BEIRUT - Lebanese doctors, aid workers, and refugees are all reporting that
the official number of dead in Lebanon is far lower than the actual.
"I think that the real number is at least 750 dead so far," Dr. Bachir
el-Sham at the Complex Hospital in Sidon told IPS in a telephone interview.
Sidon is 43 km south of Beirut, and just north of Tyre. This region has seen
the worst of the Israeli bombing.
Sham said that by coordinating casualty figures with other hospitals and clinics
in the south, he believes that an average of 40 civilians are being killed by
Israeli air strikes each day.
"One day we had 100 dead. The authorities in Beirut can only estimate
we never have official statistics about anything in Lebanon," he said.
"Regarding the number of dead, we can say for sure that by the numbers
we're seeing down here, it is at least 750, if not more."
One reason the real number will be higher is that "so many people are
buried in the rubble," he said.
As in the Dahaya district of southern Beirut, both Sidon and Tyre have had
large numbers of civilian apartment buildings bombed to the ground, many with
entire families in them.
"When you have a building demolished, how many people are under the rubble?
Who can say? But we know there are many."
Bilal Masri, assistant director at the large Beirut Government University Hospital
in Beirut, also told IPS that the official number was far too low.
"We have had several reports from the south that there are many bodies
buried under buildings, or left in cars that were hit by Israeli rockets,"
Ghadeer Shayto, a 15-year-old girl being treated at the Beirut hospital for
wounds she suffered during an Israeli rocket attack while fleeing her village
Kafra near Bint Jbail, said she had seen many dead on her way to Beirut.
"On our way out, we passed so many civilian cars which had burnt bodies
in them," she said, weeping. "They were burnt, and left there because
nobody could come to take the bodies away." Bint Jbail is the southern
town that has seen the most intense fighting between Israeli troops and Hezbollah
She said the bus in which they were leaving had hoisted white flags, but it
was hit by a rocket. "My brother and cousin were killed, and the rest of
us are wounded."
Abdel Hamid al-Ashi, father of two, saw similar sights as he fled Bint Jbail.
"I had to walk 10 kilometers to a small village to find a taxi, and along
the road I saw many bodies rotting in the sun," he told IPS. "There
were also cars which had been rocketed which were full of bodies."
Many patients and refugees reported seeing bodies along the way when they fled.
Under continuing air strikes, no aid teams have been able to rescue anyone or
retrieve the bodies.
In the Dahaya district, about a fifth of all buildings have been totally demolished.
There was a strong smell of rotting corpses at many of those sites that this
Volunteer workers are also reporting that the officially declared toll is too
"Several of our relief workers who tried to help in Dahaya have reported
to us that many families are buried under the rubble there," Wafaa el-Yassir,
a representative of Norwegian People's Aid-Lebanon told IPS at her office. "And
we have similar reports from Tyre and Sidon."
"The number of dead is as much as 800 by now," she added. "And
probably even more, but it will take some time to find all of the bodies."
Ahmad Halimeh, with the non-governmental organization Popular Aid for Relief
and Development who is now working primarily to aid war victims in Beirut and
southern Lebanon, said that "in my experience you can always at least double
the initial figure, and we are seeing the same thing happen again now. So the
number is at least 800, and will be more over time as we continue to gain access
to these areas that have been destroyed."
There is little doubt that the real death toll is far higher than the official
one. The question remains, by how much?
(Inter Press Service)