Lebanon Victims Buried in Mass Grave

The Associated Press
Friday, July 21, 2006; 5:08 PM

TYRE, Lebanon -- Soldiers laid 72 coffins in two trenches, a mass grave for victims of the Israeli bombardment. Elsewhere, mounds of rubble sat undisturbed; rescue workers were too fearful of missiles to search for bodies.

Lebanese have streamed out of south Lebanon since fighting erupted between Israel and Hezbollah last week, leaving some villages almost deserted. But many people are believed trapped in their homes _ too poor to live anywhere else, too afraid to travel or unable to go because bridges and roads have been destroyed.

An estimated 400,000 Lebanese make their home south of the Litani River, 20 miles from the Israeli border, and it's not known how many remain _ but those that do risk being caught up in an Israeli ground offensive against Hezbollah.

"It is not looking good and it's going to last for some time," Ali Sayegh, a 39-year-old furniture salesman from Tyre, said of the Israeli offensive.

"There are not many people left in Tyre, very few walk the streets and there is a shortage of fresh produce," said Sayegh, who moved to a seaside hotel after sending his wife and two daughters abroad last week.

Israel has been broadcasting radio messages into southern Lebanon and dropping leaflets, urging all residents south of the Litani to flee. Sometimes the warnings name specific villages and say residents should clear out.

"There is a desire to leave, but they are afraid to. They're afraid of being hit by Israeli missiles and most of the roads are out anyway," said Timur Goksel, a former senior U.N. adviser in the region who now lectures on political science at the American University of Beirut.

In the border village of Naqoura, home to the headquarters of U.N. peacekeepers, only 100 people are left of a population of some 3,000. Most of those who stayed have jobs at the local U.N. mission.

Hundreds of thousands of southern Lebanese have been on the move since the fighting began July 12, mostly heading toward Beirut.

They left in thousands of cars, with white sheets fluttering from their antennas or windows and their roofs packed with luggage.

There has also been movement within the south.

Thousands of people along the border moved to Marjayoun and Qlaia _ two mainly Christian cities widely thought to be safer because Israel is hitting Shiite areas. Residents there opened schools and homes to refugees.

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