Dahr Jamail: Lebanon Death Toll Could Be Twice the Official Figure


Richard Moore

Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2006 18:51:59 +0300
From: •••@••.•••
Subject: Death Toll Could Be Twice the Official Figure

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
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      Death Toll Could Be Twice the Official Figure

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail

*BEIRUT, Jul 28 (IPS) - Lebanese doctors, aid workers and refugees are all 
reporting that the official number of dead in Lebanon is far lower than the 

"I think that the real number is at least 750 dead so far," Dr. Bachir el-Sham 
at the Complex Hospital in Sidon city told IPS in a telephone interview. Sidon 
is 43 km south of Beirut, and just north of Tyre. This region has seen the worst
of the Israeli bombing.

Sham said that by coordinating casualty figures with other hospitals and clinics
in the south, he believes that an average of 40 civilians are being killed by 
Israeli air strikes each day.

"One day we had 100 dead. The authorities in Beirut can only estimate -- we 
never have official statistics about anything in Lebanon," he said. "Regarding 
the number of dead, we can say for sure that by the numbers we're seeing down 
here, it is at least 750, if not more."

One reason the real number will be higher is that "so many people are buried in 
the rubble," he said.

As in Dahaya district of southern Beirut, both Sidon and Tyre have had large 
numbers of civilian apartment buildings bombed to the ground, many with entire 
families in them.

"When you have a building demolished, how many people are under the rubble? Who 
can say? But we know there are many."

Bilal Masri, assistant director at the large Beirut Government University 
Hospital in Beirut, also told IPS that the official number was far too low.

"We have had several reports from the south that there are many bodies buried 
under buildings, or left in cars that were hit by Israeli rockets," he said.

Ghadeer Shayto, a 15-year-old girl being treated at the Beirut hospital for 
wounds she suffered during an Israeli rocket attack while fleeing her village 
Kafra near Bint Jbail, said she had seen many dead on her way to Beirut.

"On our way out we passed so many civilian cars which had burnt bodies in them,"
she said, weeping. "They were burnt, and left there because nobody could come to
take the bodies away." Bint Jbail is the southern town that has seen the most 
intense fighting between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters.

She said the bus in which they were leaving had hoisted white flags, but it was 
hit by a rocket. "My brother and cousin were killed, and the rest of us are 

Abdel Hamid al-Ashi, father of two, saw similar sights as he fled Bint Jbail.

"I had to walk 10 kilometres to a small village to find a taxi, and along the 
road I saw many bodies rotting in the sun," he told IPS. "There were also cars 
which had been rocketed which were full of bodies."

Many patients and refugees reported seeing bodies along the way when they fled. 
Under continuing air strikes, no aid teams have been able to rescue anyone or 
retrieve the bodies.

In Dahaya district of Beirut about a fifth of all buildings have been totally 
demolished. There was a strong smell of rotting corpses at many of those sites 
that this correspondent visited.

Volunteer workers are also reporting that the officially declared toll is too 

"Several of our relief workers who tried to help in Dahaya have reported to us 
that many families are buried under the rubble there," Wafaa el-Yassir, a 
representative of Norwegian People's Aid-Lebanon told IPS at her office. "And we
have similar reports from Tyre and Sidon."

"The number of dead is as much as 800 by now," she added. "And probably even 
more, but it will take some time to find all of the bodies."

Ahmad Halimeh, with the non-governmental organisation Popular Aid for Relief and
Development who is now working primarily to aid war victims in Beirut and 
southern Lebanon, said that "in my experience you can always at least double the
initial figure, and we are seeing the same thing happen again now. So the number
is at least 800, and will be more over time as we continue to gain access to 
these areas that have been destroyed."

There is little doubt that the real death toll is far higher than the official 
one. The question remains, by how much?

(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.

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