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Negus Media International

Kirsty Cockburn
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THE WAR ON THE BORDER - Wednesday, 26 July, 2006

GEORGE NEGUS: Here in the south Loutfullah says the daily Israeli bombardment has targeted larger towns like this one, Khiam, which is, in fact, where those four UN observers were last night killed, hit by an Israeli air strike. In the surrounding areas the damage has been heavy with bridges damaged and buildings destroyed. For a week or so now Loutfullah has been moving between towns and villages, some of them very small and only a few k's from the Israeli border.

One of them - the village of Debbine - was hit last week as the civilian casualties began to mount. Despite what she's being told, this young Lebanese girl's relatives are far from OK. An artillery shell hit her home, and her father, her sister and 18-month-old baby brother are actually in pieces in this pick-up truck.

Not far away, in the town of Aitaroun, the Israeli air strike took out a Lebanese Security Force vehicle. These soldiers are not civilians, but nor are they Hezbollah fighters. In fact, they're under orders from their government in Beirut to stay out of the worsening dogfight between Hezbollah and the Israelis.

The Israelis, of course, claim their attacks have been "pinpoint", aimed at Hezbollah targets, but these civilian refugees have been forced to take shelter at the school in Loutfullah's home town of Klaia. These people apparently fled from the village of Wazzani nearby. Houla, our man says, has been particularly hard hit. This distraught local's cousin and uncle are lying dead in the house after it was hit by an Israeli shell. Somehow or other, 15 other family members survived the blast.

MAN (Translation): I was sleeping here.

WOMAN (Translation): We are on the street, no shelter, medicine, food…. we’ll stay, but they must provide us with everything. Those killed and injured are left on the street. They cut off the roads, deprive us of food and everything. Why? They fight from the air, sea and land. Against who? The poor people who have no government to protect them. Why did they abandon us? Loutfullah got a word with Hassan Ayoub, the mayor of Houla.

HASSAN AYOUB (Translation): The situation is as you see it. All the townsfolk are still in the town. There is fear, but as for the town, the people are still in it and the food has run out. Most of the food supplies have run out. There’s no petrol, no diesel… Only a bit of water is left. As they talked, these residents were fleeing the air attacks.

RESIDENT (Translation): They carried out four or five air raids on Adaisse last night. They warned the surrounding villages but bombed the villages they did not warn.

MAN (Translation): We are from Wassani and Ain Arab and we have been trapped for a week by the bombing with no water, electricity, food, baby formula, nothing… And on top of that no one asked about us! Not the government or the Ministry of Social Affairs or even the Red Cross.

We stayed until yesterday, we had two deaths and seven injuries in the bombing and fled here to the school at Klaia. Some people are still trapped with their livestock. There are children too. In our last contact with Loutfullah, he told us neither the shelling nor the danger was subsiding.