BEIRUT - About 55 percent of all casualties at the Beirut Government University
Hospital are children of 15 years of age or less, hospital records show.
"This is worse than during the Lebanese civil war," Bilal Masri,
assistant director of the hospital, one of Beirut's largest, told IPS Monday.
Not only are most of the patients children, but many of the injured have been
brought in serious condition, he said. "Now we have a 30 percent fatality
rate here in Beirut. That means that 30 percent of everyone hit by Israeli bombs
are dying. It is a catastrophe."
The fatality rate was high, he said, "because the Israelis are using new
kinds of bombs which can enter shelters. They are bombing the bomb shelters
which are full of refugees."
Masri told IPS that he believed so many children were becoming casualties because
of the "widespread and indiscriminate nature of the bombings" and
because "children are least able to run away when the bombings commence."
This new 544-bed hospital was forced to open its emergency room six months
early due to the current crisis. The hospital has had to handle "scores
and scores" of casualties, according to the assistant director.
Masri said he had barely slept in the 13 days since the Israeli bombing of
Lebanon began. His hospital, he said, was functioning with only 25 percent staff
because "most are now unable to get here because so many roads and bridges
are bombed. Those who are here are eating, sleeping and living here 24 hours
a day because if they leave they fear they may be unable to return."
On Sunday, Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief chief, toured the
devastated areas of south Beirut. He described what he saw as "horrific"
and said the destruction "makes it a violation of humanitarian law."
Egeland said UN supplies of humanitarian aid would arrive within the next few
days, but "we need access," and "so far Israel is not giving
Aid is now a matter of life and death. Masri said his hospital would soon begin
to run out of medicines and supplies.
"We are concerned about what is to come because we cannot continue at
this rate," he said. "Already we've had to go to the Ministry of Health
to get extra supplies. If the UN succeeds in opening safe passage from the south,
we will be deluged with patients."
Masri said hospitals in Sidon and other southern cities are overwhelmed with
patients, who are being treated in the corridors and lobbies.
According to Masri, many of the injured there are suffering from the impact
of incendiary white phosphorus. The Lebanese Ministry of Interior has officially
said that the Israeli military has used this weapon.
"We don't know why we aren't getting help from the International Committee
of the Red Cross," Masri said. "The Lebanese Red Cross is helping
us the best they can, but no foreign agencies are helping us. Why not?"
As the IPS correspondent was speaking with the assistant director, an enraged
man was led out by several security guards. His wounded son had just been discharged.
"I want my son to stay here because we have no place to go," the
man was shouting. "Our home has been flattened. If we leave here we must
go to a refugee camp in a school, or sleep on the dirt in a park. I demand you
allow us to stay here."
People are furious about the high number of casualties among children. Mariam
Mattar, a 50-year-old mother sitting on a mattress in a park in central Beirut
along with hundreds of other refugees from southern Beirut, said no home there
"We left our house because they are bombing everything in the civilian
neighborhoods," she told IPS. "They are killing all our children.
What human would ever do this kind of thing?"
They had moved to central Beirut because it was safer. But living out in the
open has meant another kind of hell. "We are without our shoes even. We
are living in the dirt. Would Israel allow her children to live like this?"
she asked, pointing at her bare feet.
She pulled a little boy towards her and said, "What have these children
done? The other children who didn't escape are rotting under the destroyed buildings
as we speak."
Israeli war planes roared above as several refugees spoke with IPS.
"We are very afraid from all the bombings," Ramadan, a 12-year-old
boy in the park said. "I hope they stop. This is all we want now."
(Inter Press Service)