Damascus, Syria--Before the aggression against Lebanon began, boxes were moved from one side to the next in the Venezuelan Embassy in Syria. The small office of the embassy was going to move to a larger space. But on the day scheduled for the move, the bombings began in neighboring Lebanon, and the new diplomatic headquarters of Venezuela in Syria had the dignity of opening its doors for the first time, as a shelter to give life to those who arrived, fleeing from Israel’s bombs.
Hundreds of Lebanese Venezuelans have passed through this shelter. They come fleeing from a tragedy. They live the desolation of having lost their homes, and some, their loved ones. They live happy to be alive. They live the uncertainty of leaving behind their land, and the expectation to begin over again from scratch. They live the pain of seeing their country destroyed.
For Venezuelans, these images remind us all too well of the Vargas Tragedy caused by the rains of 1999. But with one huge difference. This time the tragedy was not a work of Mother Nature, but of the irrational terrorist insanity of the Israeli government, that has launched missiles and satellite-controlled planes against the Lebanese population for a month.
When we arrived to the shelter to gather these testimonies, we tried to better understand what was actually happening in Lebanon. But what is happening has no logic. These are the voices of some of those who escaped with their lives, from the genocide committed by Israel.
Yusef was born in Lebanon and arrived to Venezuela 40 years ago, 19 of which he lived in Caracas and the rest in Colonia Tovar where he presently works planting trees. Like so many other Lebanese he decided to go on vacation to his hometown in Lebanon with his entire family. There he was taken by surprise by the beginning of the bombings.
“On August 1st the Israeli airplanes arrived and with no reason began to bomb around our village in Bikaa Gazbe El Garbi. During these bombings they killed 4 people in my village. One of them was working in a woodshop. The others were farmers, they were arriving in a truck with their vegetables and they were bombed.”
“I’m not afraid of the Israelis, but my children were terrorized and that’s why we decided to leave. We’re not guerrilla soldiers. We are defenseless people. We are here in the shelter of the Embassy waiting for the plane to return to Venezuela. I give my thanks to Chavez for having saved so many people.”
Yusef’s family members are part of 80 people who were located, at the time of these interviews, in the shelters that the Embassy set up in Damascus to house the Lebanse Venezuelans while they await an airplane to return them to Venezuela. This flight is the latest of 5 to evacuate close to 700 refugees that have returned to Venezuela.
Another refugee, Mohamed Majzoub, had his family in Lebanon, while he stayed back to work in Ciudad Bolivar. On July 26th he received a call. Their house in Lebanon had been destroyed by the bombings.
In the neighborhood 10 people died. Fortunately, his family was saved because they were visiting their neighbors. Muhamad decision was quick, and in three days he found himself on the Lebanese border ready to cross into the country to search for his family, to bring them back to Venezuela.
His journey was not easy. He found his country destroyed.
“I crossed the country as I could. There were bridges and roads destroyed by the bombs. When I arrived to my village I saw that my three-story home was totally in ruins.”
TAREK DEBIAN has been in the shelter for a week. He left Lebanon with one of the caravans organized by the Embassy in Beirut. With his camera he registered the 14 hour trip to Damascus in Syria.
“It’s a trip that in times of peace would take 30 minutes. One of the bridges was destroyed five minutes after our caravan crossed it.”
Among the fellow citizens with whom we spoke in the shelter, is Coromoto Makhool, born in Tumeremo and living with her husband Jalil and three children in the town of ZOUK MIKAEL, in Lebanon for many years.
“We can’t return to Lebanon. We lost everything. The bombs destroyed our home, and also the television station LBC and the cell phone towers close to our house. We were left without water and electricity.”
Coromoto’s husband, Jalil, works at a newspaper in Lebanon. Today his hope lays in the beginning of a new life in Venezuela, the land of his wife.
“Our home was in an area where there were no conflicts, but all of us who are from there are people who support the Lebanese resistance. Because of this they bombed us, to pressure us to stop supporting the resistance. They want the people to turn our backs to the resistance but they won’t achieve it. We had to flee for the safety of our child who suffers from leukemia and who has to remain under medical care. But we continue to support the Lebanese resistance against the aggression of Israel. We pour our heart and soul into the resistance and I have faith that with the help of God victory will be ours. Chavez had the smarts and the guts to tell the thief to GET OUT OF OUR HOUSE.”
In the shelter we also found Hana Hojaij, a Lebanese Venezuelan from San Felix, with her husband, daughters, and sisters.
“In Lebanon we had everything and now we have nothing. We only have what we were wearing. The bombs destroyed four houses besides mine. There were bombings day and night. We tried to find shelter in Beirut and we thought we were safe. That they wouldn’t bomb there. But three bombs fell in the neighborhood. One close to the house where we were. Two of my cousins died there, one was 24 and the other only 10.”
Hana’s family was moved by the Venezuelan Embassy in Lebanon to Damascus. The eldest daugher of Hana celebrated her fourth birthday in the shelter.
The logic of terror has its methods, and they are being distributed without pity by the Israelis, as Mohsen Ali Hojiej tells us.
From his house in the mountains of Lebanon, he saw the bombings begin around his village, in an open field. With each passing day the jets came closer to his home. And each day that passed more of his neighbors abandoned the village of Diyrintar. Until the fear for his family’s safety entered his home, and they found shelter in the nearby mountains with every intention of returning. But he saw them destroy his house from afar. 8 neighbors died. He began his path to the shelter in Damascus.
“The smoke of the bombs was very black. Each time it was more difficult to breathe. And when you would breathe that smoke, an hour later you would begin to get dizzy. I’ve had a headache since then and I cannot sleep. The same thing happens to all of us. They’re using some chemical substance in the bombs that is affecting people.”
The day after these testimonies, August 12th, the airplane arrived with the Venezuelan flag to transport the refugee citizens.
The airport in Damascus received the 150 refugees, equaling a total that surpasses 1200 evacuees since the first flight on July 28th.
On the other side of the border the bombings continue, but if Israel’s bombs travel by plane, life and hope travel by plane as well.
Israel will surely not stop their attacks immediately, but hope— and the response of the Lebanese resistance, strengthened by solidarity from across the world— will overcome. Lebanon is not alone.
Translated for Venezuelanalysis.com from Spanish by the North-South collective.