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2006-07-20

Over 70 Killed in Lebanon in Deadliest Day of Israeli Assault

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Israeli air-strikes killed at least 72 civilians in Lebanon on Wednesday making it the deadliest day of the Israeli assault. The death toll now stands at around 330 with many hundreds more wounded. We go to Beirut to get a report. [includes rush transcript]

Israeli air-strikes killed at least 72 civilians in Lebanon on Wednesday making it the deadliest day of the Israeli assault. The death toll now stands at around 330 with many hundreds more wounded. The United Nations emergency relief coordinator estimates that nearly a third of the casualties are children.

Meanwhile thousands of foreigners continue to evacuate Lebanon and aid agencies are warning of a looming humanitarian crisis for those left behind. So far, the Israeli bombardment has displaced over 500,000 residents in Lebanon which has a total population of four million.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Lebanon to speak with Jackson Allers, a correspondent with Free Speech Radio News. He joins us on the line from Beirut. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jackson.

JACKSON ALLERS: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe the scene on the ground now?

JACKSON ALLERS: Predictably, it’s tense in Beirut right now. The reports continue to stream in about the bombardment in the south, and there’s really a sense on the ground of not knowing when an Israeli strike is going to happen in the city and when it is not. In Achrafieh, the eastern Christian district of Beirut, yesterday, the Israelis targeted different construction vehicles within the neighborhood, and that was sort of a crossing of the line in many people’s minds. They now think that Israel has carte blanche to hit wherever it is that they want. So predictably things are very tense on the ground with the people.

AMY GOODMAN: Jackson, you have been speaking with refugees?

JACKSON ALLERS: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what they’ve said, and where they come from and where they’re staying?

JACKSON ALLERS: They are coming mostly from the south, of course. As you’ve mentioned, 500,000 internally displaced in Lebanon. But they’re also coming from the southern neighborhood of Dahiya, the Hezbollah-controlled neighborhood of Southern Beirut that was absolutely decimated over the last five days. They took out the Hezbollah headquarters. And so there are some 30,000 refugees from Dahiya. They are locating themselves all over Beirut into schools. I visited a parking garage in not-so-far outside of Dahiya that housed some 3,000 refugees. So these are the locations that they are going to.

Now, the coordination of what’s happening with these various shelters and schools, the government has been unable to meet that demand. And in talking to these refugees, there’s clearly a tenseness to their voice. They don’t know what the outcome is going to be with this conflict, and they don’t know where they’re going to stay. Supplies, I talked with the Minister of Economy yesterday, Sami Haddad, and he said supplies are good enough with food and fuel to last for two months, but how to get those resources to people is the problem. So the refugees are very tense.

AMY GOODMAN: Where are the places, when they come from other areas, they stay in Beirut? For example, parks.

JACKSON ALLERS: Well, there’s one park, in particular, in West Beirut in the Ras Beirut area called Sanayeh Park. They first landed there on — and when they were given instructions through word of mouth, text messaging, mobile phone calls, they then dispersed to schools, madrasses, that are throughout East and West Beirut. So this is where they’re staying currently. They’re staying in schools, and they’re staying in parking structures, basically wherever they can get coordinated aid. So, this is where they’re staying currently.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is your sense of how many people are crossing over into Syria?

JACKSON ALLERS: Well, official numbers are pretty sketchy. They say at least 90,000 Lebanese have left into Syria. But as you’ve noted in the headlines, that essentially all of the — everyone is afraid to leave, so that outflow of people has completely stopped essentially. There’s the fear of being attacked by Israeli warplanes if indeed they perceive you in a convoy that could be carrying weapons or something of the sort. So the actual numbers are really quite sketchy at this stage.

AMY GOODMAN: There’s also the issue, of course, of foreigners being evacuated. Let me play you the clip of Sabrina.

SABRINA: I hope the [inaudible] take me out to Cyprus, and then I hope I can get out from there to Germany. But I don’t know which way or anybody can help us. We don’t know, and I’m alone here with my children.

AMY GOODMAN: Sabrina is a German national. Jackson, is there concern that if foreigners are taken out, that the Lebanese become more vulnerable?

JACKSON ALLERS: Absolutely. That is absolutely — I was at a demonstration today and talked to people of varying opinions about what Hezbollah has done, and the response by Israel, of course, is top on the agenda, but there’s a definite fear expressed by all of these people that once the foreign nationals leave, then everything can happen with even more impunity than it currently is.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned what Hezbollah has done. Is there condemnation of Hezbollah, as well as Israel?

JACKSON ALLERS: Yes. Overwhelmingly, of course, because of the civilian deaths and the destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure, there’s anger at Israel, but there is anger towards Hezbollah. The opinions are very, very wide in scope. The more people that I talk to, the more I get a sense that the war is playing a psychological game with them, and they’re not quite sure where to put their loyalties. But indeed there is anger towards Hezbollah. They feel that Hezbollah, those that expressed anger towards them, are acting as if they’re a state within a state and that they’re making unilateral decisions without thinking about the Lebanese people. Other Shia and Sunnis that I’ve talked to, and Christians as well, who support Hezbollah’s actions, are simply saying that it’s exposing a wider agenda of Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: Jackson Allers, I want to thank you for joining us, of Free Speech Radio News, on the ground in Beirut, Lebanon.

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