Lebanese Civilians Caught in Israeli Attacks

Mahmoud Surour i i

Doctors treat Mahmoud Surour, whose face and chest were badly burned in an airstrike yesterday in Tyre. Surour was evacuated from Tyre on Monday by a ship from Cyprus. Ivan Watson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ivan Watson, NPR
Mahmoud Surour

Doctors treat Mahmoud Surour, whose face and chest were badly burned in an airstrike yesterday in Tyre. Surour was evacuated from Tyre on Monday by a ship from Cyprus.

Ivan Watson, NPR
doctors treat civilian i i

Doctors treat a wounded Lebanese civilian July 23, 2006, in Tyre, Lebanon. A family fleeing Tyre in a van was bombed by an Israeli warplane on Sunday. Marco di Lauro/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Marco di Lauro/Getty Images
doctors treat civilian

Doctors treat a wounded Lebanese civilian July 23, 2006, in Tyre, Lebanon. A family fleeing Tyre in a van was bombed by an Israeli warplane on Sunday.

Marco di Lauro/Getty Images
soldier fights car fire i i

A Lebanese soldier tries to extinguish a car that was bombed in front of a hospital by an Israeli warplane July 23, 2006. Marco di Lauro/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Marco di Lauro/Getty Images
soldier fights car fire

A Lebanese soldier tries to extinguish a car that was bombed in front of a hospital by an Israeli warplane July 23, 2006.

Marco di Lauro/Getty Images

For days, Israel has been broadcasting radio warnings in Arabic to Lebanon, ordering civilians to evacuate to the south of the country.

The message has also been printed in Arabic on leaflets and scattered across the countryside by Israeli aircraft.

One leaflet reads: Because of terrorist acts against the state of Israel which come from your villages, the Israeli Army must respond to these attacks. For your security, you must leave your villages immediately. Signed, The State of Israel.

In the coastal town of Tyre, residents say they they've received similar warnings in the form of phone calls with a recorded message in Arabic ordering them to flee.

But yesterday, on the outskirts of Tyre, Israeli aircraft bombed three carloads of Lebanese families who were all trying to do just that.

Among the victims of the airstrikes was 8-month-old Mariam Surour. She lay in a hospital bed Sunday, screaming in pain, her arm splinted, yellow iodine slathered over the burns on her body.

Her 12-year-old brother Mahmoud sat in the hospital bed beside her, his jaw periodically trembling from shock and pain. Doctors spread thick white ointment over the bloody red burns on his face and eyes.

"I want a drink," Mahmoud called out. "My eyes!" he yelled, moments later.

Doctors say the attack killed Mahmoud's father and brother. His mother stood over his bed, distraught and deaf from the sound of the blast.

Aeinalahadine Zabad says he saw the Israeli missile hit the Surour family's Mercedes.

He was coming from the same village Sunday morning, trying to drive his wife and four children to an abandoned tourist resort in Tyre where hundreds of refugees have been gathering and waiting for aid workers to arrange safe passage to the north.

Zabad says that moments after he sped past the Surour family's stricken Mercedes, an explosion struck the back of his station wagon.

He screeched to a halt just yards from the entrance to Najem Hospital where he was treated and now lies bruised and bandaged in a hospital bed. His burned Nissan lies outside the hospital, still smoking.

Zabad and several of his family members were wounded but, miraculously, no one in his vehicle was killed in the attack.

Meanwhile, a few miles up the road, another Israeli missile went through the roof of a minivan carrying 19 members of the Shaito family, killing at least three. The victims of all three airstrikes began arriving at Najem Hospital at about the same time, overwhelming the emergency room, according to hospital worker Abdel Majid Fatah.

"We had 15 or 20 wounded all coming in the space of five minutes," he said. "We couldn't even figure out which attack the wounded were coming from because there were three bombings."

The Hezbollah fighters that Israel is hunting are an elusive target. Hezbollah rockets are periodically launched at Israel from orchards outside Tyre, but Hezbollah fighters in uniforms are not visible within the town limits.

Occasionally, militants in plain clothes appear on the streets — an almost invisible security presence in a half-deserted town under siege.

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