I was crying and shouting, but nobody was answering

Refugees from the war are living in the parks of Beirut the capital of Lebanon, August 4, 2006. (MaanImages/Raoul Kramer)

Mahmoud Zeidan with Lens on Lebanon conducted interviews with citizens of southern Lebanon after they had been evacuated to hospitals. They and their doctors tell of indiscriminate bombing, the targeting of civilians and the use of unknown and exotic weaponry.

Name of interviewee: Mohammad Qassim Shalhoub

Date: 6 August, 2006
Age: 38
Place of Origin: Qana, near the building that was bombed
Occupation: Builder
Present address: An apartment near the Sidon elementary School for Girls
Name of interviewer: Mahmoud Zeidan

Q: Tell me what happened with you?

A: I was the only one awake among the group, and I was very close to the door. I haven�t heard any sound at all. No sound. I just felt something lifting me up and turning me away. Then I didn�t hear any sound of bombs, so I started to calm the people around me. I started to remove the rubbles on them. Suddenly, I found my hand on a neck alone and then on a hand. I ran out and called people to help me. It was 1:15 am. We tried to take a child from under the rubbles, but the planes raided over our heads again, so we went away and couldn�t approach the building. Every time we approached the building, the fighters were raiding and bombing 15m around the building. We stayed like this till 6:00 in the morning, when we could to see the light.

Q: And what about you? What happened to you?

A: I was injured, but I could walk.

Q: Where have you been injured?

A: In my leg and hand and I had a small scratch in my head.

Q: Did anybody take you to hospital?

A: The Red Cross arrived at 8:30 and took me to the Governmental Hospital, and after 2 days they brought me to Labib Hospital in Saida.

Q: Whom did you lose?

A: I lost my wife (31 years) and my 5 sons (eldest 12 years, youngest 2 years); I also lost my mother (75 years) and my uncle Ahmad Shalhoub (55 years) and his 3 sons and 1 daughter. I also lost my nephew (9 years).

Q: Why did you resort to this building?

A: I live near that building; it�s surrounded by land from three sides. We decided to move to it because it�s safer than the other houses in the village. The house belongs to my cousin; we came here and brought with us three handicapped persons, whose house was bombed too.

Q: How many people died in this building?

A: We were 55 people. 28 died and 13 were injured.

Q: I heard more were killed?

A: Yes, this number was bigger, because some people were not found, so they were regarded as dead,

(Another interviewee interrupted): My sister stayed under rubble for 8 hours.

Interview: Ahmad Ibrahim Hachim

Date: 6 August, 2006
Age: 41
Place of Origin: Qana, Haret al Khireibeh, near the mosque
Occupation: Fixing cars (my shop has been destroyed)
Present address: An apartment next to Sidon elementary School for Girls
Name of interviewer: Mahmoud Zeidan

Q: Tell me what happened to you?

A: We were sleeping, and suddenly we heard sound of a rocket near our house. In 15 minutes, another rocket fell. We could feel rubbles and stones falling on our house� women and children started to cry, �Save us!�

Suddenly, we recognized that we, ourselves were injured and buried in the rubble.

Q: Where have you been injured?

A: I got injured in the back, leg, and eye.

Q: Who else has been injured in this bomb?

A: I lost my wife (31 years) and my three sons (2 years, 8 years and 12 years). My brother lost three sons (10 months, 7 years and 11 years). My third brother lost his two daughters (2 years and 4 years), and I lost my father (67 years).

My cousin also lost his wife and five sons.

Q: How comes you were in the same house?

A: After the Israeli bombed the village, we moved to this house. It�s my brother�s house, and it�s bigger than mine; it has three stories, and we thought the basement will be safe, so 55 people gathered in this place.

Q: Describe the area, what do you have in the neighborhood?

A: The building is at the corner of the village. And 3 days before the massacre, the Israeli fighters bombed the small roads around the village. So we were like isolated from other parts of the village. Just a building, the houses are further up to the village.

