Messages from Lebanon

 The following messages were passed to us from Pax Christi. They were received from a Pax Christi volunteer who is now stuck in Lebanon. Roula is a young Palestinian student who has lived all of her life in Lebanon until she came to the UK to study International Law. She returned in June for a family reunion and is now stranded there. She is happy for us to share her very personal messages which give us a glimpse of life for ordinary people at this worrying time. 14th July 2006, Sidon, Lebanon Dear Pat Yes I am in Lebanon, due to be back to London on 24 July, but now God knows when. My family is fine, physically, no gun shot in our neighbourhood. The city we live in Sidon (known as Saida) is not a Shia city, people here are against Hizbullah, unlike Dahieh in Beirut (adjacent to the airport and hosts most Hizbullah leaders and supporters). Problems appear on a different level: Israel bombed all bridges south and north, we can physically move three kilometres south and three kilometres north. Banks closed suddenly and ATM cash machines are not working, so no cash money and bankcards can be used in only one supermarket (something like Sainsbury's). Yesterday my parents went to buy food supplies. To give you an example, there were only two small cans of tomato sauce on the sauces section. No more pasta. No electricity, mobile phones hardly work, internet only occasionally. We have private motor for electricity, but no oil anymore in the city, so we are operating on reserves. Everything happened so fast and so strong. Maybe you heard that the airport has been bombed several times, Lebanese airplanes are now in Amman. Two nights ago Israeli barges bombed the runways, but yesterday bombed the oil reserves, still fire till now, and few hours ago shelled down more bombs. This is the only airport in the country, the two other small airports they talk about in the news used to be small military airports but abandoned and unused for decades as far as I know. I cannot go to Damascus- Syria then take plane because roads have been bombed yesterday. I cannot go to Larnaca - Cyprus because of Israeli barges in the sea. We sleep on bombings and airplane sound and wake up similarly. Pat in the time lived in London I forgot how psychologically deal with such situations. Now I worry more, now I have more to lose; now I can more see, feel and understand the uselessness and destructive effect of violence. My little sister, who is going to USA to study, is due to go to New York on 6 August. We don't know what will happen now. Dad is working in a project for UNRWA in Tyre (Sour in Arabic), this is an area south of Sidon where we live and the entire road there is bombed. He was supposed to go collect a cheque of payment for himself, colleagues, and workers and building material supplies on Monday, he went then but the cheque was not ready, Tuesday the bombing started still he went but they said wait till tomorrow. At 9pm the bridges connecting Beirut were totally, totally destroyed. Things are going from bad to worst. Escalation seems to be with no red borders. I don't know what more is going to happen. The world is blatantly with Israel on that, most people here are against Hizbullah but what people can do. The internal media and analysts say that Hizbullah (i.e. Iran) caused this for private interests that don't serve the country. God help us; hope things will be better now. Roula. 16th July 2006 Pat, each day is harder from the previous. An hour ago Israeli planes threw leaflets, by the time my brothers went to the street to get a copy there was none. But from the people it a warning that Saida will be bombed, and people should move away from locations that relate directly or indirectly to Hizbullah. For God's sake Pat how are people supposed to know that their neighbours work for Hizbullah or not. I understand if there is a certain official office for Hizbullah, people would know and move away and again move away to where!? The situation is awful, there are no phones most of the time, and no charging cards to put credit on the mobiles to call when coverage exists. We cannot call to check on my sister, or call hospital... It is only the city of Saida, where we live, that has not been bombed so far, after those leaflets it is a clear message that things will be horrible. The first leaflets thrown was general, a statement that this campaign is against Hizbullah and something like people should not help them, but the new leaflets are different. Needless to say that we still go to bed with the sound of planes and bombardment Some nights we sleep for few hours other we don't. I share the bedroom with my sister Samah (12), and Ola (22) shares with Rima (16)... me and Ola almost don't sleep because I am afraid bombing will start while the younger is sleeping and will wake up terrified and get ill. Hamzeh the youngest (his birthday is today becomes 9) doesn't sleep, and we keep him company. And of course there is Omar (19) and Ahmad (29) came from Dubai on Wednesday to get married. Suha the married sister stays at our house with her 3 kids and her husbands comes at night to take them home so she doesn't have to stay alone with 3 little kids, the youngest only 1yr old. By the way we haven't been together all at home for more than four years. I thought this was a good thing, but it seems to be a bad omen. Hamzeh my youngest brother says that we should eat very little because we have to keep the food, otherwise we won't have food. The older kids at home spent our childhood in similar situation throughout until around 2000. By the way there were never civilian airplanes beyond Beirut from the southern entrance, so the only sound from the sky that the city I live in hear is the Israeli military airplanes. Sorry I forgot to thank you for your email. All members of my family send their greetings and gratitude for you and all in Pax Christi . Yes please keep us in your prayers. Will write to you another email when I can. Hope to have better news next time Take care Roula Source: Pax Christi

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