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WARFARE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Southland Lebanese Americans Feel the Strain

July 18, 2006|Teresa Watanabe | Times Staff Writer

Amer Issa, a Los Angeles food exporter, fears that any delay in the evacuation of his 9-year-old son from Lebanon could mean death. The boy, Noureddine, needs daily medication to prevent organ rejection after a 1997 liver transplant.

But Issa's wife spilled some of the medicine down the sink when a bomb recently shook her building, Issa said, leaving just a week's supply.

"I am going crazy," said Issa, whose family intended to spend the summer visiting relatives in Beirut. "I spend all my time trying to reach them, trying to see if there's any hope to get them out of there. But there's no way."

Issa was among several Southern Californians who waited fearfully for word of friends and relatives caught in the battle between Israel and the militant group Hezbollah.

About 24,000 Lebanese natives live in the five counties that make up the greater Los Angeles region, many of them in the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley and Orange County, according to U.S. census data.

At least three members of a Los Angeles city delegation remained trapped in Lebanon after accompanying City Councilmen Dennis P. Zine and Eric Garcetti to Beirut for the July 1 inauguration of a sister-city program.

Corona resident Hussam Ayloush, a Beirut native and executive director of the Anaheim office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his parents were in Lebanon to help plan his younger brother's engagement ceremony -- postponed indefinitely as they attempt to find safer ground outside the Lebanese capital. Ayloush said he last spoke with his family Friday, when he heard his terrified nephew crying as bombs exploded in the background.

He said other Lebanese Americans have been frantically calling one another to exchange whatever scraps of news they can garner.

Richard Habib, a Thousand Oaks real estate agent and third-generation Lebanese American, was one of the fortunate ones. He received a call from his wife Sunday morning from Damascus, Syria.

"She made it clear that it was terrifying to be in Beirut," he said. "But I'm just thankful that she's out."

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