LEBANON-SYRIA BORDER - Refugees fleeing Beirut in the face of Israeli air attacks
are speaking of "haphazard bombings" and a crisis situation developing
in the city.
Israeli warplanes bombed the suburbs of Beirut overnight, killing three people
and wounding 55, according to Lebanese police. Residents reported at least four
Israeli missile strikes early Friday morning. The Lebanese military responded
with anti-aircraft fire.
According to reports from Beirut, a bridge in the area was hit, along with
the main highway to the airport. Lebanese police report that a fuel storage
tank at a power station on the coast was destroyed in the air strikes, while
Hezbollah targets near Hermel close to the Syrian border were targeted.
Israeli military officials reported that Hezbollah fighters fired more than
100 rockets into northern Israel Thursday, killing two people and wounding 92.
Some rockets struck Haifa, Israel's third largest city.
"The government has authorized the army to press on with its operation
in Lebanon and hit more targets," an Israeli government official said.
That was after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered his army to continue
its operations in Lebanon.
No immediate end to the fighting appeared in sight.
About 15,000 people are said to have crossed the Lebanese border into Syria,
seeking refuge from widespread bombings carried out by F-16 warplanes.
As in the days of the Lebanese civil war, the border between Syria and Lebanon
was a scene of chaos. Streams of buses and cars with luggage tied to the roof
queued to cross into Syria. Many people came walking, carrying their luggage
or pulling wheeled suitcases.
"I was in an area south of Beirut which was bombed heavily by the Israelis,"
55-year-old electrician Ali Suleiman told IPS. "There were so many refugees
in shelters near us, which was near an old hospital which the Israelis bombed
last night. It was terrifying at night when they attacked our area."
Suleiman said he saw Israeli warplanes bomb a bridge, and that two of the main
bridges which lead to southern Lebanon were destroyed.
"Both Syrian and Lebanese people are leaving now," he said. "There
is no more food, not even bread. There was no electricity or water in our area.
If this situation continues, it will be a giant catastrophe."
Nebham Razaq Hamed, a 22-year-old Lebanese student, said the situation in southern
Beirut was horrific.
"The bombing at night was continuous and has continued today, they are
using warplanes and sometimes artillery," he told IPS at the border. "Everybody
is in panic because of the haphazard bombing which is killing so many civilians
now. The Israelis are terrorizing the people intentionally by not discriminating
between fighters and civilians."
"This is an act of terrorism," said Rashid Khalaf, a 27-year-old
carpenter carrying his belongings in a large sack. "The Israelis are bombing
everywhere in the south, including much of Beirut now. I saw the killing and
destruction by the Israelis, they are bombing everywhere they think the Hezbollah
Fifty-five-year-old Sheiboub Azem from Saudi Arabia who was in the mountains
above Beirut on vacation with his family told IPS "there was bombing and
fire everywhere in Beirut before we left."
Azem said: "We watched from the balcony as they started bombing heavily
at 3.45 am last night, and we lost our electricity and water. The Israelis must
be bombing the water and electricity outlets."
A 50-year-old Kuwaiti man had driven with his family to the border Friday morning
from Beirut. "It's very bad there, as the Israelis are attacking civilians,
bombing police and petrol stations, and even the fuel storage depots,"
he told IPS. "In fact, they have even bombed the airport once again. I
saw F-16s bombing and there is smoke everywhere. This is a big disaster for
Abdulla Zalqana, a 28-year-old Lebanese baker in the city of Baalbek in the
Bekaa Valley of central Lebanon told IPS that Israeli warplanes were bombing
Baalbek and much of the southern area of the Bekaa Valley.
"They bombed the two roads which connect the Bekaa to Beirut," he
said. "This is a big catastrophe."
(Inter Press Service)