31.7.06

'They found them huddled together'

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | 'They found them huddled together':

Muhammad Qassim Shalhoub, a slim 38-year-old construction worker, emerged with a broken hand and minor injuries, but lost his wife, five children and 45 members of his extended family. 'Around one o'clock we heard a big explosion,' he said. 'I don't remember anything after that, but when I opened my eyes I was lying on the floor and my head had hit the wall. There was silence. I didn't hear anything for a while, but then heard screams.'

'I said: 'Allahu Akbar [God is most great]. Don't be scared. I will come.' There was blood on my face. I wiped it and looked for my son but couldn't find him. I took three children out - my four-year-old nephew, a girl and her sister. I went outside and screamed for help and three men came and went back inside. There was shelling everywhere. We heard the planes. I was so exhausted I could not go back inside again.'

Ibrahim Shalhoub described how he and his cousin had set out to get help after the bombs hit. 'It was dark and there was so much smoke. Nobody could do anything till dawn,' he said, his eyes still darting around nervously. 'I couldn't stop crying, we couldn't help them.'

Said Rabab Yousif had her son on her knee when the bomb fell. 'I couldn't see anything for 10 minutes and then I saw my son sitting in my lap and covered with rubble,' she recalled. 'I removed the dirt and the stones I freed him and handed him to the people who were inside rescuing us.

'I then started freeing myself, my hands were free, and then went with two men to rescue my husband. We pulled him from the rubble. I tried to find Zainab, my little daughter, but it was too dark and she was covered deep in rubble I was too scared that they might bomb us again so I just left her and ran outside.' She was in hospital with her son and husband, who was paralysed and in a coma. There was no news of her daughter.

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