Ethiopian woman killed in Lebanon by Israel Bombs

Suzanne Goldenberg in Tibnin, Lebanon
Wednesday July 26, 2006
The Guardian

But he too left people behind. In the ruins of his home, hit by the Israeli forces on Monday night, lay the bodies of his two maids: one Ethiopian, one Sri Lankan. The women were asleep when Mr Baydoun's home was attacked.

It is their feet that tell their story. They are bloody, swollen and bandaged after carrying them over mountains and under rocket barrages as Israel's war against Hizbullah erased the lives behind them.
In their villages lay ancestral houses crushed by bombs, family heirlooms abandoned mid-flight, the elderly and the frail, and of course the dead, their bodies trapped beneath the rubble. All that belonged to the past now.
The awful present was here in Tibnin General Hospital, a modest facility even in ordinary times, whose doors yesterday opened on a vision of hell: as many as 1,600 desperate and terrified refugees caught up in Lebanon's deepening humanitarian crisis.
They were men, women, children and newborn babies, forced to abandon their homes as the frontline drew nearer, and stranded in this hospital for days. There was no running water or electricity, no doctors or medicines, little food and even less hope.
They had walked here over hills shuddering beneath Israeli air strikes. Some were barefoot. Others were shellshocked. Some barely managed to enter this world; five babies have been born prematurely at the hospital since the beginning of the war, the Lebanese Red Cross said.

The hundreds here are the most wretched of this war: too poor or unwilling to flee when the first waves of refugees washed up from south Lebanon. The only destination open for them was the darkness of this hospital cellar, barely relieved by a few flickering candles.

And they still aren't safe. Tibnin lies 7km from the town of Bent Jbail, a Hizbullah redoubt a couple kilometres north of the border that is now encircled by Israeli troops. Minutes after our arrival, two artillery shells slammed into the hillside below the hospital. A woman screamed: "Save us". A man yelled at the crowd to calm down, and then a surge of human flesh carried both of them inside. Another shell landed, and then two more.
The roads leading to Tibnin are scored with craters from Israeli air strikes, and in several of the neighbouring villages at least one house has been flattened by an Israeli bomb, carrying a tonnage capable of blowing out the shutters of shops several hundred metres away.
But it was nothing compared to what Kamal Mansour left behind. A farmer from the eastern village of Aaitaroun, which lies barely 2km from the Israeli border, he had been determined to stay in his home despite the increasing intensity of the air war.
But by yesterday morning he could take no more. "They hit us very aggressively," he said. "They didn't leave a single house standing, and there are still people there, buried under the rubble."
He gathered his children - nine of them - and began the trek to safety, carrying the smallest ones on his shoulders. There was no other way out. In this time of war, transport is at a premium: the fare to Tyre has risen to $100 (£54) per person, or $250 for a car. That was inconceivable for Mr Mansour. "We had no gas and no car. Whoever had a car and could leave had already left."
Hala Abu Olaya, a dental secretary from Bent Jbail who lived with her mother and two sisters, also had no car. As the war wore on, the women were forced to flee to four different houses in succession in the besieged town. None offered any real safety. "First they destroyed our house. We left with only the clothes on our back," she said. "We ran to one house, and the bomb fell in front of the door, so we had to escape that house too. Then we ran away to another house. But then that house got bombed."
By the time she arrived in Tibnin, Ms Abu Olaya had been wearing the same clothes for 14 days. Her mother and sisters were no longer with her. "I have nothing now," she said.
For Ali Hourani, a stonemason, also from Bent Jbail, flight offered the cruellest of choices: his ageing parents or his five children. At 82, his father, who has diabetes, was in no condition to flee, nor was his mother, who is 75.
"We spent 10 days under bombs, and it was as if we had died 100 deaths," he said. "No one cared about us. No one asked about us."
As Israeli forces moved deeper into the town, seizing houses on its outskirts, Mr Hourani arrived at his decision. Leaving his parents behind in their home, he took his children out over the hills. He also carried the guilt with him. "There are still a lot of people in the village," he said. "Please help us to get them. We are desperate to get them out. They are injured and old."
In Tibnin hospital, the circumstances are no less desperate. The only supply route is from the coastal town of Tyre via ambulances belonging to the Lebanese Red Cross. The volunteer medics estimate that they can bring in 500 packets of Arabic bread, and 100 cans of tinned fish per trip. It's just about enough for one meal a day.
It can't come too soon for Yusuf Baydoun, 78, who spent 2½ hours walking here over the hills in socks and plastic bath sandals.
"They were bombing all the time," he said. "It was very bad. I thought my heart was going to stop."
Mr Baydoun managed to bring out his wife and two daughters. But he too left people behind. In the ruins of his home, hit by the Israeli forces on Monday night, lay the bodies of his two maids: one Ethiopian, one Sri Lankan. The women were asleep when Mr Baydoun's home was attacked. "It is very sad," he said. "It was not their war."

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