Civilians killed as Israelis target ambulances
Martin Chulov, Tyre
July 26, 2006
IT is meant to be a universally recognised symbol of neutrality and a guaranteed passage of protection for the victims of armed conflict.
But have instead become targets in Israeli air strikes that have killed more than a dozen civilian passengers being transported to hospitals in the south of the country.
The latest attack occurred on Sunday night near the small village of Quna, where two ambulances travelling in convoy were fired on by an Israeli Apache helicopter as they sped to the besieged port city of Tyre.
They were carrying members of the Fawaz family, who had been slightly injured during earlier bombing.
The convoy was struck by , just before midnight, severely injuring all six people on board.
Ahmed Mohammed Fawaz lost his leg below his knee and will likely lose the other. His 14-year-old son Ahmed suffered serious wounds to his abdomen and the back of his head. He writhed in semi-conscious pain yesterday in the Jabal Amal hospital in Tyre as his mother, Jamila, lay unconscious nearby, her black hijab draped over stark white sheets and bandages.
In another ward, Qasin Shalin, the driver of the first ambulance, and the only one of six people to have escaped with light injuries, sat upright in bed, surrounded by the orange-clad men of Lebanon's Red Cross, who have come to be known as the country's bravest civil servants.
Only two of the region's estimated 60 ambulance crews have refused to turn up to work in the past week. One of the missing crews had narrowly escaped a missile themselves.
Mr Shalin was spared more serious injuries by the armoured vest he was wearing and the driver's canopy that protected him from a direct hit.
He remembers nothing after the flash and bang of the missile then the crunch of the crash as his ambulance veered off road.
"What is the purpose of targeting ambulances?" asked the hospital's director of nursing, Abdullah Narwaz.
"This is beyond crazy, this is a lack of humanity."
The Israeli Defence Force has not commented about its targeting of ambulances, but in the past has said militants in the West Bank and Gaza had used them to transport weapons and fighters, in contravention of laws governing armed conflict.
The UN yesterday stopped short of accusing Hezbollah of using ambulances as transport vehicles. However, it suggested that the cowardly tactic of blending in with civilians had contributed to the terrible toll taken on communities in the south, where most of the 391 Lebanese have been killed.
"Consistently, from the Hezbollah heartland, my message was that Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending ... among women and children," UN humanitarian affairs chief Jan Egeland said.
"I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don't think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men."
**I note that no proof is offered for that statement?**