Beirut family struggles with war's legacy
As the early morning sun breaks over a breezeblock cemetery wall, it finds an emotional Lebanese grandmother, Alia Amro, closely holding a portrait of the family she lost.Skip to next paragraph
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In the picture is Alia's smiling daughter Maya, with a white hijab, looking almost childlike beside her husband, Ali, an electrician. Between them nestles 4-year-old daughter, Riham, wearing a bead head covering and big-eyed smile.
All three were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Aug. 7 in an attack on a Beirut apartment building that killed more than 40 people – the largest single-event civilian death toll during a five-week war between Hizbullah and Israel last summer.
"Those people who send those smart bombs: They don't have kids," charges Mrs. Amro, taking a tissue from her handbag to wipe the marble grave that carries all three names.
"Those smart bombs don't know if it is children or warriors," says grandfather Said Yatim, noting that 14 children were killed in this strike. "Why do they call them 'smart' "?
Mr. Yatim's anger has barely abated since the Monitor first saw him and his wife last August, in shock as emergency workers pulled their dead granddaughter from the still-smoking rubble.
"The kids have nothing to do with missiles and bombs," Yatim wailed at the time as he reached out to touch Riham one more time. "Imagine if Americans were receiving this, and not Lebanese. If these were Americans dying in this massacre, what would they think?"
The views of this Shiite family, which mourns daily in this sandy cemetery, provide a case study on how many of those who suffered most during a 34-day Israeli blitz, sparked by Hizbullah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, still give Hizbullah blanket support.
"If you were in America and an invader came to your house, and burned and destroyed it, what would be your reaction?" asks Yatim, an electrical parts supplier who wears a thick black jacket against the morning chill. In a separate attack, the house of the grandparents was also destroyed; Hizbullah paid them $12,000 in compensation.
Hizbullah has lost some popular backing during its current standoff with the Western-backed government in Beirut – especially from Sunnis and Christians who supported the Shiite militia as an act of national solidarity.
But Yatim takes sides against the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. "Who is Hizbullah? They are from the people, and are defending the country, from village to village," he says. "How can I support those [government] leaders? I lost my house. I lost my family. I support those with greater loyalty to the country, to the people."
But echoing the views of Hizbullah leaders, this family's anger is aimed at Israel and the US, which many Lebanese and Arabs blame for not stopping Israel from systematically destroying Lebanon's infrastructure. A poster of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is plastered on the wall near the graves.