Lebanese Father Mourns Loss of Family
Tuesday, August 29, 2006; 7:50 AM
MARWAHEEN, Lebanon -- Last month, Khamel Ali Abdallah kissed his wife and six children goodbye, then put them on a bus to his native village in south Lebanon for summer vacation. He was supposed to join them a week later, but war between Hezbollah and Israel broke out.
He would see only one of them again.
The day after Abdallah's family arrived in Marwaheen, a small hilltop village a stone's throw from the Israeli border, Israel unleashed a barrage of artillery and airstrikes that reached Lebanon's glittering Mediterranean capital of Beirut and beyond.
The assault tore giant craters into roads across the country, making it too dangerous for Abdallah to leave Beirut. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of charred cars still line the roads of war-wrecked towns, more than two weeks after a U.N. cease-fire ended the fighting, provoked by Hezbollah's July 12 capture of two Israeli soldiers.
Abdallah, 36, who holds jobs as a security guard and a coffee server at a communications company, called his wife in Marwaheen three times a day for the first three days of the war.
"She kept telling me 'Beirut is dangerous, it's being bombed, be careful,'" Abdallah said. "I told her 'I'll be fine, take care of yourself.'"
On the fourth day of fighting, he called at 7:30 a.m. "She told me 'We are fine,'" Abdallah said, and he felt reassured.
He called back an hour later. This time there was no answer.
Abdallah managed to reach a brother in nearby Sidon on the phone, who told him he'd heard the family had fled Marwaheen after Israeli forces ordered residents via loudspeakers to evacuate within two hours.
The panicked family had rushed to the local U.N. headquarters and begged U.N. peacekeepers to protect them. The peacekeepers turned them away, and the group decided the only way out was to risk Lebanon's deadly roads.
"There was a fire burning inside me. I couldn't think. I could only worry," Abdallah said of the uncertain hours that followed.
Glued to the television in his Beirut apartment, he saw a report about a convoy carrying civilians trying to flee Marwaheen that had been hit by an Israeli airstrike. More than a dozen were said to be dead.