Snippets from The Age:
The battle between Israel and Hezbollah has caused a massive humanitarian crisis in Lebanon, driving as many as 500,000 Lebanese from their homes, according to United Nations estimates.
Frazzled refugees flooding Beirut are struggling to find food, water and medicine. They are sleeping in city parks, abandoned cellars and sweltering schools in the capital.
Traumatised and disoriented, many staggering in from the country’s south, they are living without clean drinking water, showers or a change of clothes.
The Government has opened the schools of Beirut to the sudden wave of refugees, but most of the shelters are being run by the cadres of Hezbollah, along with a few other non-governmental organisations.
Isolated by its crippled airport, blockaded seaports and bombed roads, Lebanon’s food and medical supplies have dwindled dangerously.
As the crisis deepened this week, Israeli planes unleashed missiles on food factories and a crucial aid convoy, Lebanese officials said.
The officials said Israel had bombed the nation’s largest milk factories, a major food factory and an eagerly awaited aid convoy that was making its way towards Beirut from the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s a very serious escalation,” said Social Affairs Minister Naila Mouawad. “We were putting a lot of hope on the milk factories to get milk for children and elderly people.”
A tour of Beirut’s refugee shelters gives a revealing sketch of the power of Hezbollah. Known for its social and charity network as well as its powerhouse political party and its fighting force, the Islamist Shiite organisation has once again eclipsed Government efforts — many of the shelters are being run by Hezbollah.
The Hezbollah activists say they are collaborating with the Government, but representatives of the Government are generally not present in the shelters.
“Because this war is against Hezbollah, this is our legal obligation,” said Jihad Akil, a Hezbollah activist who was overseeing a Beirut school house sheltering hundreds of people. “It’s also our religious obligation.”