Montreal

Relatives of Montrealers killed in Lebanon condemn 'massacres'

Members of Montreal's Lebanese community gathered Monday to mourn the loss of the El-Akhras family.

Family members of Lebanese Canadianskilled in anair strike Sunday are directing their anger at bothIsrael andthe Canadian government.

Ali el-Akhras,36, was on vacationin the Lebanese village ofAitaroun, about 50 kilometres south of Beirut and not far from the Israeli border, with his wife Amira el-Akhras, 23,and their four children ages one, four,six and eight. They and a group of relatives were in a house that collapsed following a nearby bomb blast.

Amira el-Akhras and the children were killed on Sunday inthe Israeli air strike. Ali el-Akhras,36, had been in critical condition in hospital.

A spokesman for the family said Monday morning that Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs had told him that Ali el-Akhrashad succumbed to his injuries in a Lebanese hospital. However, family members in Montreal maintain he is still alive.

At a news conference Monday, members of theel-Akhras family condemned Israel, calling the attacks"massacres." Theyaccused Israelis of neglecting to distinguish between children, women andthe elderly and soldiers whencarrying out attacks.

They called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put pressure on Israel to stop the violence in the Middle East, and condemned Harper's earlier comments about Israel's stand in the current conflict.

Hussein el-Akhras, who is related to the victims, told reportersthat Canada's Department of Foreign Affairshas not made contact with the family to offer condolences orhelp.

He called for Canada to act faster in helping stranded Canadiansget out of Lebanon.

"Everyone says it's the fault of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is our protector," argued Meyssoun el-Akhras, who said that she is proud to carry a Canadian passport. She said justice and peace are values that Canada has long stood for, but that those values are seriously compromised as long as Canada does not put political pressure on Israel.

'Deep sorrow'

The Israeli Embassy in Ottawa issued a news release Monday expressing its "deep sorrow" over the death of the Canadians.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told Foreign Minister Peter MacKay on Sunday "that Israel will be ready to assist in the efforts to safely transport Canadian nationals out of Lebanon," the release said.

"Israel is doing its utmost to avoid civilian casualties and to target Hezbollah strategic positions, command posts and weapons depots," it said.

Among the otherskilled when the building collapsed was the father's uncle, also named Ali el-Akhras,who came to Montreal from Lebanon 15 years ago.His wife, Saada el-Akhras, was among the injured.

In Montreal, where the younger Ali el-Akhras ran a pharmacy in Montreal's Snowdon district at Queen Mary Road and Snowdon Street, members of the Lebanese community gathered to grieve.