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Desperation descends on Tyre, Lebanon

NBC's Richard Engel reports from Tyre, Lebanon, where the humanitarian crisis is worsening after days of Israeli airstrikes.

In Tyre, bread is now so precious, we found a shipment from Beirut being loaded into ambulances, headed south to villages that have been cut off by the fighting. What's left is handed out to families in this lifeless, empty city.

The only cars on the streets are now ambulances going door-to-door giving out medicine that is running out.

Dr. Hussein Selyman is a general practitioner. His office is now an ambulance. His patients are the refugees now flooding this city. Already he has found an increase in communicable diseases like colds, fevers and diarrhea.

"All the refugees living on top each other," he says. "And it's very dirty."

In the basement of a hotel — hot, crowded and swarmed by mosquitoes — we found a new group of refugees: Dozens of Lebanese Americans. They had come back for a family reunion. They said Israel has destroyed their village.

"Every day they take turns to bomb a house," 19-year-old Zenab Shaheem says. "A house every day."

Shaheem told of a desperate escape this morning, leaving relatives behind.

"As we were leaving, people are begging us to put them in the cars," she says. "[But] there is no room in the cars."

Some begged to be put in the trunk of the car.

"She wouldn't come with me because she didn't want to leave my other sisters," says Shaheem about her sister. "She said, 'No, if they're dying, I'm dying.'"

We gave Shaheem a phone to call her sister in Michigan.

"Hello, we are OK," she told her. "They're hitting the houses. We almost died."

In another nearby village, several members of Mada Mansour's family did die.

"My baby, whose name [is] Hussee," says Mansour. "I have this boy and two girls, just."

She said many others are dead, too, buried in rubble.

"Please, please, just help us, please, please," she says.