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Hasna Um Abdou lost her legs in a Syrian government mortar shelling that also killed her two children and her husband.
TRIPOLI, Lebanon--Hasna Um Abdou lost her children, her husband and both legs to a mortar.
Now the veiled 38-year-old woman lies in a hospital bed in a northern Lebanese city, with the Quran, the Muslim holy book, on her table. She talks slowly, with pauses, and is visibly trying to hold back the tears. Abdul-Aziz, 3, and Talin, 13 months, were her only children.
"Every time I remember, I feel the pain," she says.
Um Abdou is one of thousands of Syrians who have been wounded in the uprising against President Bashar Assad and its aftermath. Hundreds of the wounded have been taken for treatment in neighboring countries, mostly to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. More than 74,000 Syrians have taken refuge in Lebanon, a small country of just 4 million people that is struggling with instability.
Um Abdou and her family fled their village in Homs province in March amid intense shelling, to a second village and then a third. Two days later, it seemed quiet, and they decided to return home. The family rode back on March 31 on a motorcycle, with Um Abdou's daughter asleep in her arms and her son sitting in front of his father.
Then the world fell apart.
Um Abdou keeps hearing the sound not of the mortar, but of the terror.
"I cannot forget the noise of the hearts beating quickly as people gathered around us," she says.
Her daughter died immediately from a shrapnel wound in the head. Her son bled profusely and died minutes later, even as she looked at him. She did not want her husband to know the children were dead, so she said nothing and started to pray.
But her husband was severely injured, too--the shrapnel had blown out his intestines. And Um Abdou looked down to find her own legs hanging slightly from her body.
"The moment I saw myself, I knew that my legs were going to be amputated," she says.
She and her husband were rushed to makeshift hospitals in the Syrian border towns of Qusair and Jousi. With the help of Syrian rebels, she was carried on a stretcher all the way across the border to Lebanon, amid 12 hours of shelling and shooting. Her husband died en route.
Um Abdou's children are now buried in a plot of land in Syria owned by the state. Her husband was buried in the cemetery in Jousi because it was too dangerous to take him back to his hometown.
"Even the dead have no right to be buried," she says.
Um Abdou has undergone four operations in Lebanon, including the two amputations. Her parents and sisters are looking after her, and she displays the green, red, white and black flag of the Syrian revolution in her room.
She knows the pain will be unbearable the day she goes back to Syria and visits the place where her family is buried. In the meantime, she has written a poem in the hospital.
"I lost my children and husband, but my soul is still strong," it reads. "I will keep saying until my last breath, long live freedom."