Do You Say To A Man Whose Family Is Buried Under The Rubble?
By Robert Fisk
09 August 2006
There were bulldozers turning
over the tons of rubble, a cloud of dust and smoke a mile high over
the smashed slums of Beirut's southern suburbs and a tall man in a grey
T-shirt - a Brooklyn taxi driver, no less - standing on the verge of
tears, staring at what may well be the grave of his grandfather, his
uncle and aunt. Half the family home had been torn away and the entire
block of civilian apartments next door had been smashed to the ground
a few hours earlier by the two missiles that exploded in Asaad al-Assad
What do you say to a man
whose family is buried under the rubble? The last corpse had been a
man whose face appeared etched in dust before the muck was removed and
he turned out to be paper-thin - so perfectly had the falling concrete
crushed him. Mohamed al-Husseini had left New York for a holiday with
his young wife and infant child - they were safe in the centre of Beirut
- because he wanted to see his family home and talk to the relatives
he grew up with.
"Just look what the
Israelis have done," he said, not taking his eyes off the floors
of the apartments, now scarcely an inch between them. "I am confused.
You know? I don't know what to do. I could go back to my wife and kid
but the rest of my family is in there. They used to live in the south
and they survived there. Then they come to Beirut and die here."
Mohamed al-Husseini's grandfather,
Mohamed Yassin, is - let us not say "was" yet - 75. His uncle
is Hussein Yassin, his aunt is called Hila. By last night, nothing had
been found of them. And of those in the building next door?
At least 17 civilians were
killed, many of them children. A 12-year-old boy called Hussein Ahmed
Mohsen lay dead in the mortuary of the Mount Lebanon Hospital, along
with a woman who died just after being rescued when the missiles collapsed
her home just after 7.30 on Monday night. Almost all the occupants of
this doomed building were members of the Rmeiti family - again, they
were from the dangerous south - and 15 of the dead were from the same
It was a scene to provoke
fury. One Hizbollah "watcher" demanded my press card and lost
interest when he read it. But a Lebanese youth in a yellow shirt at
the scene was grabbed by the same man, hauled away by his collar and
handed over to a clutch of beefy, tall individuals who forced him into
a car. Everyone now searches for spies, for the men - and women - who
are reputed to "paint" the apartment blocks of Beirut for
Israel's missile technology to lock on to their targets.
A sad, grim meeting in the
same Mount Lebanon Hospital suggested that the house had not been "fingered"
by anyone. I found Ali Rmeiti, an employee at Beirut airport, covered
in bloody wounds, his face distorted, shaking his head in disbelief.
"I was on the balcony with my wife, Huda, and three of our children
... I heard nothing - nothing. I didn't realise what happened. It was
black. Then came the second blast and we were all blown into the street
with the balcony."
Huda Rmeiti is lying next
to her husband on a drip-feed, covered with even more bloody wounds
than Ali. I know - and they do not - that three of their four children
And why was the building
struck? The Israelis have slaughtered hundreds of civilians, attacking
convoys of refugees they themselves ordered to leave. But Saadieh, Ali
Rmeiti's sister-in-law, has a story which matches those of two other
survivors. Before the missiles exploded, she said, an Israeli drone
flew over the Shiyyah district, a pilotless reconnaissance aircraft
which sends live pictures back to Tel Aviv. "Um Kamel", as
the Lebanese call them, whined around for a time and then, without warning,
someone drove down Assaad al-Assad street on a motorcycle and fired
into the sky with a rifle opposite the Rmeiti home.
Then he left, some youth
who wanted to prove his foolish manhood. You can't destroy drones with
a rifle, as any Hizbollah member knows. But not long afterwards, the
two missiles came streaking down on the homes of the innocent.
Perhaps there are two moral
lessons from this, one obvious, the other familiar. Don't shoot at drones.
And don't believe for a moment the Israelis will care about firing missiles
into your home when their little toy spots a man with a gun.
© 2006 Independent News
and Media Limited