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On Saturday, July 29th I spoke with several children from South Lebanon at a refugee center in the Chouf region. These are their stories, in their own words …
Hadeel Moussa, age 12, from Dar al-Hamis: "Israel made us refugees and destroyed our homes, and this is why we came here [to the refugee center] with our families … I saw bombing and I was so afraid… They are not bombing a certain place, they are bombing everywhere. I want to tell people in America to ask Israel to stop bombing because we didn’t do anything. We’re not the ones threatening anyone. Stop bombing because it’s not the fault of the children. Why are they bombing and killing children? … They are killing lots of children and they are bombing everywhere. Hezbollah is just trying to resist, and to defend from what Israel is doing… We need a cease-fire, and some kind of treaty to stop bombing for both sides… Why hasn’t this happened? No one is answering. If America asks Israel to stop bombing, and we will ask Hezbollah to stop bombing, because there are killing too many people."
Hussein Hamoud, age 15, from Tyre: "I am a now a refugee because of the war between Hezbollah and Israel, and Israel has tortured us, and destroyed our homes, and killed our children … I’ve seen everything. I’ve seen killing and destruction – everything. We were sitting in our house [in Tyre] when suddenly Israel bombed a factory for manufacturing medicine that is near where we live. Firths thing, this factory has maybe more than forty workers. This factory helps a lot of people. It isn’t related to war or to weapons. When they bombed, pieces from the bombs came to our home too. At the same time they bombed a building, and in this building there were a lot of killed people and injured, and some were my relatives. One of them killed was my friend… If Hezbollah is destroyed it will be easy for Israel to cross our borders at any time, and there will be no one to resist… Israel crossed our borders, and entered to our towns, and killed a lot, and destroyed a lot. This was not for self-defense … I want to say something to George Bush: Ask Israel to cease-fire and stop destroying our homes. And for the Americans, if they are not believing what is happening here, to come and see for themselves. They will have the proof …"
Aboud Aboud, age 12, from Dar al-Hamis: "I’m here because of the Israeli bombing. I saw destruction and the killing of people, the voices of the bombings and the planes all around, and the news of what was happening everywhere. I was scared, especially of the voices of their planes. Israel wants to take Hezbollah’s weapons, but they should not take them because if they do then no one will defend Lebanon, and it will be destroyed more than it is … There should be a prisoner exchange and Israel to go back to their country. Hezbollah will not disarm, and [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah will not give in. I want to say to the Americans – don’t dream of destroying Hezbollah. They should come to Lebanon and see what is happening. If they don’t feel safe coming here then ask Israel to stop bombing for one day, and then they can come and see. We are children, refugees in schools, and we have the right to go back to our homes."
Zahra Musa, age 11, from Beirut "I live in Beirut. We went [to the South] for summer vacation and Israel started bombing. So we came here and we don’t know if our house is destroyed, or what happened there. There are no roads, they bombed the bridges, and there is no way to go safely to our home in Beirut … Hezbollah took two [Israeli] prisoners. This is good because Israel took lots of Lebanese prisoners … Hezbollah don’t want to give them back, so Israel started this war and bombing. Maybe in some diplomatic way things could be resolved. They are fighting, and Israel is fighting because the two Israeli prisoners are important to them as human beings. I ask them to make a treaty for Israel to take the two prisoners and Hezbollah to take the three Lebanese prisoners."
Ali Nasser, age 14, from Shoukeen: "I’m here because we ran away from the war. Israel bombed all the homes in the South, all the villages, because they want to destroy Lebanon. They don’t have a reason, and the Arab world wants this – they don’t want Hezbollah or Lebanon. The Arab world believes it was Hezbollah who started this war, but it was Israel. Hezbollah is a resistance force, but they think Hezbollah is a terrorist force. Hezbollah is defending our lands. Hezbollah sent rockets to Israel, but they are responding to Israel’s rockets that they sent to Lebanon. Israel struck first. Hezbollah should respond, because the Israelis are killing innocent people… America should help the Lebanese people in this situation, to protest the killings and ask for a cease-fire."
Fahtme Nasr, age 14, from Nabatiyeh: "I’m a refugee because of the war, because of what happened… They start bombing, both Hezbollah and Israel, so we picked up our things and came here. Our house is not destroyed, but there was damage to lots of homes in our neighborhood… Americans should convince Israel to talk to Hezbollah and negotiate so that things can be as they used to be. Why aren’t they doing this? They should at least try."
RAMZI KYSIA is an Arab-American essayist and peace activist. He spent a year in Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness, the Chicago-based predecessor to Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He is currently living in Lebanon.