Children main victims of Beirut explosion


By Kareem Shaheen

The Daily Star
Damaged cars at the scene of explosion in Beirut's southern suburbs, Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
Damaged cars at the scene of explosion in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
 HARET HREIK, Lebanon: A determined calm took hold in this district of southern Beirut as the wounded – the majority of whom are kids – in Tuesday’s blast made their way home. One mother helped her child hold up his bandaged fingers in a victory sign to the cameras as he was carried out of the emergency ward in Bahman Hospital, mere minutes away from the site of the car bomb that exploded in Bir al-Abed.
Nearby, a preacher at the Al-Hassanein Mosque consoled attendees, softly praying on a loudspeaker that God save the nation from whatever plots are woven against it.
Hezbollah officials who arrived at the hospital to meet the wounded were defiant, condemning the attack as the result of sectarian incitement in the country, saying the perpetrators were “tools” of a joint American-Zionist conspiracy, and vowing not to change the party’s stance on Syria.
MP Ali Ammar said the intent was to “undermine the relationship between the people and the resistance.”
When asked if the attack targeted an important figure in Hezbollah, Ammar said: “I have no information about this, and no Hezbollah figure was wounded. The only ones wounded were civilians.”
Speaking to reporters outside the hospital, he struck a defiant tone, saying any strife would be defeated by “Dahiyeh and its people, its children and women who are covered in blood, and its homes that were destroyed by the Israeli enemy.”
He said the attack was not a breach of Hezbollah’s traditional security perimeter in Haret Hreik in the southern suburbs, saying it did not require a lot of effort for the “cowardly criminal” to target civilians, though the party would remain vigilant.
But one victim was less sure.
“I was in bed, sleeping, and the entire window collapsed on me,” said Christina Hamdan, an 18-year-old, as she lay on a bed at Bahman Hospital’s emergency ward after she sustained minor injuries on her knee and hand.
“I went out to the balcony and saw fire and screaming, and was shocked,” she said. “They told us we were in the most secure area but there are many things wrong here.”
Many of the wounded had already left the hospital a couple of hours after the attack, having been treated for their wounds.
Hezbollah MP Ali Miqdad said he had spoken to wounded families who disparaged the bombing.
“I heard families today, and the words of the injured and their families, they were smiling and saying ‘do you think this bomb will affect us?’” he said. “We say to anyone who dares to undermine the security of this area that they will not be able to stop the people of this area from their resistance.”
Miqdad said the entire nation was the target of the attack, and called for unity to protect Lebanon from danger.
He blamed the attack on the “tools in the region” of the U.S. and Zionism.
Meanwhile, Rania Bazzi, the mother of two children who were treated at the hospital for minor wounds, said the children were at her mother’s house near the scene of the explosion.
The two children, a boy and a girl, appeared in shock. The boy had a bandage on his forehead and what appeared to be blood spots on his clothes.
“I heard the news on the TV and I ran from my home to my family’s home to find out what happened, but I arrived and they were in the hospital,” Bazzi said. “Thank God it was only external wounds from glass shards.”
Ali Krayyem, the director of Bahman Hospital, confirmed that most of the injuries were minor.
“There are no critical cases. There was talk before that there were deaths but there are no casualties and no critical cases,” he said. “More than 90 percent of the injuries were a result of glass fragments.”
Hezbollah MP Bilal Farhat said that Army intelligence personnel were carrying out an investigation to determine who was behind the attack, which he described as a “message of incitement, increasing tensions and provocation in the country.”
“The people responsible for this operation are the same ones who adopt a policy of inciting strife and hatred in the country,” he told The Daily Star.
Hezbollah officials refused to name any particular group as being behind the attack, though in recent days senior party officials have accused the Future Movement of inciting sectarian hatred.
The attack comes on the first day of Ramadan for some Shiites.
“It appears as though those who are sending us this message do not believe in this month and its holiness,” said Farhat. “What they have done is against humanity.”
He said the spread of sectarian incitement in Lebanon is “an attempt to make our country a field of blood.”
When asked whether the attack may be related to the party’s position in Syria, Farhat said that Hezbollah’s position “is clear and will not change.”
“We are calling for peace, dialogue and looking for peaceful solutions,” he said.
Ali Qurayyani, a doctor at the hospital, said the staff had gone on full alert minutes after they heard the explosion, before the wounded began to arrive.
“The wounded were mostly regular people, this explosion targets regular people,” he said. “It targets the resistance in Dahiyeh.”
Qurayyani had choice words for the country’s politicians and those who carried out the attack.
“We are the children of this nation and we want to live here in safety,” the doctor said. “We tell the politicians and others not to be beholden to external powers.”
“We tell terrorist groups, without naming names, to keep their evil off of this country,” he added. “We want to live in this country in dignity and freedom. Our blood is not cheap.”

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