Damascus, Asharq Al-Awsat – With Israel’s bombing of Lebanon entering its second week, thousands of civilians have fled across the border to Syria. Many left their towns and villages with nothing but their clothes and do not know if or when they will return.
Samira, a 40 year-old woman from the village of al Taybeh , in southern Lebanon , fled with her daughter on Saturday. Her tragic story is one of many unfolding across the country.
At the Jedidah border crossing, 40 km from Damascus, Samira said, “I buried my son and ran away with my daughter to Syria”. Hadi, aged 22, died last Thursday but the family was unable to bury him for two days, because of non-stop Israeli bombing.
“We buried him in the ground and read the fatiha on his soul. My daughter and I then traveled with our neighbors to the border. I had some money in the house and didn’t take anything else with me.”
With tears in her eyes, Samira continued, “I ran away for my daughter Amani’s sake. She is 18 and the only family I have left. My husband died two years ago and now my son is dead.”
Thousands of Lebanese civilians have crossed into Syria since Israel began bombing Lebanon.
Omar al Issa, a customs official, said, “We are working 24 hours a day, non stop. I don’t have any exact figures but I believe the number of people crossing the border has increased a 1000 fold since the attacks began.”
“We are helping our Lebanese brothers and have facilitated their entry into Syria. Instead of limiting their stay to 15 days, they can now stay for 30 days or more.”
Under a giant umbrella, by the side of the road, Syrian lawyers were distributing bread and cheese and water for all the refugees. “We are helping 5000 people a day,” said Mohammed al Laham, head of the Lawyer’s Union in Damascus.
After Israeli planes attacked relief convoys, Syrian charities and volunteers are focusing on helping Lebanese refugees who fled to several Syrian cities.
Anas Darwish, a 25-year-old volunteer, said many Lebanese arrived in Syria, having “lost everything”. A member of “Al Shabab” youth organization, Darwish said, “I asked officials in the Red Crescent about ways to help people in Lebanon. They asked me to focus on assisting those who fled the fighting and are now living in schools and old people’s homes in Syria.”