Declan Walsh in Yahmour
Monday August 21, 2006
When the guns went silent in Aitta Shaab, a war-ravaged village close to the Israeli border, three children skipped through the rubble looking for a little fun.
Hurdling over lumps of crushed concrete and dodging spikes of twisted metal, Sukna, Hassan and Merwa, aged 10 to 12, paused before a curious object. Sukna picked it up. The terrifying blast flung her to the ground, thrusting metal shards into her liver. Hassan's abdomen was cut open. Merwa was hit in the leg and arm.
"We thought it was just a little ball," said Hassan with a hoarse whisper in the intensive care ward at Tyre's Jabal Amel hospital. In the next bed Sukna, a ventilator cupped to her mouth and a tangle of tubes from her arms, said even less.
Her mother watched anxiously. "The Israelis wanted to defeat Hizbullah," said Najah Saleh, 40. "But what did these children ever do to them?"
Israel may be pulling out of Lebanon but its soldiers leave behind a lethal legacy of this summer's 34-day war. The south is carpeted with unexploded cluster bombs, innocuous looking black canisters, barely larger than a torch battery, which pose a deadly threat to villagers stumbling back to their homes.