The village of Hosh, just a few miles away from the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, has been pounded by Israeli artillery and airstrikes. It is similar to many of the other small villages outside of Tyre that have been almost entirely cut off, but there is still an intact road to reach it, so we went there on Wednesday to see how the local population is coping.
When we arrived we came across a U.N. team on the ground with workers from China. They were trying to dig through the rubble to find the remains of bodies in a building that was destroyed 11 days ago.
As we were there and walking through the rubble, we could tell that there were bodies underneath it. It is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit here, and these bodies have been there for 11 days, so you can imagine the stench. The smell was so strong that the recovery teams gave us face masks that had been daubed with cologne for us to wear on our faces.
When the building was hit and collapsed, it killed a U.N. soldier and his wife, as well as two other women and two children. The efforts under way by the U.N. team were an attempt to recover their bodies.
While we were at the site, they uncovered two bodies. One was a little girl. Her legs and lower body were exposed, and that was all that was really recognizable of her. She was wrapped in a blanket.
About half an hour later, more digging in the same area uncovered an old woman’s charred body. They had been in a bedroom of one of the buildings that had collapsed.
Who was this little girl?
We found a picture of the beautiful little girl with ringlet hair and decided to try to find out who this girl was.
We went around to a public building next door, and it was empty. Some of the doors were wide open with no one there, indicating that people had fled the building without even closing the door behind them.
We went to another area of the town where there were some people. We showed them the picture of the little girl and tried to find out who she was. Some people knew her but didn’t know her name. But a lot of the people we spoke to didn’t know the family because they were refugees from other parts of Lebanon farther south.
Eventually we found a man who knew her uncle. He called the uncle for us, and he in turn put us in touch with the father, whom we went and spoke with.
A father asks why?
The father, Rayes Jumma, 32, had been in the house with them. He thought that the house was safe because a person from the U.N. lived downstairs.
He had left just 15 minutes before the airstrike. He got a call from a friend who needed a set of keys he had in his pocket, so he went off to run that errand. When he was out running the errand, he heard the airstrike and then started to get calls from friends saying, “Hey, there was just an airstrike near your house.”
So, he called home, but there was no answer. Then he heard from other friends who were calling and saying, “No, it was actually your house that was destroyed.”
Jumma has a grocery store that is right next to the hospital where the bodies of his daughter and his mother-in-law — the bodies that we saw pulled out of the rubble — were brought Wednesday.
He has not gone to see them. He has not gone back to see his destroyed house. He says he wants to remember his family as they were.
He lost his entire family: two daughters, his wife and his mother-in-law.
He was confused. He kept asking us, “Who is responsible for this? Who is to blame for all of this? Who am I supposed to complain to? Is it Hezbollah? Is it Israel? Is it America? Is it Condoleezza Rice? Is it Bush? My family is dead, what now? Who do I go and talk to?” That was what he kept repeating over and over. Asking what now? What am I supposed to do?
He didn’t cry, he was just bewildered.