LOCAL LEBANESE WANT U.S. TO CALL FOR CEASEFIRE IN LEBANON-Andrew Stelzer

07/19/06

Today, as bombs continued to fall, about 2,400 Americans were evacuated out of Lebanon by US military ships and marines. But Thousands more remain, and many are having difficulty getting to evacuation points, for fear of being killed by Israeli bombs. This morning in Tampa, family members of some of those trapped in Lebanon issued a plea to the US government to call for ceasefire so that Americans can be brought out to safety.

ACT-Khalil “This is my aunt..uncle and sister..my aunt her husband cousin and my other cousin..has a heart defect and another has diabetes and is running out of insulin� Yara Khalil has more than 35 family members, more than 20 of which are children, who are Tampa natives, but were on vacation and now are stuck in Lebanon, many of them in the south.

ACT-Khalil “ A village where they are is being bombed..they haven’t slept in the past 7 days..Jwaya, Yaroun, Quana..�

ACT “Even if it wasn’t for the Lebanese, just for the Americans.. Let them get safe passage..�

Khalil was one of several Lebanese Americans who visited the office of US Senator Bill Nelson in downtown Tampa, to plea with him to support a congressional request to the president to call for a ceasefire in Lebanon. She was joined by Tampa resident Muhieddine Saad, who is originally from Lebanon. He went with his wife to Lebanon for his daughters wedding, and His wife Pilar, a Tampa native, stayed longer for a vacation.

ACT-Saad “I don’t understand why they have to hit hospital, bridges..we just spent money to rebuild bridges and now we have to start all over..�

Pilar, who works as a high school social studies teacher at the universal academy of Florida in Tampa, has been in a shelter in Beirut for the past 8 days, along with their son.

ACT-Saad “I told her not to move, stay, she went to the mountains. Finally they told her to come..waited and didn’t make it…now is back with my family..shes supposed to do it again at 7 o’clock…�

Khalil has 3 cousins with several children who are in Lebanon visiting family.

ACT-Khalil “They received leaflets telling them to evacuate..theres no oil for the cars..the roads are not safe..and a lot of people cant get to Beiruit..they are American citizens..the American embassy told them to go to the port..they said stay put..a lot of the south, no electricity, they will be stranded in the south…�

Ahmed Bedier, is director of the Tampa office of the council on American Islamic relations, and a co-host of the WMNF program True Talk. He says what’s happening is a humanitarian crisis and the United States needs to use its influence.

ACT-Bedier “What we are calling for is a ceasefire..if that’s not acceptable, we want a temporary ceasefire, to give humanitarian relief..�

Bedier says there are more than 25,000 Americans in Lebanon; and more than 1000 from the Tampa area. Families have been calling him with stories of being told that they would be picked up, but it never happened, and others who need medicine and have no way of getting them.

ACT-Bedier “they’re telling you that you have to make it to the port..if there is no ceasefire, you have to make it to the port and risk your lives..how can you do that while bombs are falling..�

ACT-Bedier “all the airways, sea is cut off..this is a humanitarian situation food and medical supplies can’t get i..it’s a huge humanitarian crisis..�

The National office of CAIR, along with other Arab-American organizations are jointly calling on Congress to ask the president to call for a ceasefire. Bedier and the family members had been upstairs in the federal building, speaking to aides of US senator Bill Nelson, who is on the senate foreign relations committee, to ask for the senator’s support.

ACT-Bedier “a lot of their debate has been who to condemn..lets do that later and get the people out..�

ACT-Bedier “the ceasefire is strictly humanitarian, we don’t care about politics..�

ACT-Evita “What kind of message is this ending to the world, that we don’t give much value to the lives of Americans in Lebanon…� University of South Florida student Evita Cheaib is from the Organization of Arab Students in Solidarity, abbreviated OASIS, an on campus group promoting unity among religions.

ACT-Evita “Arab American are not just paying taxes..were saying bring back our people, they are being massacred..they are not looking at Lebanese, they are demolishing the entire country..�

Thousands of Europeans and Australians have already been evacuated from Beirut, which was a heavily visited tourist town.

ACT-Bedier “Other European counties have done better and have helped Americans..that sends a message to Arab American they don’t care…it seems lie the US embassy did not have a plan, where others did have a plan and that’s of great concern..�

ACT-Bedier “if there’s a country that can call for a ceasefire its the US..we all know that…all the other countries want to talk about it..our gov is blaming it on one group…we have a lot of leverage over Israel, if anyone can draw them back its the US..�

The student group OASIS is organizing a rally for a peace and a ceasefire in Lebanon this Saturday afternoon at 1pm at the corner of Columbus and Dale Mabry.

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