July 29, 2006

US boat brings aid for Lebanon war displaced

By Michael Winfrey

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A U.S. boat carrying the first American
aid delivered to Lebanon by sea arrived in Beirut on Saturday
with supplies for the 800,000 people displaced by Israel's
18-day bombardment.

The HSV Swift, a fast military catamaran which has shipped
aid to survivors of the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina,
brought in 20,000 blankets, 2,000 tarpaulins and seven
one-metric ton of medical kits to support 10,000 people for
three months.

"It's going up into the hills south and east of Beirut,
which has the densest population of displaced people," said
David Holdridge, emergency coordinator for Mercy Corps, the
non-governmental organization distributing the aid.

Washington has pledged $30 million to help Lebanon, which
Israel has pounded with airstrikes since Hizbollah militants
killed eight Israeli troops and captured two more in a July 12
cross-border raid.

The bombing has killed at 462 Lebanese, mostly civilians,
and devastated infrastructure. America's refusal to call for an
immediate cease-fire has angered many in Lebanon.

"They send the Israelis smart bombs and they send us
blankets. If it was up to me I wouldn't let this ship dock
here. I would dump this stuff in the sea," said a Lebanese
soldier, who declined to be named, as the aid was unloaded.

Holdridge said in the mountains near Beirut, refugees
swarmed into sleepy resort towns and packed into schools and
other public buildings to avoid Israeli bombs.

"I think bringing this aid now is the right thing to do,"
said Captain Jeff Nelson, an Air Force doctor on board the
Swift as it traveled from nearby Cyprus to Lebanon.

"In the last few days, we've seen a lot of trauma from
civilians -- a gunshot wound to the face, a shrapnel wound. If
you're in the south, you're in the fighting," he told Reuters.

The supplies were destined for the Chouf mountains
southeast of Beirut where at least 100,000 people have taken

"You can't increase the population of these towns by a
factor of 10 without all kinds of problems," said Nelson.

The United Nations has been running aid convoys to towns in
southern Lebanon, such as Tyre, Sidon and Jezzine, but getting
food and medical supplies safely to the town and villages at
the heart of the fighting is proving difficult.

In a report on Friday, the government said the Red Cross
had still not received an agreed safe passage from Israel to
distribute aid and 200 villages remain cut off in the south.

Some 5,000-10,000 people were still fleeing Lebanon each
day and food, medical and other supplies were quickly running
out, the report said, adding: "A fuel shortage is imminent."

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland has asked for
a 72-hour truce to enable relief workers to evacuate elderly,
young and wounded people from the south and to deliver aid.

"There is something fundamentally wrong with a war where
there are more dead children than armed men," he said on