Q: Did receive any fliers or warning from Israelis to leave the village?

A: No.

Q: Why haven�t you left then?

A: As I told you; the roads were bombed, and the Israelis were targeting any moving cars.

Q: Could you recognize the source of bombs that targeted your building?

A: It was from planes.

Q: What time exactly was the raid?

A: The rocket hit the house at 1:00 am, then the fighters kept shelling around the house till 6 in the morning. We fled and hid under the olive trees for two hours. After that we hid in a house and stayed there till 8 in the morning when the Red Cross arrived.

Q: where did the rocket hit your building exactly?

A: We only saw it in the morning. It hit the corner of the house at the basement.

Q: What happened then after the Red Cross arrived?

A: I was taken to Hiram hospital in the south, and after they brought me to Labib hospital in Saida, where I stayed for 3 days.

Q: And how did you end in this apartment?

A: My brother coordinated with the municipality of Saida to bring me here to Labib Hospital in Saida, and the municipality here offered us this apartment after they heard what happened to us.

Q: Do you have access to hospitalization now?

A: Yes, the ministry of health is helping and I go to change for my wounds every time.

Q: Do you need anything here? The house lacks some necessities?

A: No, we have everything here, thank you.

Q:Thank you for your time and sorry to bring up your wounds again.

A: No, we are brothers, and we honored to talk to you.

Name of interviewee: Hiam Ibrahim Hachim

Date: 7 August, 2006
Age: 30
Place of Origin: Qana, Haret al Khireibeh, near the mosque
Occupation: Nothing
Present address: An apartment next to Sidon elementary School for Girls
Name of interviewer: Mahmoud Zeidan

Q: Tell me what happened with you?

A: I just felt that I am crying and shouting, but nobody was answering. I stopped so they wouldn�t laugh at me. Nobody answered. Then I tried to stand, but I couldn�t. Then I started to realize that there are holes, and I could hear sounds around, so I shouted and they started to dig in order to take me out.

Q: And where have you been injured?

A: I was injured in my hand; here you see there is a metal bar inside the bone.

Q: Why did you leave the hospital so early?

A: They said I needed three days. I stayed three days in Amel Hospital in the south, and then they got me here to Labib Hospital in Saida, where I made x-ray. They will remove the stitches next week.

Q: Thank you.

Name of interviewee: Mariam Ahmad Haidar

Date: 7 August, 2006
Age: 52
Place of Origin: Srifa, district of Tyre
Occupation: Household
Present address: Kuwaiti Governmental School, Saida
Name of interviewer: Mahmoud Zeidan

Q: Tell me your story?

A: We were afraid so we hid in a house, and my son went to sleep with his cousins in the next building, which has 4 stories. Shelling continued; we stayed there without being able to move from 20:00 till 8:00. We could only feel the smog and dust from the bombs. Children started to cry from the smell. We were sleeping all the time: we didn’t know what was happening outside, or what had been destructed of our houses. Suddenly our neighbor arrived and asked about my son. I was afraid, and I had a feeling that something had happened to him. We left the shelter at 3. We hadn’t recognized it was day. When we approached the building where my son and his cousins were sleeping, my daughter cried, “My brother died!” we started to cry and shout. The whole area was demolished: more than 15 houses were put to ground. So we escaped� My husband is sick, he couldn�t move after hearing about his son’s death. Someone helped me to take him away from the village on foot.

Q: where is your house exactly? Can you describe the surrounding?

A: It’s in the middle of the village.

Q: Is there any mosque or house of Hezbollah member near it?

A: Not at all. We neither have Hezbollah members nor any resistance in the village.

Q: Have you been warned to leave the village by the Israeli fighters?

A: No.

Q: Hearing all this bombing, why hadn’t you left the village?

A: We had children with us, and my husband was sick. My only 19 year old child, who was killed, said, he couldn’t leave me alone with his sick father. Then when it worsened, it became very expensive to find a taxi: one passenger would cost $50 as the Israelis started to bomb cars.

