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Witnessing the random violence of war

NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher survived Hezbollah rocket attacks on Tuesday but witnessed the random scenes of tragedy they sow in the Middle East  conflict.

We started our day in a bomb shelter in the northern town of Nahariya, Israel. I asked the kids in the shelter, "Do you understand why you're here?"

"Hezbollah," they reply.

"They are bad people. They want to kill us," adds 11-year-old Tal.

His sister Michel feels safe here.

But as we leave: Panic. New rocket attacks around us.

"Katyushas," shouts one woman, then, "a bomb!" "Where are my children?" she cries.

A man points to the smoke, and we run there. Half a mile. Past another bomb shelter, more frightened people pointing the way. When we get there, cars are destroyed, gasoline flowing down the street, burning embers. Live electric cables on the ground, water mains broken. Deadly combinations.

A man is in shock. The Katyusha rocket, with its 50-pound warhead, made only a small hole in the ground. But it spread terror.

Close by, a second hit. But nobody was wounded in either attack.

One house was hit by a rocket, but everybody was inside the bomb shelter.

Then, a third rocket. Terror on the homefront. We run another half mile. A quick response can save lives. But for all three bombs, we got there before the ambulances.

One man we saw had no chance. A direct hit.

‘Where are you?’
People are just waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Yet again, it happened right next to a bomb shelter. Most people were inside, and that's how they stayed safe. The man we saw was clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At the shelter, one lady is desperate. "Where are you? Where are you?" she cries.

A man says, "She's lost her husband."

The woman calls him.

Everybody hears a phone ring.

It's by the dead body.

Randomness sparks fear
This is just one example of the suffering Israelis and Lebanese people are feeling since fighting began with Hezbollah seven days ago.

Hezbollah fired several missiles at northern Israel Tuesday, killing the man in Nahariya and wounding several others, Israeli officials said.

Twenty-five Israelis and more than 237 Lebanese people have died so far in the conflict. The violence has displaced an estimated 500,000.

Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets at northern Israeli towns from the Lebanese border, forcing hundreds of thousands of Israelis to take cover in underground shelters or flee to the south.

The randomness of the missiles has substantially increased the fear in Israel. There is no forewarning. It could happen anytime. The bomb just falls out of the sky.

Because Nahariya is so close to the border, there is no siren warning citizens before a missile strikes. There’s nowhere to run or hide. Peple stay close to bomb shelters to stay safe.

Israeli army air strikes continue
The Israeli air force kept up its strikes across southern Lebanon on Tuesday, hitting a military base at Kfar Chima as soldiers rushed to their bomb shelters, the Lebanese military said. At least 11 soldiers were killed in an engineering unit and 35 were wounded, it said. The base is adjacent to Hezbollah strongholds often targeted by recent Israeli strikes.

Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr denounced the strike as a “massacre,” saying the regiment’s main job was to help rebuild infrastructure. The Lebanese army has largely stayed out of the fighting, confining itself to firing anti-aircraft guns at Israeli planes. But Israeli jets have struck Lebanese army positions.

Israel did not give a reason for the strike on the base.

Nine members of the same family were killed when a bomb hit their house in the village of Aitaroun, near the border, Lebanon’s state-run news agency said, citing the police. Israeli warplanes also struck southern Beirut, and hit four trucks that Israeli officials said were bringing in weapons.

“That is intolerable terrorist activity,” said Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman. In total, Israel’s attacks Tuesday killed 27 people.