Christopher Allbritton / San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service

Rachidiye refugee camp, Lebanon (August 5, 2006) — The displaced Lebanese came by the dozens in cars and on foot, seeking shelter among an earlier generation of the homeless — Palestinian refugees.

Zeina Musselmani and her family of nine arrived in this refugee camp of about 17,000 Palestinians seven days ago after fleeing the southern Lebanese town of Ech Chaaitiye. For two weeks, the family endured Israeli air strikes that destroyed their home and others nearby. Everyone told them to head for the nearby Palestinian camp, which they believed hadn’t been attacked, even though five Israeli shells killed one person and wounded six here almost two weeks ago.

The Musselmanis and about 1,000 displaced southerners now live in a school under the protection of people who often were scorned before the latest conflict with Israel.

That’s in the past, says 17-year-old Zeina. “We are all Muslim, all of us,” she said with a glittering smile. “And we have the same enemy, which is Israel.”

The approximately 300,000 Palestinians in Lebanon — many of them descendents of refugees from the original 1948 exodus from British-ruled Palestine as Israel fought its war of independence — have lived for decades in squalid camps, with little access to social services and with employment limited to menial jobs such as day labor. The United Nations gives them relief supplies. The Lebanese government sees them chiefly as a headache that won’t go away, many observers say.

But now, as in other parts of the country with other sects and ethnic groups, a surprising unity has emerged in the face of Israeli attacks.

“The Palestinians are my brothers,” said Yusif Ghanam, 43, of the nearby village of Ismaieyeh.

Alia Zamzam, 55, a tiny woman who practically disappears under her traditional head-covering and robe, is one of many camp residents helping displaced Lebanese. As she prepared meals for new arrivals, she spoke of families now being cared for by the camp’s Palestinian Women’s Organization.

“In the beginning, it was about 15 families,” she said. “When they came here, they had nothing.”

Zamzam estimated that the camp’s supply of rice, yogurt, milk and sugar would last for only three or four more days. She and her friends have offered their own rations for the displaced.

“If there is no cease-fire, I don’t think they are going to make it,” said Zamzam.

Other Palestinians are taking a more bellicose view of solidarity.

“We will be partners in this victory,” said Sultan Abul-Aynayn, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Fatah faction in Lebanon and the boss of Rachidiye refugee camp. Should the Israelis cross the Litani River, which many Lebanese fear, he promises to fight them in the camps, as he did in 1982. “We will be part of this battle,” he vowed.

He expressed admiration for Hezbollah — and possibly even a little envy, pointing out that the Shiite militant group has financial resources and sophisticated weaponry that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank lack.

“The people in the Palestinian camps, they see a Hezbollah victory as a victory for them as well,” said Abul-Aynayn. “And they would view the failure of Hezbollah as their failure.”

Other would-be warriors echoed his enthusiasm.

“We are waiting very anxiously for this (invasion),” said Abu Chawqi, a mustachioed officer in Fatah’s military wing. “If we can’t get to them, at least they can do us a favor and come here.”