• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Total Destruction of Srifa: Mangled Bodies in the Wake of Israeli Bombs and Missiles

Srifa, Lebanon.

It was an unseemly end for 80- year-old Manaheel Jabr, flung over a bloodstained walll, grey hair falling around her shrunken black face, a collapsed ceiling pinning her down at the waist.

“It’s the grandmother,” one of the onlookers gasped when the civil defense bulldozer finally pierced a hole in the rubble of what was until two weeks ago a three-storey house.

Mrs Jabr’s corpse presented a terrible dilemma to the Lebanese Red Cross yesterday. Should they cut her in two, put the pieces in a body bag and take her to the hospital morgue, or leave her behind, in the hope that more powerful equipment could lift the concrete slab from her back and would reach her before the dogs did?

It was late afternoon and the 48-hour “pause” in aerial bombardment promised by Israel was drawing to a close. The Red Cross’s plan to retrieve 89 bodies across the war zone was about to end in failure. The Israelis, with whom the Lebanese Red Cross communicates via the International Red Cross, granted safe passage to only two of the six villages that the rescue workers wanted to visit yesterday, Srifa and Bint Jbail. And the convoy bound for Bint Jbail had to turn around because of bombing.

That left only Srifa, the site of the most dramatic devastation I have seen in this war. The entire Hay el-Birki neighbourhood – 18 buildings by some accounts – was flattened at 2 am on July 19. “The F-16s [ fighter bombers] came from the west, the Apaches [ attack helicopters from the east,” said a local Hizbullah official who identified himself as Abu Hadi.

It seemed amazing that bombs and missiles could chop buildings into so many million of grey concrete pieces, a bed of rubble many meters deep, with only the occasional slipper or coffee pot to remind one that human beings lived here.

The field of ruins stretched to the horizon, reminding me of images of second World War bombings.

Thirty of the 89 names on the Red Cross list were in Srifa, eight in the house where we found Manaheel Jabr. Yet after battering away for four hours in the hot sun, the Red Cross and civil defense volunteers found only three corpses – one of them Mrs Jabr’s – and a crushed skull.

It took the Israel airforce minutes to flatten Hay el -Birki but it could be weeks or months before their victims are dug out. The technology used to destroy the neighbourhood was the most sophisticated in the world. The means to dig them out derisory. At about 1pm, a resting Caterpillar bulldozer clamoured down the main street of Srifa belching black smoke and chewing up the tarmac. The driver stopped to put a white sheet with a Red Cross emblem on the roof of the cabin, in the hope of sparing it from bombardment. For the past two days, Israeli forces have battled with Hizbullah at Taib and at Adayseh, just 19 kilometres from Srifa. All afternoon we heard explosions, some frighteningly close.

“Israeli forces are trying to push in on the ground,” explained Abu Hadi, the Hizbullah man.

“Hizbullah is protecting Lebanon – mortars, RPGs and even suicide missions if necessary. We will not let them in. We are protecting the border of Lebanon.”

The bulldozer was joined with a digging machine with a scooped shovel. “Stop, stop!” an upset Hizbullah man with a walky-talky insisted as the bulldozer began pushing pieces of the former house down the hillside. “This is not the way to do it. You will crush the bodies. The Lebanese army has better machines. We must wait for them.”

The Red Cross moved briefly to another address where civilians were known to have died. A medic in an orange jumpsuit placed a mattress over two black shrunken legs which stuck out from heavy rubble in the bomb crater.

“In Islam, we must respect a body,” said the Hizbullah official objecting to the Red Cross operation. “Either we wait for the Lebanese army machines, or we wait until the war is over and do it ourselves, even if there are only bones left.”

With infinite tact, the Red Cross persuaded Hizbullah to allow them to continue work on the Jabr house.

The gruesome task had been easier on Monday, the first day of the mythical truce, when volunteers collected 20 bodies from cars and the streets of seven villages. “Some are only bones and some are teeming with maggots”, said Muhammad Makke head of the Red Cross in southern Lebanon.

“Some of their identities are known and some are not.”

Red Cross volunteer Kassem Shalaan (28) lost 60 per cent of hearing in one ear when the Israelis fired on ambulances in Qana on July 25th. A man in the ambulance had a leg amputated by the missile, and his seven-year-old son, who had already suffered shrapnel wounds, is still in a coma, after the missile strike slashed his head open.

Shalaan took part in the body retrieval missions of the past few days. Is it true that dogs are eating corpses? “Yes,” Shalaan said, turning his head to hide the tears. “Especially people in the streets and cars. The ones who are buried alive are usually safe from the dogs.”

Whatever the outcome of this war, atrocities such as Srifa will poison Lebanese-Israeli relations for decades or even centuries.

Mahmoud Jabr (56) lost six relatives in the bombing of Srifa; among them his brother who owned the house that was partially excavated yesterday. “There is not even a bullet in this village,” Jabr said.

“Israel forced the people to be Hizbullah with their barbaric behavior.”

Mahmoud Nejbi ( 66) keeps returning to the rubble of another house, at the far end of the devastated neighbourhood. “My 27-year-old son was smoking the narguileh and drinking tea with his friends when the airstrike happened,” he said.

“He was a mechanic in Dubai and he brought his wife home to have their baby . . . I would like to make a suicide attack on the Israelis . . . either the Israelis kill us or we kill them.”

LARA MARLOWE writes for the Irish Times, where this piece first appeared. There’s nothing to stop US reporters from going to Srifa — except doctrinal demands.

 

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 16, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Backfired on Erdogan
Chitrangada Choudhury – Aniket Aga
How Cotton Became a Headache in the Age of Climate Chaos
Jack Rasmus
US-China Mini-Trade Deal: Trump Takes the Money and Runs
Michael Welton
Communist Dictatorship in Our Midst
Robert Hunziker
Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World
Peter A. Coclanis
Donald Trump as Artist
Chris Floyd
Byzantium Now: Time-Warping From Justinian to Trump
Steve Klinger
In For a Dime, in For a Dollar
Gary Leupp
The Maria Ramirez Story
Kim C. Domenico
It Serves Us Right To Suffer: Breaking Down Neoliberal Complacency
Kiley Blackman
Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical
Colin Todhunter
Bayer Shareholders: Put Health and Nature First and Stop Funding This Company!
Andrés Castro
Looking Normal in Kew Gardens
October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis
John Feffer
Trump’s Undeclared State of Emergency
Dean Baker
The Economics and Politics of Financial Transactions Taxes and Wealth Taxes
Jonah Raskin
What Evil Empire?
Nino Pagliccia
The Apotheosis of Emperors
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Passion for Writing
Basav Sen
The Oil Despots
Brett Wilkins
‘No Friend But the Mountains’: A History of US Betrayal of the Kurds
John Kendall Hawkins
Assange: Enema of the State
Scott Owen
Truth, Justice and Life
Thomas Knapp
“The Grid” is the Problem, Not the Solution
Rob Kall
Republicans Are Going to Remove Trump Soon
Cesar Chelala
Lebanon, Dreamland
Weekend Edition
October 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
CounterPunch in Peril?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail