Leb-Canadian family wiped out

One family's story -- I'm sure there are others:

MONTREAL (AFP) - Ali El-Akhras wanted to introduce his children to his grandparents in Lebanon to show how three generations had thrived in Canada, but the carnage his parents once fled ended the trip and their lives.

An Israeli air strike destroyed the family home in Aitaroun in southern Lebanon this past week, killing the Montreal pharmacist, his wife and children, as well as his mother and an uncle, relatives said.

"We're all devastated. It's a shock," Walid El-Akhras, 21, a relative who works at the family grocery in Montreal told AFP on Monday.

All were Canadians with dual Lebanese citizenship. Three of their Lebanese relatives also died in the blast, he said. Canadian officials have confirmed seven family members died but relatives say eight were killed.

Israeli forces have pounded targets in Lebanon since the middle of last week after the Hezbollah militant group captured two Israeli soldiers and began launching its own barrage of rockets into Israel.

On Monday, customers offered their condolences to the family. One wholesaler dropping off goods said: "It's senseless."

Ali El-Akhras had graduated from Montreal University and worked for the popular pharmacy chain Jean Coutu in the city's Cote-des-Neiges district.

He had scrimped and saved to afford to bring his four children, aged one to eight years old, to Lebanon and introduce them to relatives for the first time, his sister Mayssoun El-Akhras told reporters at a press conference in Montreal.

"He wanted to return because the country was for a while peaceful ... but they died as they slept, they burned to death in the same room," she said, evoking images and sounds of the bombs their parents "had fled 35 years ago which finally caught up to them."
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.