Lebanese United in Grief

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TYRE, Lebanon: A somber and muted mass funeral was held in Tyre Tuesday for the 91 civilians killed in Israel's April 18 attack on a U.N. base in Qana. In a country still deeply riven by the scars of 16 years of savage civil war, the attacks served to unite the Lebanese people in grief as they had never been united in the recent peace. "All the leaders of all the different sects attended the funeral along with the heads of Lebanon's government," reports Beirut bureau chief Lara Marlowe. "This coming together in mourning is unprecedented in the history of the country." The funeral was held in the Roman-built arena at the outskirts of Tyre and the caskets were carried past a triumphal arch built by Alexander the Great after he conquered Tyre in the 4th century B.C. "During the ceremony, the caskets were passed over the heads of thousands of people crowded in the amphitheater," says Marlowe. "People were pulling the Lebanese flag off the caskets as they passed and wrapping themselves with them." In a significant show of unity, Marlowe notes, the usual panoply of flags from Lebanon's various sects was replaced by the Lebanese flag as the only one to accompany the black flag of mourning. The 16-day Israeli offensive served to unite the Lebanese people in the face of death and destruction. "People of all religions rallied to the aid of the refugees when they started pouring into Beirut," says Marlowe. "This is the first time that Christian schools were made available to house refugees and Maronite doctors volunteered their time to care for the sick," says Marlowe. "In Lebanon it has always been that each sect cares for its own. This time it was Lebanese caring for Lebanese."