Report on Field Visit to the South
by Kamal Abdelnour and Imad Jaoudeh
28 Aug 2006 CNEWA PONTIFICAL MISSIONBEIRUT OFFICE
21 August 2006
Following the cease fire agreement on 14 August 2006, displaced families started heading towards the South. Pontifical Mission staff decided to prepare a visit to some of the villages there to evaluate the situation and assess the needs.
The usual 1¼ hour drive from Beirut to Tyre now takes 3 hours. This is due to the extensive damage to the transportation network through the destruction of bridges, highways and secondary roads. On our way to Tyre, we passed near the Jiyyeh fuel storage tanks that were hit by the Israeli air strikes causing the leakage of 12 million liters of fuel into the sea, polluting the aquaculture, threatening the east cost of the Mediterranean, and making hundreds of fishermen jobless.
As we drove into Tyre, we met several funeral convoys while passing completely destroyed houses and shops with their products scattered and spoiled around, and hundreds of burnt cars were being removed to open the way for traffic.
From Tyre we started our trip accompanied by Father Marios of the Greek Catholic bishopric to Qana village and passed into its Christian district where we found that only a few of its 40 Christian families have returned. Their houses and church were slightly affected (only the glass of the windows) by the shelling that was concentrated on the Shiite section where the great massacre occurred.
As we passed in the Shiite villages of Siddiqine and Kafra, we noticed that most of their families have returned to their villages despite the complete destruction of most of the village houses. You see them living in tents near the ruins of their houses or under trees or in the open air for those who cant afford to buy tents. These families are all waiting the Hezbollahs relief committee and the South Lebanon Council committee to visit and assess the damages. In these villages, you see children participating in opening the roads and cleaning the debris while the adults are searching the ruins of their houses for anything that they might save.
Our next visit was to the village of Tibnine with its small Christian community. In this village we saw the Lebanese army in the center of the village assisting the municipality workers in removing the damages and cleaning burnt cars, unexploded bombs and plenty of debris from the streets. We passed through the Christian district which was slightly affected by the shelling (when compared with the other districts) except for the Saint George Church multi-purpose hall and priests house. A bomb hit the priest houses kitchen destroying it completely and penetrating into the multi-purpose hall in the lower floor resulting in some damage there.