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Eyewitness: Mass burial in Lebanon

By Cal Perry

Retrieved from CNN on July 30, 2006

Sunday, July 30, 2006; Posted: 4:33 a.m. EDT (08:33 GMT)

As the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah rages, both sides bury their dead. CNN's Cal Perry witnessed a mass burial in southern Lebanon. Readers should be aware that his report includes graphic descriptions.

TYRE, Lebanon (CNN) -- Eight days ago, the Lebanese Army buried 87 bodies in a mass grave in the city of Tyre. Today, they are laying another 34 in the ground.

Everyone is covering their face to keep out the stench as Lebanese soldiers remove dozens of bodies from the back of a truck. The first body is a day-old baby -- killed in an Israeli airstrike, according to the Lebanese Army. On her coffin a marking shows she had no name.

They've lined up the coffins on the sidewalk; each has either a name or a marking that says "unknown."

All have numbers. Coffin No. 104 has three names on it - Ali, Mohammed and Talib - all children. Nearby, Fatawi Horani is screaming and crying. Her granddaughter Marim, 15, was killed, she says, while trying to flee the fighting.

Three soldiers begin to struggle with a large body bag. Maggots are pouring from the bag - blood is seeping onto the ground. When they get the body into the coffin, the lid arches as doctors hammer nails into it.

Children are beginning to gather. It is images such as these that pass down a hatred of Israel to another generation.

A little girl, Maana, is standing nearby, a bandage on her left arm. Her father tells me she was wounded by Israeli jets - but all the passengers in the car in front of them were killed.

Without having to count, it's clear that more members of the international press are here than bodies being buried. Journalists were asked to come here to witness the collected horror.

A Shiite sheik arrives and begins talking to members of the media. I pull him aside and ask him one question: "What message would you send to the people of America?" "Israel?" he asks. "No," I reply. "America."

"I love the people of America. It's the government I hate. Tell the American people that we received their gift. The missile that they gave to Israel - we have received it, and this is the result," he says, motioning to the coffins.

I thank him, but he says nothing to me - just glares, turns abruptly and walks away.

The mayor says that the bodies will be buried here temporarily. When the fighting stops, relatives will be able to come claim their dead and bury them in their hometowns.