July 31, 2006

Qana deaths rising still as Israel blames Hizbollah again

This morning's Guardian has the death toll at Qana even higher than it was last night.
It was an unremarkable three-storey building on the edge of town. But for two extended families, the Shalhoubs and the Hashems, it was a last refuge. They could not afford the extortionate taxi fares to Tyre and hoped that if they all crouched together on the ground floor they would be safe.

They were wrong. At about one in the morning, as some of the men were making late night tea, an Israeli bomb smashed into the house. Witnesses describe two explosions a few minutes apart, with survivors desperately moving from one side of the building to the other before being hit by the second blast. By last night, more than 60 bodies had been pulled from the rubble, said Lebanese authorities, 34 of them children. There were eight known survivors....

Over the border, Israeli leaders expressed sorrow for the civilian deaths, but the military said that Qana had been targeted because Hizbullah had been using it as a base from which to launch rockets. "There was firing coming from there before the air strike. We didn't know there were civilians in the basement of that building," one Israeli defence force spokesman said. He added that rockets had been fired from Qana "in the last few hours" before the air strike.
I referred earlier to the Israeli atrocity at Qana in 1996. Going from memory I said that I thought it had been an electioneering stunt by Shimon Peres. Here's a Counterpunch article from around the tenth anniversary:
Coincidentally enough the current attacks take place almost exactly ten years after a terrible Israeli massacre of Lebanese inside a UN compound in Lebanon [April 18, 1996] This was during the days Israel occupied southern Lebanon, when Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres was Prime Minister. During the election campaign Peres decided to have a little war to improve on his "dovish" image. So he launched "Operation Grapes of Wrath" causing 400,000 people to flee their homes, some 800 of them to a UN base called Qana.

On April 18 the IDF shelled Qana. I quote from the August 1996 issue of a journal I edit, "The Struggle". "The TV showed battle hardened journalists weeping as they walked among the corpses. No TV news in the world could show the most revealing pictures. Rescuers for a long time didn't know how many people were killed. There were heaps of body parts all around." Go on the internet and google "+qana +massacre". Available for viewing is an absolutely horrifying video of the mangled bodies of children.

The Israeli government offered various excuses. They said the IDF was firing at Hizbullah positions and a few shells went long. They explained that their soldiers didn’t know the UN base was so close, or that it held civilians. They denied they had any aircraft in the area. PM Peres was quoted as saying, "In my opinion, everything was done according to clear logic and in a responsible way. I am at peace."

The Israeli excuses were all lies. 36 shells were in and around the base.
And this time around?
Over the border, Israeli leaders expressed sorrow for the civilian deaths, but the military said that Qana had been targeted because Hizbullah had been using it as a base from which to launch rockets. "There was firing coming from there before the air strike. We didn't know there were civilians in the basement of that building," one Israeli defence force spokesman said. He added that rockets had been fired from Qana "in the last few hours" before the air strike.
So things have really changed. Israeli officials know to "express sorrow." They can now do the shooting and crying on their feet.

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