Thursday, August 10, 2006

Eye witnesses from Lebanon in US

US Peace Activists in Beirut Available for Interviews
August 9, 2006
CONTACT: Medea Benjamin 011-961-70-906316
Andrea Buffa 510-325-3653

Intrepid Women Bear Witness to the Tragedy in LebanonBeirut, Lebanon -- Four women peace activists from the United States traveled to Northern Beirut this week to bear witness to the war's impact on Lebanese civilians.

Medea Benjamin of San Francisco is the co-founder of the human rights group Global Exchange and the women's peace group CodePink; Judith LeBlanc of New York is a co-chair of the national anti-war coalition United for Peace and Justice; Gael Murphy of Washington, DC is a co-founder of CodePink; and Diane Wilson of Texas is a fisherwoman, peace and justice activist, and the author of An Unreasonable Woman.

The women are available for media interviews at the following cell phone number: 011-961-70-906316. The women arrive in Lebanon on Beirut on Monday.

In an email to friends and family, Benjamin wrote of their arrival, "As we were taking showers after the long drive, there were three loud "boom, boom, booms", which we later learned were attacks about 2-3 kilometers away that killed 14 people. It looked from the TV reports as if most were women and children. So sad... Our hotel is full of refugees from Southern Lebanon, each one traumatized by the fighting."Since then, they have met with humanitarian groups and visited improvised refugee camps where internally displaced people from Southern Lebanon and Southern Beirut are living.

This morning Benjamin said, "People are terrified. The ones who continue to live in the areas that have been bombed are traumatized - they don't know from one day to the next if they're going to be alive or if their homes are going to be there. Many people won't leave - they're old or disabled or too poor and afraid of losing everything they have ... And the Israelis are pushing up to the Litani River, so people are feeling that the worst is still yet to come. There are bomb blasts every night. Kids have told us that they're afraid when it gets dark, because that's when the bombing starts ... The refugee camp we've visited doesn't have wheelchairs for the elderly - it's just a park where about 1,000 people sleep outside every night - they don?t even have tents."

This afternoon LeBlanc said, "No matter who we talk to -- whether they're displaced persons now living in the largest city park in Beirut or on the streets -- they tell us 'We are not Muslims, we are not Christians, we are not Druze. We are Lebanese.' The people here are trying to find a way to unite while at every turn the Bush Administration and the Israeli military are trying to divide them. When people realize we're from the United States, they are so excited to learn that the U.S. peace movement is organizing emergency actions to pressure U.S. Congress to support an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal of Israeli troops. It shows how important international solidarity is at a time when the Bush Administration is backing this disastrous war on the Lebanese people."