Grief, shock engulf Syrian village

JANDIRES, Syria — Grief and shock swept through this small, impoverished village in northwestern Syria Saturday as it buried 23 of its people who were killed when Israeli missiles slammed into a refrigerated warehouse just across the border in Lebanon.

“How long will the Arabs and the world keep silent about Israel’s crimes?” asked Brifan Rashid, who lost her brother in the Friday attack. She was slightly wounded.

“How long will the US support Israeli terrorism? What have those poor workers done to Israel to receive such fate?” asked the 18-year-old, choking back tears. Her father was still missing in the rubble, she said.

The Syrian government has blamed the attack on Israel and said its chief international backer, the United States, bore responsibility.

Four missiles blasted the warehouse in the Lebanese town of Qaa, where farm workers were loading vegetables and fruits onto trucks bound for the Syrian market, killing at least 33 labourers according to Syria’s official news agency, including 23 Syrian workers. The bodies of the 10 Lebanese killed were believed to have been buried quickly after the attack.

The Syrian dead included 18 men, two elderly women and three young girls, it said. Ten other Syrians were wounded.

Rashid, the survivor, recalled she was resting in a small room when the attack occurred. “The room’s walls fell upon me and I lost consciousness,” she said.

Wailing crowds thronged pavements in front of the village cemetery Saturday, and large tents were erected to host the mourners. “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great,” they shouted before the coffins, wrapped in Syrian flags, were laid in front of the cemetery for Muslim prayers. Many in the crowds carried pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hizbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose fighters have been fighting the Israelis in Lebanon since July 12.

A weeping woman, who identified herself by her first name of Zaloukha, said she lost two daughters, Mazkeen, 18, and Offa, 20, as well as a son, 25-year-old Shukri. “My heart has been broken … What have those poor youths done,” she asked.

In Israel, army spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal said that the army suspected that the warehouse was used for arms because they tracked a truck believed to be carrying weapons going into the building from the Syrian side, stayed inside for about 90 minutes, then returning to Syria.

Qaa is about 10 kilometres from Hermel, a Hizbollah stronghold that has been hit by Israeli air  strikes at least three times.

The dead Syrians, mostly ethnic Kurds, worked in Qaa during the summer loading vegetables destined for Gulf countries into refrigerated warehouses. Their coffins were carried by 16 hearses escorted by ambulance and police cars through the narrow streets of Jandires, some 450 kilometres northwest of Damascus.

In Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal said the United States shoulders “direct responsibility for the massacres committed in Lebanon” because of its reluctance to call for an immediate cease-fire despite the worldwide demand for a halt to the three-week Israeli assault on Lebanon.

He said the conflict was “not only dangerous to the Arabs but also to the entire region, world peace and the entire humanity.”

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