Qana mothers bury their children

Six-year-old Ali Shalhoub pointed at the wreckage of the collapsed three-storey building in the southern village of Qana where his family had sought shelter before an Israeli air strike levelled the structure three weeks ago.

The Lebanese government called the strike a massacre

He was asleep and was unable to recall the impact of the bombs which hurled him into a wall, knocking him out.

Covered in rubble and his face swollen, he regained consciousness to his mother’s screams as she dug helplessly into the rubble and debris for his eight-year-old brother Qassem.

Hours later, rescue workers recovered his brother’s body, along with 26 other people, including 16 children.

Two families, the Shalhoub and Hashem, had sought refuge in the basement of the building which later came to make world headlines. The Lebanese government called the Israeli air strike a massacre; Israel said it was a tragic mistake and blamed Hezbollah for launching Katyusha rockets from or near the town.

Laid to rest

Although the victims were killed on July 30, they could not be buried because of Israeli military action and aerial bombardment in the south of the country. Now that there is a fragile cessation of hostilities, a funeral is held in a different village every day across the south.

“Was someone like this child fighting the Israelis? He was under siege with the other children left without food or water.”

Hanan Shalhoub talking about her dead son, Qassem

The funeral for the Qana victims was held on August 18.

“That’s Qassem’s shirt,” Ali said as he picked up a blue shirt laid aside near what was left of the building. “These shorts belong to Barhouma,” he said calling his dead seven-year-old friend, Ibrahim Hashem, by his nickname.

Fifty meters away, Ali’s mother, Hanan, sat with other weeping women waiting for the bodies of their loved ones to arrive from a Tyre hospital morgue – where they had been stored – to finally be buried in Qana.

She held Qassem’s picture and stared at as she softly wiped it with tissue paper over and over again.

Final goodbyes

She said: “Was someone like this child fighting the Israelis? He was under siege with the other children left without food or water.”

Other women quickly moved in to comfort her.

A throng of men clad in black carried the caskets out of the ambulances which transported the bodies to Qana and walked slowly towards the gathered families.

The caskets were placed on the ground for the relatives to say their final goodbye.

Hanan threw herself on Qassem’s casket and she wept.

Ali looked at the caskets and burst into tears. Other children did the same. Men also cried as the burial process began.

Most of the victims of the attack on Qana were childrenMost of the victims of the attack on Qana were children

Most of the victims of the attack 
on Qana were children

Sitting in his wheel chair, Mohammed Shalhoub cried loudly as he saw his daughter, Zainab, being buried by the men.

Zainab Shalhoub, six, was among the children who were killed in the building. She was born after five years of relentless medical efforts that her parents had to go through due to her father’s paralysis.

Her father said: “We waited five years for Zainab to come.”

Her mother said: “A couple of days before she was killed, she complained that she cannot play outside because of the Israeli bombings. Now she’s in heaven and she can do whatever she wants.

“I know she’s now happy. But I’m crying because I’m a mother. I miss her. Everything at home reminds me of her.”


Everyone in Qana is angry at Israel for causing the deaths of so many children and at the US for what they call “blind” support for Israel’s war on Lebanon.

One woman shouted: “This is the democracy that America wants us to have. This is the New Middle East that they want us to get.”

Hanan also disputed Israeli claims that rockets had been fired from the vicinity of the destroyed building.

“This is the democracy that America wants us to have. This is the New Middle East that they want us to get.”

A Qana woman at the funerals 

“If that was true, I would have done everything possible to get out of there because I care about my children’s safety.”

Meanwhile, at the freshly dug gravesite, a young mother stood silently looking over her daughters graves.

She clutched the pictures of one-year-old Rokaya and four-year-old Fatmeh. She didn’t say much except that she also lost her sister, 28, two brothers, 17 and 6, and both parents.

As Rokaya was lowered to her grave, her mother whispered: “Go to sleep my baby, go to sleep.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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