Little Green Footballs

Thursday, July 27, 2006

You're all terrorists now

In this report Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon documents the situation where Americans are still unable to be evacuated from the South of Lebanon.

Clutching his 1-year-old son, Ali Abbas Tehfi pushed his wife and their 2-year-old son into a car and prayed. Trapped for two weeks in a border village at the epicenter of a raging ground battle, the American and his family made their escape Wednesday. But Tehfi's elderly grandmother had to be left behind in Yaroun, because she was too frail to travel. He said more Americans were still stuck in the town.

"I can't even talk about it. It was a disaster. It was worse than a nightmare. I saw dogs and cats on bodies that couldn't be taken from bombed-out houses. We ran from one building to another trying to escape the bombing," he said.

"It didn't stop. It didn't stop even for a day. Everything is finished," he said.

Tehfi waited in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre on Wednesday with at least 100 other foreigners, most American, for evacuation out of the country and back home. For Tehfi, home is Los Angeles.

Born, raised and educated in the United States, Tehfi and his wife Fatima came to Lebanon in June to introduce their sons, Hassan and Hussain, to their roots and to family members still living in the country.

But he found himself in a war zone. Yaroun lies in a tiny pocket in southeast Lebanon where Israeli forces have launched their ground incursion across the border, meeting fierce resistance from Hezbollah guerrillas.

In the town of Bint Jbail, just up the road from Yaroun, there were reports of 12 Israeli soldiers killed Wednesday in heavy battles.

In Tyre, 20 miles from Yaroun, Tehfi sat with his wife, sons and parents waiting for a boat to Cyprus - and eventually home.

Two-year-old Hassan has an unruly mob of brown hair and his face was pockmarked with mosquito bites. His brother, Hussain, a chubby baby who hasn't started walking, was born prematurely and still has breathing problems, his father said. Hussain smiled slightly as he was rocked by his grandmother, Zainab Tehfi.

Ali Abbas Tehfi said people swarmed the cars when they arrived to take evacuees out of Tyre.

"People just jumped into the car, some even without shoes and some people just seemed to come out of the walls. We didn't know where anyone was before, everyone was just trying to stay alive," he said.

The expatriates said the U.S. Embassy in Beirut had worked to arrange their evacuation. They didn't know the details.

Tehfi said many more Americans were still trapped in Yaroun. "I don't know who is alive and who is dead. If you weren't in the main area when the cars came you were left behind," he said.
Why am I mentioning this story? Because if the richest nation in the world has trouble evacuating civilians from foreing war torn areas what chance does the Lebanese government have of protecting its innocents? None really. That's what makes these statements by Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon even more sinister.

“All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah,”
He also said that in order to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers battling Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, villages should be flattened by the Israeli air force before ground troops moved in.

Unfortunately no-one has told the Israeli PM. Who's promising to protect Australian citizens in southern Lebanon.
ISRAELI Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised to do all he can to protect Australians in southern Lebanon, Prime Minister John Howard said today.
During a 20-minute phone call last night, Mr Howard said he asked Mr Olmert for help in protecting the Australians.

"He rang me to talk about the situation, to express gratitude for the diplomatic support we have displayed for Israel," Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

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