Q: What is the building like that your son and others were hiding in?

A: There is a shop and a bakery in it and two families also were living in it. They stayed with them in the basement. Seven were killed, the eldest is 25, and my son is 19.

Q: Why do you think the building was bombed?

A: They didn�t bomb our house alone but with other 15 houses, all were put to earth.

Q: What were you doing?

A: We were shaking and trembling in fear and estimating where the bombs fell. We were crying as we discovered the whole village was destroyed. We have more than 60 martyrs who are still under the rubble now.

Q: How did you leave the village?

A: We went out on foot through the river.

Q: Has anybody come to take you away, like the Red Cross?

A: Nobody came. We left alone. And a man from the village brought me here to Saida, where my daughters had resorted.

Q: When did your daughters leave?

A: They left three days before the massacre. Their brother-in-law took them with him when he left the village.

Q: What do you think of the place here where you are staying?

A: It’s not so good; as you see we are five families in this class room.

Q: How do you sleep?

A: Women sleep here together, and men sleep in the play ground because we have other women from other villages with us in the same room, and there is not enough rooms.

Q: What about food?

A: Some times it’s enough; sometimes it’s not. Some times we, the five families, get 30 loaves per day. It depends on donations by NGO’s.

Q: What else do you think is missing?

A: My husband has complex problems, but the youths here bring him medicine. See him when you go down, he is sleeping with the men in the playground. (I saw him sleeping; he has epilepsy and some tubes are connected to his body.)

Q: Thanks for your time and sorry to bring up your wounds again.

A: Don’t worry.

Name of interviewee: Ibrahim Deeb Kamal el Din

Date: 7 August, 2006
Age: 28
Place of Origin: Srifa, district of Tyre
Occupation: Mechanic
Present address: Kuwaiti Governmental School, Saida
Name of interviewer: Mahmoud Zeidan

Q: Would you please tell me what happened in your village?

A: I was sleeping at my cousin’s house at that day. My friend was with me too. The house is far from the place of the massacre, but we could hear everything. They started shelling with canons at 12. It was all around the village. Then everything calmed down, and we could only hear sound of MK (plane). I got drowsy and slept. Then the fighters started bombing the village and mainly the quarter where the massacre took place. We couldn’t recognize where exactly, but the whole village was on fire. So we decided to go to our uncle’s house, and I found out the whole house on earth. I started shouting to see if someone is still alive. So I went up near Salim Najdi’s house (a well known supermarket in the village), so they bombed it. We went down to the heart of the village at 3:30 am. At 9:00 I took my friends car and left the village.

Q: Whom have you lost in this bombing?

A: I lost two brothers and my two cousins.

Q: Where were they?

A: They were in the building that my aunt told you about.

Q: Can you describe the house how it was hit?

A: The bomb was hit the basement, so the whole floors just rested over. And this is why nobody survived. We could also see at night a blue beam of light flashing on houses before the rockets hit.

Q: Where did this bomb come from?

A: It was a fighter, but there were many helicopters around. We could hear the sound all the time.

Q: What else have you noticed?

A: Our neighbor Hassan Ali Nazzal, a truck driver was called by the civil defense to help them take the corpses out. He said they couldn�t find a whole body, just pieces of bodies; as they used to remove rubble, smog was still getting out of the area. He said once he removed pieces of stones, smoke was still pressed under, and it filled his face. That same night he couldn’t sleep and his body was full with corns so he was taken to hospital.

Q: Have you been warned to leave the village?

A: No, but after the massacre, Lahid Radio station (Ex Southern Lebanon’s Army broadcasting from Cyprus) broadcasted calls for people to leave the village. It was exactly after the massacre.

Q: Why didn’t you leave after that?

A: People hadn’t thought it would go to this extent. Then it was hard to leave. The civil defense tried to help people, but they couldn’t approach the village as shelling hadn’t stopped, so they escaped after the fighters bombed them.

