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Israeli Strike Kills More Than 50 People in Southern Lebanon


An Israeli airstrike on the village of Qana has killed at least 54 people, more than half of them children, with other bodies believed buried in rubble. Israel says it was trying to attack Hezbollah, a group the State Department has designated a terrorist organization.

An ambulance races into Qana to grimly transport the dead.

Residents of nearby buildings were too terrified to emerge from their homes for hours after the attack, until the Red Cross arrived after daybreak. Then they began fleeing the area on foot.

Locals are calling it a massacre. That is a word already associated in Lebanon with the town of Qana. In 1996, Israel bombed a U.N. position here, killing more than 100 civilians who were sheltering there. The memorial to that catastrophe stands amid the devastation on the town's main road.

A few meters away from the destroyed building in Qana, Mehdi Chalhoub said his sister and her three children were killed.

He points down the street and says, "The Israelis bombed that other building over there three days ago, so everyone was sleeping in the basement of this building when the Israelis bombed it too, last night."

Israel says the Qana area is being used by Hezbollah to launch rockets against Israel, and civilians living in and around the town had been repeatedly warned to leave. Israeli officials say Hezbollah is intentionally using women and children as shields in areas from which it launches attacks against Israeli civilians.

Rescue workers dug through the rubble in Qana to extract the bodies of women and children.

Red Cross medic Daoud Kahawaji said, "They were all civilians. Not one of them was a fighter. They were children. A lot of them were handicapped and could not be moved."

Most of the victims are from the Chalhoub family, one of the largest in the area.

Mehdi Chalhoub says, "The Israelis cannot find Hezbollah, but they can find women and children, so they are killing these innocent people instead."

The ambulances brought the victims' remains back to the government hospital in Tyre.

There, doctors and soldiers struggled to control a furious crowd, who became more enraged as each dead child was laid out on plastic sheets on the ground.

The children were frozen in the positions they had been sleeping in when the bombs fell. Their small bodies and faces were bruised and bloodied. Some of their mouths were filled with dirt.

They were wrapped in plastic sheets and body bags, their names affixed to the bags with tape.

The refrigerated truck that bodies are stored in had just emptied the day before with a mass burial. It is already filling up again, with the bodies of children.

Inside the hospital, a few survivors who had been sleeping in the building next door were treated for injuries. In her hospital bed, a weeping Rabab Yousuf learned that her six-year-old daughter Zeinab had been killed.

She says, "If I go to God now, I will not complain. My daughter was a gift from God, and now God has taken her away."

Yousuf's four-year-old son Hassan lay in another hospital bed with a head wound. Her husband, Mohamed Ali Chalhoub, lay in the bed next to her. He was paralyzed from the waist down in a previous injury, and his wife dug him from the rubble with her bare hands.

"Israel is well known in terrorism, and unfortunately all the world and the United States support Israel, and they pretend they are working for humanity, but they are not," he said.

A relative of some victims, Sana Faraj, said the more civilians that Israel kills, the more people will support Hezbollah. She, too, recalls what happened in Qana in 1996.

She says, "The Israelis bombed our town before. It was a massacre. It seems that they take pleasure from the bombing of Qana."

Against the background of history, this new attack has touched a raw nerve in Lebanon. A mob in Beirut attacked a U.N. office, smashing the windows and taking over the building.

Thousands of people spontaneously took to the streets of the capital, waving Lebanese and Hezbollah flags and denouncing the United States, the United Nations, the West and the Arab world for doing nothing to stop the slaughter.

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