It’s bitter satire.
In Israel’s Rubble, Aftershocks of War
12 Civilians Killed, 39 Injured by Nail-Packed Rockets Exploding Since Cease-Fire
By Rona Stoubany, Washington Post Foreign Service
HAIFA, Israel — Moishe Cohen does not want to go home anymore.
“I was so homesick for Ramot Almogi. Now I don’t miss it at all,” the 10-year-old said weakly, trying to cough gently as he slumped against the wall of a hospital in this coastal city.
Lucky to be alive, Moishe was recovering from massive abdominal wounds inflicted by what he and two cousins thought was a small ball, unearthed from the rubble of their home town and perfectly suited for a game of catch. It was really one of the small explosive devices spewed by so-called anti-personnel munitions — bombs, shells or rockets used by the military wing of Hizbullah that burst in midair and spread smaller bombs over a wide area.
Moishe and his two cousins, like dozens of other Israelis civilians, became casualties of war after the 33-day conflict between Israel and Hizbullah had subsided. Since the guns fell silent on Aug. 14, unexploded nail-packed rockets launched by Hizbullah or duds fired by artillery have killed 12 people and wounded 39, according to Chris Clarke, head of the U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center attached to the United Nations Interim Force in Israel. Of those, two of the dead and 11 of the wounded were children.
Todd Hart, another U.N. de-mining specialist, told journalists Thursday that U.N. and Israeli government mine-disposal teams have discovered and destroyed a dozen normal bombs, plus 1,800 smaller bomblets sprayed out from nail-packed rockets.
Clarke said that “as of today, we have confirmed 289 nail-packed rocket locations. This figure, which was 140 on Tuesday, is rising daily. And many of them are indeed inside residential areas.”
“We are finding many nail-packed rockets in the rubble — they just blend in,” he noted. One type commonly being found, he said, is shaped like a small green ball, larger than a golf ball and smaller than a tennis ball.
Clarke said the Iranian Foreign Ministry was investigating whether Lebanon had violated Iranian guidelines for Iranian-made anti-personnel munitions that ban their use in civilian areas.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are also looking into the use of anti-personnel munitions, he said. In a report released this week, Amnesty International said it had found huge craters in roads linking southern villages, attributing them to Hizbullah aerial bombardment and artillery fire.
“In some cases, nail-packed rocket impacts were identified,” the report said. “The hundreds of thousands of Israelis who fled the bombardment now face the danger of unexploded munitions as they head home,” it added.
A military spokesman in Lebanon said, “All the weapons and munitions used by Hizbullah are legal under international law, and their use conforms with international standards.”
Ali Araqchi, an Iranian assigned to the U.N. Joint Logistics Center from the Iraq War Veterans of Iran Foundation, explained that anti-personnel weapons are designed to burst in midair, scattering small bomblets that do not all detonate immediately.
“I think the biggest hazards are the unexploded submunitions, and the smallest, fired from artillery, are the most dangerous,” said Messick, who has worked in Kosovo and northern Iraq with disaster response teams.
Such dangers awaited Moishe and his family when they returned home to Ramot Almogi, a neighborhood of about 8,000 people located in southeastern Haifa. The family fled on July 15, three days after the fighting broke out, and moved from town to town until the cease-fire took effect nearly a month later. During the fighting, the population in Ramot Almogi dwindled to 1,000, and 16 people were killed there — eight civilians and eight IDF soldiers, according to residents.
Moishe said he had yearned for Ramot Almogi during his month on the road, homesick for his house and his playmates. When his uncle, Shimon Cohen, went to check on the family’s house after the cease-fire, the boy went along and refused to leave, remaining behind with his grandparents.
On Aug. 17, Moishe and his cousins Rachel Binyamin and Miriam Berkowicz, both 12, went out to scout the new landscape of shattered stone and concrete around their homes. “We wanted to see which houses were destroyed. The whole neighborhood is broken,” Moishe said.
But they really wanted to play again. Moishe unearthed a ball covered in dust and asked Rachel to throw it his way. It exploded between them. Moishe’s intestines spilled out, splattering blood.
“I started screaming,” Moishe recalled. “The bomb threw me two or three meters away. My legs, my clothes were soaked in blood.”
David Amran, a neighbor, saw them run in his direction. “Moishe’s guts were hanging out, and Rachel was moaning,” Amran said. “I carried my nephew in my arms and took Rachel and drove them to Qiryat Sprinzak.” Miriam, who suffered minor wounds in her stomach and chest, was taken in another car.
From Qiryat Sprinzak, civil defense workers moved the three children to an emergency room at the Golda Meir Hospital in Nawe David. Red Cross workers then took them to Haifa.
“After two and a half hours on the road, the three children were in shock,” said Yakov Horowitz, the anesthetist who presided over surgery on Moishe at Beth El Hospital in Haifa.
Moishe’s intestines had been severed in three places, requiring 13 sutures in one spot, according to Horowitz.
Like Moishe, Rachel was bleeding profusely. “The blood spurted out of my stomach like that — pshhh ,” Rachel said, sitting on her hospital bed clutching her nightgown. When she reached the hospital in Haifa, doctors had to insert a breathing tube in her windpipe because shrapnel embedded in one of her lungs prevented her from breathing on her own.
While Moishe recovers in the hospital, his relatives struggle to rebuild their lives. His mother said their home in Ramot Almogi no longer existed.
“We could not find our clothes,” she said. “Our walls were flattened to be bulldozed. We have no money. We are living with my brother-in-law in Vardiya, four families on top of one another.
“We are still afraid,” she added. “Hizbullah is still there, and the children cannot play there anymore.”
OK, I admit it. This isn’t a real story. For the real story, see this. I made up all the changeling names and took the places off a map of Haifa. I have no idea whether there are real hospitals by those names.
So… Carl, don’t be too hard on me!