Q: What happened with the corpses of your brothers and others?

A: They are still under the rubble. Even the Red Cross couldn�t take them out because the Israeli were shelling them.

Dr. Labib Abu Zahr, head of the Labib Medical Center, Saida near Martyrs Square

Date: 7 August 2006
Interviewer: Mahmoud Zeidan

Q: What have you noticed from the injured persons you received?

A: The common observation among all people was the burn without shrapnels. Only the upper part of the skin is burnt. We had some women, who put on scarf, what raised our curiosity is neither the hair nor the veil is burnt, just the uncovered parts of the body are burnt, like the face and the hands. The hair and clothes are not burnt. We got some other injured people with deeper injuries. But again, we have never seen such burns. We got used to see people dying from shrapnels, but not this way.

Q: How many injuries have you got?

A: Usually, injured people are filtered before they arrive here, some of them end up in hospitals in Tyre as Najem, Amel and governmental hospitals, but very few arrive here, only those who are closer to Saida.

Most of them are burnt. And we have lack of medications to deal with such injuries or burns.

Q: What is the percentage of civilians among the injured?

A: They are all civilians.

Q: What is their age group?

A: More than 22% are children below 15.

Q: Thanks a lot for your time and the valuable information you provided.

Prof. Bachir Shaam and Dr. Ali Mansour of Complexe Hospitalier du Sud, Saida near the old industrial City

Date: 7 August 2006
Interviewer: Mahmoud Zeidan

Q: What did you notice about the injured people you treated?

A: Dr. Cham: Before treating any injured person, I noticed during Dweir massacre, from TV images, the corpses looked weird and strange: they were black. We didn’t see deadly injuries. The same example was seen also during Marwaheen massacre, same sight of corpses.

On 17 July, Remeileh Bridge was bombed, and the first corpse was brought here at 1:00 pm. When we saw it, it was black. The sight was odd because it’s all black but not burnt at all. The hair was still there, even the eyelids, the mustache and beard. The clothes were not burnt either; only the skin was all black. Then after 30 min, from 1:00 till 18:00, other 8 corpses were brought from the same site. They all had same look. There was a woman with long hair among them; her hair wasn’t burnt; same sight for her 3 children (5 years, 11 years & 13 years).

Dr. Ali: I was receiving the corpses and putting them in the reefer; they smelled very bad; they smelled like acid. That night I couldn�t sleep. I had difficulties in breathing, (despenia). Then we recognized that people had unusual death. It was not due to injures or shrapnel.

Dr. Cham: I thought there must be chemicals or toxic material in these bombs. We sent a message to Kofi Annan and Solana. Besides, we contacted our friends in Belgium and Australia and many media representatives came and filmed the corpses.

Dr. Ali: Then on 20 we were asked to take samples (biopsies) to be tested in order to identify the reasons of death. As we were taking the biopsy, the hair on the skin was still on, and there was nothing under the skin: muscles were intact, and there was no internal bleeding. This is unusual as burns sometimes reach the bone, but this was unusual, only the skin was black.

Dr. Cham: there are many probabilities for the death; the most probable is that the poison in the bombs entered the skin. In treating some patients, we use patches where the skin absorbs medicines. I think the toxic material soaked through the skin not the respiratory system and caused death.

We had really important remarks: none of the corpses had deadly injuries to cause death.. Now other hospitals contacted us, and we discovered that these observations have been sited in other places and mainly in Gaza and Iraq.

Q: What is the percentage of civilians among the injured?

A: Dr. Ali: all these are civilians, and the last one was a family escaping from the south in mini bus.

Q: Thanks for the information you provided and for your time.

Lens on Lebanon is a grassroots documentary initiative formed in response to the devastating Israeli bombardment of 2006. We are pooling our resources to deliver film and video equipment into communities in south Lebanon, and to bring out documentary evidence as well as photo narratives, and video diaries of daily life under siege.

Related Links

  • Lens on Lebanon