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Lebanon Victims Buried in Mass Grave

A thousand people went to Marjayoun, a town of 2,000, said council head Fuad Hamra. Marjayoun has so far been spared bombardment, but Hamra said artillery and warplanes were hitting targets in orchards and fields 500 yards away.

Hezbollah is the dominant force in the mainly Shiite south, running clinics, schools and offering a network of social and economic services as well as an army of some 5,000-6,000 fighters.

Over the past 30 years, the region has borne the brunt of Israeli incursions, first against Palestinian guerrillas in 1978 and later against Hezbollah. Israel occupied a large chunk of the south between 1978 and 2000, when it was forced to pull out its troops in the face of mounting casualties from Hezbollah attacks.

Despite the hardships created by decades of intermittent fighting, Hezbollah and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, remain popular in southern Lebanon. "Oh God, oh God, please protect Nasrallah," is a popular slogan among the area's Shiites.

In Tyre on Friday, volunteers placed the bodies of 72 victims _ many of them children _ in hurriedly made wooden coffins, their lids spray-painted with the names of the dead and an identifying number.

Army troops loaded the coffins three or four high onto trucks and took them to an empty lot outside their barracks, where two trenches had been dug.

The soldiers lowered the coffins into the grave as Israeli warplanes flew overhead, diving to fire missiles on targets in the nearby countryside.

Only 20 mourners looked on, a sign of the mass flight of Tyre's residents.

In Srifa, outside Tyre, bodies still had not been removed from a neighborhood leveled in Israeli airstrikes three days earlier. The mayor, Hussein Kamaledine, said up to 30 people may have been in 15 demolished houses, but no one knows for sure because workers can't bring equipment to clear the rubble.

The situation was similar in the border village of Aytaroun, where a Friday morning strike reduced a building to rubble, with up to 10 people believed inside _ but again rescue teams could not approach amid continued artillery barrages.

Much of the downtown area of Nabatiyeh, a market town of 40,000, was devastated by two missile strikes last week. Most of the stores that escaped destruction remain closed. Homes have electricity for an average of two hours a day and long lines form outside bakeries, according to residents.

Mustapha Badreddine, who heads Nabatiyeh's local council, told the AP by telephone that Israeli warplanes attacked downtown again Friday night, killing at least one person and wounding five.

"It is another inhumane message from an evil enemy," said Badreddine, a U.S.- and French-educated cardiologist.


Hamza Hendawi reported from Beirut, Lebanon.

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© 2006 The Associated Press