BEIT MERY, Lebanon—Hussein Dakroub woke up this Thursday at four in the morning to the sound of Israeli warplanes attacking his Shiite Muslim village in southern Lebanon.
At noontime Saturday, he and his wife, their five children, his mother and father, and his sister and her child were some 80 miles away at his sister's house in Beit Mery, a mostly Christian town in the mountains overlooking the capital, Beirut. Dakroub was wearing his sister's pajamas.
"We had to flee without having the time to pack," he explained. "I had to wash my pants. I am still waiting for them to get dry."
All 11 of them are staying in one room, and on a table in the center of it Dakroub's wife was serving eggs and yogurt. "Eat with us," she told a McClatchy reporter.
The Israeli attacks, it appeared, hadn't dampened the legendary Lebanese hospitality, which after all has survived more than three decades of nearly constant strife. Neither, however, had they turned Dakroub and others against the militant Islamist group Hezbollah, which started the latest trouble by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday and firing rockets into Israel.
"We will stay here until the end of this war," Dakroub said. "But we don't want it to end until we defeat our enemy, Israel. We will never surrender. We have a just cause and we will keep fighting until our detainees are freed."
Srifa, some 60 miles south of Beirut, was the first village attacked by Israeli warplanes after Hezbollah crossed into Israel and kidnapped the two soldiers.
"Akil Merhi's house in the village was the first to be attacked," Dakroub said. "His wife, five-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy, and himself, all died from the raid."
Merhi, who lives in Brazil, had returned home 15 days earlier to spend the summer with his family.
"Many houses in our village were bombarded," Dakroub said. "People were frightened, particularly children. You could hear them crying and screaming everywhere."
At around 6 a.m., Dakroub gathered the members of his families and decided to leave the village. He refuses to say they "ran away" or "escaped".
"We are not cowards," he said. "We decided to come here because we have children and we fear that their lives would be at risk."
Other men, he said, stayed in Srifa. "They will never leave," he said.
It took Dakroub and his family around five hours to get to Beit Mery.
"Usually, it takes me only two hours to get here when I want to visit my sister Zahra," he said. When Dakroub and his family left Srifa, Israeli warplanes had already started to attack the roads leading to the capital, which prevented some southern residents from fleeing.
"We had to take several roads to find an open one," he said.
After he reached Beit Mery safely, Dakroub returned to Srifa to get other families. "I saw bombs falling in front of me on my way to Srifa," he said. "The way back was even harder."
Israeli warplanes bombed the bridge between Ghazieh and Sidon, a major southern city, as Dakroub was returning. "But, thank God, all families could be able to leave the village," he said.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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