August 10, 2006

Lebanon hospitals cut off, running out of supplies

By Michael Winfrey

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hospitals were running out of food, fuel
and other supplies in southern Lebanon on Thursday and aid
groups said fighting and a ban on movement meant they could not
reach thousands trapped in the area.

Medecins Sans Frontieres said that since an Israeli air
strike destroyed the last coastal river crossing for trucks to
the south on Monday, aid agencies had been reduced to carrying
supplies by hand over a log across the Litani river.

It said Israel's warning that it might attack any vehicle
south of the Litani that was not part of an aid convoy with
Israeli clearance significantly undermined the chances of the
tens of thousands of people still believed to be trapped in the

"The people in the south are afraid. They are terrified to
move," Rowan Gillies, president of MSF International, said in
Beirut. "To forbid all forms of movement, without distinction,
will lead to even more civilian deaths and suffering."

MSF said it had suffered close calls with shelling and air
strikes close to two of its convoys earlier this week. On
Monday, warplanes attacked two cars traveling near a U.N.
Nations convoy, killing three people.

Israel has drawn international criticism for attacking
targets in populated civilian areas. At least 1,011 people have
been killed in Lebanon during the four-week-old conflict with
Hizbollah guerrillas.

Israel, which has lost 116 dead, mostly soldiers, says air
attacks and ground operations are the only way to stop the
Shi'ite group, which sparked the conflict when it captured two
Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.

The United Nations World Food Program said it sent a
15-truck convoy to the eastern town of Baalbek but was still
waiting for two planes carrying about 10 tonnes of supplies
each which had been delayed since Tuesday.

The agency was also trying to send a 10-truck convoy to the
battered town of Nabatiyeh in the south, but had not received
security guarantees.

"We had hoped to get down to Nabatiyeh today, but were
denied clearance," WFP spokesman Robin Lodge said.

MSF said hospitals were quickly running out of food,
medical and other supplies in Tyre and other southern cities.
The worst shortage was diesel fuel to run generators.

The shortages coincide with heavy fighting that has brought
new wave of casualties to southern hospitals. More than 3,000
people have been wounded in Lebanon so far and the United
Nations says up to 900,000 people have been displaced.

"We're trying to reduce the number of people who have been
wounded turning to people who have died," said Gillies.

"It's very basic. If we can't give the local authorities
the ability to do that, the consequences for civilians are

The European Union aid chief Louis Michel also said it was
vital to restore access to aid in south Lebanon. He said
conditions were also worsening in northern Israel after
Hizbollah rocket attacks there.

He said he would visit Lebanon and Israel next week for
talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Israel's
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.