Syrian Village Buries Airstrike Victims

The Associated Press
Sunday, August 6, 2006; 12:09 AM

JANDIRES, Syria -- In stunned disbelief, this small, impoverished Syrian village on Saturday buried 23 of its own killed when Israeli missiles slammed into a refrigerated warehouse just across the border in Lebanon.

Wailing crowds thronged the village cemetery, where the coffins lay wrapped in Syrian flags for Muslim prayers. Many mourners carried pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, whose guerrillas have been fighting Israel in Lebanon since July 12.

"God is great," shouted mourners.

"How long will the Arabs and the world keep silent about Israel's crimes?" asked Brifan Rashid, who lost her brother in the Friday attack and was wounded herself.

"How long will the U.S. support Israeli terrorism? What have those poor workers done to Israel to receive such fate?" asked the 18-year-old, choking back tears. Her father was missing in the rubble, she said.

A weeping woman, who identified herself by her first name of Zaloukha, said she lost two daughters, Mazkeen, 18, and Offa, 20, as well as a son, Shukri, 25.

"My heart has been broken ... What have those poor youths done," she asked.

Ten Lebanese were also killed in the attack Friday, and the Syrian news agency said three more critically wounded Syrians died Saturday, bringing the toll from the strike to 36.

The farm workers were loading vegetables and fruits onto trucks bound for the Syrian market, when four missiles blasted the warehouse in the Lebanese town of Qaa.

The Syrian dead included 18 men, two elderly women and three young girls, it said. Ten other Syrians were wounded.

Syria has blamed the attack on Israel and said its backer, the United States, bore responsibility.

Israel and the U.S. say Syria and Iran are Hezbollah's chief backers.

Syria's foreign ministry sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling for an international investigation into the killings and demanding Israel pay "full compensations" to families of the Syrian victims, said Syria's official news agency SANA.

In Israel, army spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal said that the army suspected that the warehouse was used for arms because they tracked a truck believed to be carrying weapons going into the building from the Syrian side, stayed inside for about 90 minutes, then returning to Syria.

Rashid, the survivor, said she was resting in a small room when the attack occurred.

"The room's walls fell upon me and I lost consciousness," she said.

© 2006 The Associated Press