Last week it was the body of a five-year-old lying near the Haifa road that symbolized the callousness of Middle East violence. She held a toothbrush in her hand.

Yesterday it was the wailing of a Palestinian mother in the corridor of a Beirut hospital. She wept on the shoulder of Dr. Fathi Arafat, brother of Yasser Arafat, crying, "please save my son, his belly is open, his arm is cut off. I want him to live, please."

Scenes like these arouse violent passions on both sides. First of al the desire for revenge.

The Palestinian mother, distraught and pained as she was, shouted to a group of reporters in the hospital corridor, "Write, write, tell the Israelis I still have two sons (and) they will grow up to take revenge."

In Tel Aviv, a 22-year-old maintenance man, Eliyahu Katzavian, found consolation in the Israeli retaliation for Saturday's Palestinian raid on Israel that killed the five-year-old girl and 35 other Israelis.

"We have to do even more to them (Palestinians), to destroy them completely, because they have no hearts, they kill small children," he said.

It is feelings like these that fuel the vicious cycle of violence in the Middle East. They live in the collective memory of the peoples long after recurring violent actions have run their course.

Israeli troops literally strolled into southern Lebanon early yesterday, according to a French television team visiting Bint Jbeil, in the heart of the combat zone.

The French team moved into the Palestinian stronghold of Bint Jbail two hours after the Israeli raid got under way.

At first, their close-range TV reports simply involved the yellowish glare of flares in the early morning sky and a distant rumble of Israeli armor.

The attack came at dawn. The French crew told Agence France Presse how the village was suddenly hit by artillery fire from all sides while Israeli-built Kfir jets dived low bombing and strafing, then returing again.

When the dust settled, the Krfirs came back to knock out the sand-bagged Palestinian headquarters in a shack. The French team raced for their car. Numerous Palestinians left their shelter shouting and pointing at the distant armor, "Tanks, here come the tanks."

The French fled in their car. They said they saw Palestinians fleeing as well, hitchhiking out of the region on the road to Beirut.

Another French journalist, Ignace Dalle, said he witnessed the destruction of the Lebanese coastal town of Damour yesterday.

Damour is about 11 miles south of Beirut. Around noon, Dalle reported, Israeli warplanes began the first of three strikes against Damour. The raid involving U.S. F-15 and French Mirage jets lasted about 10 minutes.

Damour residents, who suffered repeatedly during the Lebanese civil war, fled aimlessly to the countryside. Dalle saw the charred body of a cab driver and his passengers who had not managed to escape.

Following the Israeli strikes, Damour was a ghost town with just a few buildings still standing. Members of the Syrian-dominated peacekeeping force and fled as well.

Palestinian women and children from Damour and from the refugee camp at Rachidien gathered outside the town scanning the skies and desperately trying to hitch rides out of the area.

"Please get us out of this hell," an elderly woman asked a Western motorist."

A Post special correspondent, William Friedman, filed the following report from Metullah, Israel's northern most village, last night:

Metullah is calm but tense.Except for soldiers, who seem to be everywhere, the streets are empty. Shutters are tightly drawn. There are none of the usual kitchen smells.

Lights could be seen in villages across the valley on the Golan Heights and in Lebanon. Automatic weapons fire was still heard on the other side of the border.

The civilian activity of Metullah shifted below ground. The village is dotted with concrete bunkers, which have provided shelter during frequent shellings over the years.

Zelman Levit, 55, a farmer who has lived in Metullah all his life, did not want to go underground. "I'm allergic to bunkers," he said, "but I insist that my grandchildren remain there."

Levit visited the bunker where his grandchildren were spending the night. There were about 5 persons inside, mostly children. A television cable has been rigged up and eveyone was watching a movie.