Sunday, July 30, 2006

At Least 60 Civilians Dead in Qana, Lebanon, After Israeli Airstrike

Today, Israel bombed Qana, a town in southern Lebanon: estimates of the dead range from 27 to 60. All of the dead were civilians, and a very large number were children. The outcry over this has been strong enough to induce Israel to call a halt to airstrikes for 48 hours while it "investigates." Apparently, even the Ice Queen was rattled enough to stumble over her words:

An Israeli air raid on the southern Lebanese town of Qana killed dozens of civilians on Sunday, many of them children, marking the bloodiest day of this conflict and putting enormous pressure on Israel and the United States to move rapidly toward a cease-fire.

Late Sunday, Israel agreed to suspend its airstrikes for 48 hours while it investigates the bombing of Qana, a State Department spokesman said. The spokesman, Adam Ereli, told reporters in Jerusalem that Israel would coordinate with the United Nations to provide a 24-hour period during which residents of southern Lebanon could leave area safely.
Israel said the Qana strike was aimed at Hezbollah fighters firing rockets into Israel from the area, but an explosion caused a residential apartment building to collapse, crushing Lebanese civilians who were spending the night in the basement, where they believed they were safe. The Israelis raised the possibility that munitions stored in the building blew up hours after the airstrike, destroying the building.

Estimates of the death toll varied. The Lebanese Red Cross counted 27 bodies, and as many as 17 were children. Some officials put the death toll higher, with the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, saying there were more than 50 people killed and news agencies saying the toll was at least 57.

Residents said as many as 60 people were inside the building, most of them unaccounted for.

Whatever the actual toll, the deaths in Qana set off a chain reaction, with protests in Beirut against the United States, Israel, the United Nations and moderate Arab countries. Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas vowed revenge. There were condemnations worldwide of the Israeli tactics in this war against the radical Shia militia group, which set off the hostilities by a raid into Israel across the international border, and new calls for an immediate end to the fighting.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice canceled a planned trip to Beirut and decided to return to Washington on Monday to work out a speedy resolution to the conflict that could be brought before the United Nations this week.

"I will continue to work and work and work, that is what we can do," a visibly shaken Ms. Rice said. "If there is a way humanly to accelerate our efforts, I would do it."

Of course, no amount of carnage would be enough to draw criticism, much less condemnation, from right-wing bloggers, who continue to insist that:
  • Israel was targeting Hezbollah fighters based on intelligence that Hezbollah fighters along with rockets and rocket launchers were hiding inside the building that was bombed; and that
  • the Israeli military didn't know there were civilians in the building because the IDF had "warned" civilians to leave.

Astonishingly, we are also told that " one doubts that Israel killed the civilians in Qana accidentally while targeting terrorists, whereas, on the other hand, Hezbollah has launched hundreds of rockets into Israel for the sole and express purpose of killing civilians."

In truth, John, a lot of people doubt that Israel did not know they were hitting a civilian target. How do you kill 60 civilians in a residential building without hitting one single rocket launcher or Hezbollah fighter if your intelligence "shows" that Hezbollah fighters are firing rocket launchers from that building?

And how are IDF leaflets "warning" civilians to leave of any use when there are mountains of rubble from bombed buildings everywhere, when the highways leading out of the area have been bombed; when you're either desperately poor, or elderly, or very young; when you have no food or water to take with you on your journey and none waiting for you anywhere else?

There's an almost monstrous cruelty involved in the blithe and careless way people like John airily wave all this inconvenient reality away and give Israel credit for "warning" civilians to leave when they know damn well they can't leave.

Juan Cole has more [emphasis mine]:

Israeli war planes scored a direct hit on a building in the Shiite village of Qana where destitute farming folk, including old people, women and children, had taken refuge in the basement from Israeli bombing raids. At least 60 are dead, as bodies are pulled from the rubble. 19 children are confirmed dead and another 11 are thought still to be in the basement. The Israelis say they had pamphleted the region demanding that all civilians leave, and high Israeli officials have openly said that anyone who remains is fair game (low civilianity index, and maybe low humanianity index, too). The Israelis don't say, however, how desperately poor hardscrabble farmers including the aged and infirm and children are supposed to travel to Beirut over the roads and bridges that the Israelis have bombed out, and on what they are supposed to live when they get there.

The Israelis had launched 80 air raids on the village of Qana overnight, with large numbers of buildings flattened, according to CNN.

The Israelis appear to be engaged in a concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Shiite towns and villages of southern Lebanon, and are indiscriminately bombing all buildings in the area south of the Litani River. They have chased hundreds of thousands of residents out, and are destroying the property they left behind in a systematic way, rather as they destroy the houses belonging to the family members related to suicide bombers. In other words, the Israelis are engaged in collective punishment on a vast scale. They maintain that rocket launching sites are embedded in these villages. But since Hizbullah keeps firing large numbers of rockets, it does not actually appear to be the case that the Israelis are hitting the rocket launchers. They are demonstrably hitting civilian houses and apartment buildings in a methodical way. There is no independent evidence that this civilian building in Qana was used for any military purpose. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has called for an international investigation and an immediate ceasefire, and he summarily sent Condi Rice away until she brings such a proposal.

No comments: