Scores of Lebanese Civilians Buried in Tyre Authorities in Lebanon's southern port city of Tyre organize the mass burial of 82 Lebanese civilians, killed in the 10-day-old Israeli bombing campaign. The burial took place amid round-the-clock Israeli air and gunboat attacks on an area just south of Tyre.
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Scores of Lebanese Civilians Buried in Tyre

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Scores of Lebanese Civilians Buried in Tyre

Scores of Lebanese Civilians Buried in Tyre

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Israel called up army reserves and dispatched more troops to the Lebanese border today. The army's Chief of Staff said Israeli troops and tanks will conduct limited ground operations as needed to root out Hezbollah guerillas who are firing rockets into northern Israel. There were more rocket attacks today and Israel continued its airstrikes in Lebanon. In this part of the program, we're going to hear about the Lebanese army, what it's capable of and what it's not. We'll also hear about Israel's pullout of troops from Gaza.

First, to the southern Lebanese port of Tyre, where NPR's Ivan Watson witnessed the mass burial of some 80 civilians killed in Israeli attacks over the past ten days.

IVAN WATSON reporting:

Carpenters and volunteers were hard at work in the courtyard of Tyre's state hospital today.

(Soundbite of hammering)

WATSON: They were building coffins, dozens of them. Nearby, two trucks stood parked. For days, their motors have been running around the clock.

(Soundbite of motor)

WATSON: They are refrigerator trucks and since the hospital mortuary overflowed at the start of the Israeli bombing campaign, these trucks have stored a growing cargo of corpses. The director of the hospital, Dr. Salman Zeynadin, says the trucks are normally used to store meat.

Dr. SALMAN ZEYNADIN (Tyre State Hospital): (Speaking foreign language)

WATSON: He says many of the victims died from serious burns after being caught by the blast of Israeli air and artillery strikes in the villages and countryside around Tyre. With the situation still too dangerous for proper burials, Dr. Zeynadin ordered the temporary burial of the bodies in a mass grave.

Earlier today, grieving relatives began arriving at the hospital. A man named Mohammad Abdullah says the trucks held the bodies of his mother, his brother and his brother's six children. They were killed, he said, in an Israeli helicopter attack last Saturday as they fled their village of Marwaheen in the back of a truck.

Mr. MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH (Lebanese citizen): Two years, seven years, ten years, 13 years, 14 years, 15. All of them babies. All of them babies.

WATSON: Another man named Adnan Jamal(ph) listed the names of some of his cousins, who he says were killed as they slept when their house was demolished by Israeli missiles.

Mr. ADNAN JAMAL (Lebanese citizen): Akana(ph), Abdullah, Miriam(ph), Cain(ph). Up until now, we didn't find the head of (unintelligible) and her legs, also.

WATSON: You did not find -

Mr. JAMAL: Up until now. They're under the wreckage.

WATSON: Hospital workers opened the trucks and began unloading body after body, each wrapped in bloody plastic. They then placed them in waiting coffins, with smaller boxes reserved for children.

(Soundbite of crowd mourning)

WATSON: Day after day, Red Cross worker Sam Zheir has been bringing dead and wounded people in from the countryside and all of them, he said, were civilians.

Mr. SAM ZHEIR (Red Cross Worker): Only children and women. This is what makes me feel upset. If you see a soldier, you would feel a small amount, but if you see it like this, you will not be happy.

WATSON: As the Israeli military bombs southern Lebanon, aircraft periodically drop leaflets over the countryside, instructing people in Arabic to evacuate the area and move north for their own safety. But leaving is dangerous. Two days ago, Zheir says he found a car full of fleeing civilians which was hit by an Israeli bomb.

Mr. ZHEIR: They attack civilian van and two were dead directly and two, still alive. One died in the hospital and one's still alive now.

WATSON: Across town today, bulldozers dug two long trenches in an abandoned field. This afternoon, Lebanese army trucks loaded with coffins backed into these pits.

(Soundbite of trucks and men whistling directions)

WATSON: One by one, soldiers dragged the boxes out and laid them on the ground.

(Soundbite of coffins being unloaded)

WATSON: As they worked, Israeli warplanes began bombing a ridge just a few miles away. Just before bulldozers finally filled in the pits, workers rushed in to add another coffin. It contained the body of a Lebanese woman killed in an Israeli airstrike today. She was buried along with 81 others.

Ivan Watson, NPR News, Tyre, Lebanon.

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