SRIFA, Lebanon, AP – Inaya Haydar stepped cautiously over the debris that had been her uncles’ and cousins’ homes. Ten days ago, Israeli bombs reduced the dwellings to ragged cement fragments. Three square blocks of Srifa were leveled.
“When I look around, I feel so sad. I don’t even know where I am. I don’t recognize anything,” she said Tuesday, looking dazed.
The petite woman of 23 with long brown hair slowly named off the relatives she had lost: Waseem, Nadeem and Mohammad. They were her cousins who had stayed behind when their parents, wives and children all fled the bombing.
Nadeem had two small children and a wife, all of whom had gone to Beirut.
“They had to stay to protect their homes and to help people here,” Haydar said, looking around. Her own parents in another house — still standing down a nearby street — had also fled north, as had her grandfather, whose still-intact but damaged house was just a block away.
Haydar, head of nursing at Tyre’s Najem Hospital, has refused the pleas of her fiance, studying in Sweden, to leave Lebanon.
The attack killed at least 17 people and wounded 30. Ten days later, the road into Tyre from Srifa remains littered with craters and bombed-out buildings.
On Tuesday, the Lebanese Red Cross and civil defense workers from Tyre, roughly 10 miles away, brought in a front-end loader to try to recover bodies that had been left buried in the rubble since the blistering assault. Red Cross officials said it’s estimated 35 bodies are still there.
All across the south, rescuers wearing bullet-proof jackets in Red Cross ambulances crisscrossed the land Tuesday, trying to recover as many war dead as possible before an end early Wednesday to Israel’s 48-hour hold-down of aerial attacks.
A mass funeral — the third so far — is scheduled to be held Wednesday for about 120 people, including the dead from a weekend bombing at Qana and others recovered by Red Cross teams throughout the south the past two days, said Tyre civil defense rescue worker Fadi Kayyal.
As she walked through the ruins of the neighborhood of Hayal Jumma, trying to remember who lived where, a burly man in a brown T-shirt with a handgun in his belt and a two-way radio walked up and identified himself as a Hezbollah man. He wouldn’t give his name, but he wanted to know who had come to see the ruins.
His radio cracked and he spoke. Within minutes, three other men arrived.
“I think we won the war. This (debate over a possible) cease-fire is about politics, but I think the war is won by us,” the first said, refusing to give his name.
Later, the men stood on a ledge watching as a civil defense bulldozer arrived to remove debris and attempt to recover bodies. The bulldozer had removed several piles of cement when the Hezbollah men started shouting for them to stop, warning them that their machine would destroy buried bodies.
The men’s faces were covered with small surgical masks because of the smell of death that came from the neighborhood.
Asked whether Israeli intelligence could have had information that the homes of her uncles hid Hezbollah fighters, Haydar said: “Srifa has everything. We have Hezbollah, we have Amal (a Shiite Muslim group), we have communists.”
She said Hezbollah had provided schools and charity to the poorest in Srifa. That had brought them support because government services were lacking.
“Because people support Hezbollah doesn’t mean they are fighters. It is two different things,” she said.