Tyre Hospital Treats Hezbollah Fighters
Aug. 12, 2006
TYRE, Lebanon (AP) _ The chairman of Jabal Amal Hospital says his staff has treated wounded Hezbollah guerrillas at its emergency unit _ but never lets them stay, fearing their presence would make the facility a target for Israeli attack.
The private hospital, the largest medical facility in this port city, is where most of the Lebanese wounded during Israel's offensive in the south have been treated, almost all of them civilians caught by Israeli artillery fire and airstrikes.
The work has overwhelmed the 173-bed hospital, where the usual staff of 102 doctors is down to 38 after many fled the war. The remaining doctors, 109 nurses and other staffers and 50 refugees are living in the hospital because it is too dangerous to travel to and from their homes.
Since the outbreak of hostilities July 12, Jabal Amal has treated 554 wounded civilians, Dr. Ahmad Mroue, the chairman, told The Associated Press, on Friday. He said 20 to 25 wounded Hezbollah fighters have been treated in the emergency unit.
``We told them (Hezbollah leaders) that we will do all the medical treatment that is necessary in the emergency unit, but we can't keep them in the hospital. We also do operations for them, and then they take them the same day,'' Mroue said.
Only one guerrilla has died at the hospital, he said, and the body was sent to Tyre's smaller, government-run hospital, where bodies are stored in a large refrigeration truck.
Guerrillas are distinguishable by the khaki uniforms they wear, and most of the fighters who have come through Jabal Amal have suffered serious gunshot wounds, Mroue said. He said it appeared ``all of them were from the fighting in Bint Jbail,'' a border village that saw some of the heaviest ground fighting.
Mroue knows the danger of keeping Hezbollah fighters in his hospital.
During the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when Jabal Amal was brand new, Israeli warplanes bombed the hospital, wrecking the top two floors, he said. Israeli commandos then stormed the hospital and snatched two Hezbollah fighters from their beds and one from an operating room.
When fighting erupted last month, Mroue said, he contacted the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations to have them tell Israeli authorities that Jabal Amal would not admit Hezbollah fighters.
``If we try to maintain soldiers of Hezbollah we will take a big risk,'' Mroue said.
Hezbollah generally takes care of its own dead and wounded, sending only the worst of the wounded for treatment at hospitals, so there is no way to independently determine its casualties. The group has acknowledged 65 deaths in its ranks, while Israel says at least 200 guerrillas have been killed.
Lebanon's Health Ministry and security officials don't report Hezbollah casualties. They say 669 civilians and 30 Lebanese soldiers have been killed, based on a count of bodies at hospitals or retrieved by rescue workers.
Since the outbreak of war, Tyre has held two mass funerals, burying more than 100 dead. A third mass burial was planned last week but was put off after Israeli attacks on the city intensified. The dead have been buried in shallow graves in numbered coffins to be exhumed later by family members for burial at home.
On Thursday, all patients were evacuated from Tyre's 80-bed Hiram Hospital because doctors feared a new wave of wounded as Israel launched a new assault ahead of a prospective cease-fire, Dr. Haider Jouni said.
Israel's threat to attack any vehicles on the roads of southern Lebanon, to keep arms from reaching Hezbollah, has caused problems for the region's hospitals by preventing aid convoys for a week. Mroue said Jabal Amal was running low on food for its patients, staff and refugees.
Israel allowed a relief ship carrying food and other supplies to dock in Tyre on Saturday. The fuel it carried will be shared with the city's hospitals, Red Cross spokesman Roland Huguenin said.
Ambulances, meanwhile, are risking movement on the roads. They have been ferrying some 70 kidney dialysis patients and other chemotherapy patients to and from their homes to Jabal Amal for treatment.