BEIRUT, Lebanon, AP – Ali Rmeity lies broken and bandaged on a hospital bed, wincing in pain. Three of his children and his parents are dead — but he doesn’t know all that yet. Doctors fear telling the 45-year-old now would be a bigger blow than he can sustain.
Rmeity was at home with his wife and four children shortly after nightfall Monday when Israeli missiles slammed into their apartment building in the predominantly Shiite southern Beirut suburb of Chiah.
At least 41 people were killed — including 15 from Rmeity’s family — making it the deadliest single strike of the four-week-old Israeli offensive in Lebanon. Workers continued to retrieve bodies from under the slabs of concrete Wednesday.
“I had been feeling tired, so I went into the bedroom and lay down on the bed. Five minutes later the bombs fell and I found myself crying for help under the rubble,” Rmeity said Tuesday. “My wife, who was on the balcony, was thrown in the air. They found her somewhere, I don’t know where.”
Rmeity’s wife, Hoda, was being treated in an adjacent room at the Mount Lebanon hospital near Beirut. She has severe lung injuries and several fractures. Their 9-year-old son, Hussein, was in intensive care with head trauma and a brain contusion.
Their three other children — Mohammed, 22, Fatima, 19, and Malak, 16 — were killed. So were Ali Rmeity’s parents, his three brothers and two sisters. His brother’s family, who lived in the same building, also died.
In total, 15 of Rmeity’s relatives were killed, according to hospital officials and relatives. Ali so far had only been told that his mother had died.
“I don’t know anything about the rest of my family. Some people have told me they’re being treated in another hospital, but I don’t know whether to believe them,” said Rmeity, who was wearing a head bandage and a white hospital robe that couldn’t hide the injuries and burns on his body. Doctors said his injuries were not life threatening.
“I know that my mother died, may God have mercy on her soul,” he said, his mouth quivering and his green eyes filling with tears.
The hospital’s owner, Dr. Nazih Gharious, said it was too early to tell Rmeity of his loss, which might prove to be too much of a shock. Rmeity’s brother-in-law, Ibrahim Jomaa, repeatedly warned visitors not to slip and tell Rmeity that his children were killed.
“If he finds out he will surely die,” he said.
Rmeity said his children had been scared for days and wanted to leave their apartment even though the district of Chiah so far had been spared from Israeli airstrikes. Friends repeatedly told him to come stay with them.
“But I didn’t want to impose on anyone, we’re a big family,” he said. Now he wishes he hadn’t been so stubborn.
“If I had listened to them, this would not have happened,” he said putting his head in between his hands.