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Bridge bombing is huge blow for delivery of vital supplies to people trapped in southern Lebanon
August 8, 2006
In southern Lebanon on August 7, a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) convoy transporting emergency medical supplies and fuel remained stuck north of the Litani River after an air strike destroyed the last bridge where crossing was possible.
"The bombing of the Qasmiyeh crossing is yet another major blow in our endeavor to provide desperately needed supplies to hard-hit populations in southern Lebanon" said Christopher Stokes, MSF coordinator in Lebanon.
The bridge was also the only passage people from the south could still use to escape the fighting and travel to the north of the country. With this last exit now closed, it leaves many people trapped in the conflict zone.
Yesterday morning, the three-truck convoy traveling from Beirut to Sour (Tyre) was stuck on the north bank and supplies had to be carried by hand across the river. Another MSF team came from Sour, about 10km away, to meet the convoy on the other side of the river.
"Because the crossing is out, we had to transfer by hand, which left us very exposed," said Stokes. Four tons of supplies were moved across the river by hand over a distance of 500 meters thanks to a long human chain. A tree trunk spanning the river was used as a makeshift bridge. To speed up the process, some journalists present at the scene helped out.
"Although we had not received any security guarantees, the decision was taken to go ahead because the convoy contained medical and surgical supplies very urgently needed, especially if fighting near Sour keeps increasing," Stokes added.
"The fact that a truck was hit by an air strike close to a UN convoy during the weekend, killing two civilians, reminds us of the risks aid organizations are taking in trying to send supplies to the conflict-ridden zone. And our convoy travelling from Sour had a close escape when two explosions occurred just 100 meters away from them. Drone planes and jets could be heard all along the trip," Stokes added.
In Sour, the number of air strikes and the number of wounded have been on the increase in the last few days, which makes the successful and timely shipment of supplies even more crucial.
These latest events are stark reminders of the very limited space MSF and other organizations are granted in order to provide support to conflict-affected populations in southern Lebanon. MSF can only reiterate its call for immediate access to populations in desperate need of medical and humanitarian aid.