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South Lebanon mourns civilians killed in Israeli airstrikes

'We will remain steadfast': South Lebanon mourns civilians killed in Israeli airstrikes
4 min read
South Lebanon
15 February, 2024
In the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh, seven members of the Berjawi family were killed in their home by Israeli rockets; a young boy was the sole survivor.
A man searches through the rubble of a house destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on 14 February in the southern Lebanese town of Souaneh. The strike killed a mother and her two children. [William Christou - TNA]

Residents of the southern Lebanese cities of Nabatieh and Souaneh mourned on Thursday the loss of ten of their neighbours killed by Israeli airstrikes the day prior in what was the bloodiest day of the Hezbollah-Israel conflict since it began on 8 October.

Hezbollah and Israel have been engaged in cross-border clashes since Hamas's surprise attack on the Gaza envelope on 7 October.

Israel said that the Wednesday airstrikes on villages in southern Lebanon were in retaliation for Hezbollah's targeting of a military base on the same day, which killed one Israeli soldier and wounded eight more.

In total, 13 were killed by Israeli airstrikes, 10 civilians and three Hezbollah fighters.

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In the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh, seven members of the Berjawi family were killed in their home by Israeli rockets, with a young boy as the sole survivor. A few hours earlier, in Saouneh, some 12 kilometres east of Nabatieh, a mother and her two young children were killed by an Israeli airstrike.

Two people were still trapped under the rubble, a civil defence source on the scene told The New Arab. The civil defence continued to dig for the two people late into the afternoon, with throngs of residents crowded around them – but did not expect to find them alive.

Neighbours of the family were sweeping up glass, their own windows blown out from the force of the blast. Abu Mehdi, who lived next door, said that he and others immediately ran over and began to dig through the rubble, egged on by the voice of the son Hussein stuck under the wreckage.

Residents who knew the Berjawi family said they were well-respected in their neighbourhood. According to neighbours, Hussein Berjawi, the 55-year-old father who ran a car parts shop just meters from his home, had no connection to Hezbollah.

"I knew him for 25 years. He was the best guy, [and] would always help the poor. I saw him just [Wednesday] afternoon, and we said hello to each other," Ali Abu Khadood, a 55-year-old friend of the family who owns a shop facing their home, told TNA.

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The strike was targeted, with two missiles hitting the first-floor apartment from either side. A resident who lives on the top floor of the same building said that his apartment suffered no damage from the strike.

The targeted nature of the bombing in Nabatieh was a stark contrast to the airstrike in Saouneh, where an entire home had been levelled.

Residents who knew the family picked through the destroyed home, looking for the passports of the deceased. They picked up a child's dust-covered backpack, inspecting it to see if it might hold an identity card.

A man who works with the father of the family said that when he arrived a few minutes after the airstrike, he found the body of the mother — Rawa'a al-Muhammad – 50 meters from the home, ejected from the force of the blast.

"The oldest son was about to get in a taxi to go to Beirut. If the strike happened just two minutes later, he would still be alive," the Souaneh resident told TNA, declining to give his name.

Israel claimed that their strikes had killed a commander of Hezbollah's Radwan Force – an elite commando unit trained to carry out raids within Israel itself.

Residents of southern Lebanon condemned what they depicted as the willful targeting of civilians.

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"Israel will now say they hit Hezbollah sites. Where is Hezbollah? This was a residential building filled with families," Abu Khadood said.

Senior Hezbollah official Sheikh Nabil Kaouk said on Thursday that the group would meet "escalation with escalation, displacement with displacement, and destruction with destruction."

The prospect of escalation did not spook residents in south Lebanon, who said they would not leave their homes.

"We won't leave, how can we leave our land? We will remain steadfast," a resident of Saouaneh said, looking over the ruins of the destroyed home.