Death of a Lebanese Red Cross volunteer - the price of humanity

Published: 14 August 2006 0:00 CET

In the evening of 11 August, the UN convoy, followed by hundreds of cars filled with civilians, made its way north, from Marjazoun in southern Lebanon, towards Rashaya.

In the village of Kehfraya it came under fire from Israeli aircraft. When they heard the convoy had been hit, several Lebanese Red Cross ambulances left Zahle station and rushed to the scene.

On arrival, Mikhael stepped out of his ambulance to assist a wounded person. He was hit by renewed aircraft fire and was killed. A total of six people died in the attack and 31 were wounded.

Mikhael Jbayleh was 34 years old. He was married and had two children, a three-year-old and a seven-week-old baby. A volunteer with the Lebanese Red Cross for 10 years, he had specialized in emergency first aid and become a team leader in the Zahle branch, in the Bekaa valley.

“He was a dynamic, motivated and dedicated volunteer,” remembers Sami Al Dahdah, the president of the Lebanese Red Cross. “He worked most nights and carried out many missions in the south of the country. We will miss him very, very much.”

Some 100 Red Cross vehicles from all over Lebanon, including ambulances, gathered in Zahle on Sunday, 13 August, for Mikhael’s funeral. Hundreds of volunteers from the whole country came to bid him a last farewell. The ambulance carrying Mikhael’s body led the way from his station in Zahle, north, to his home town of Riyak, in the Bekaa valley. Thousands of people lined the streets of each village to greet the convoy. They clapped and threw rice, as they do in Lebanon when someone dies too young.

On arrival in Riyak, the coffin, draped with the Red Cross flag, was carried by relatives and colleagues to the church for the funereal service. After speeches by the mayor and by Lebanese Red Cross officials, Mikhael was posthumously awarded the Lebanese Red Cross medal of valour and was then buried in the town cemetery.

“It was a very moving funeral,” said Knut Kaspersen, the Federation’s representative in Lebanon. “We all paid tribute not only to Mikhael’s courage and dedication, but through him to all the Lebanese Red Cross volunteers who worked tirelessly under such dangerous conditions throughout the hostilities to assist the wounded, the displaced and the vulnerable.”