War Crime In Qana


Massacre at Qana


Israel late Saturday night killed more than 60 Lebanese civilians including at least 34 children in an airstrike on a building in the Lebanese village of Qana. I was up last night blogging as part of the Blogathon 2006 charity event when the news flashed on CNN.

The Israeli defense of their actions was articulated last night by a very angry young IDF spokesman on CNN. He insisted that Israel was not to blame for killing civilians because of the following reasons:

  • Hezbollah started it.
  • Hezbollah fired rockets from around the village of Qana.
  • Israel asked civilians to flee Southern Lebanon therefore cannot be held responsible for killing the ones who stayed behind.

In a combative interview with CNN International’s Shihab Rattansi, the IDF spokesman insisted that it was Hezbollah who was to blame and Israel was only defending herself. So, this is Israel’s idea of self-defense. Most sane people call this a war crime.

First, let’s list the facts:

  • Israel fired a missile at a civilian building in Qana.
  • Over 60 civilians were killed.
  • Zero Hezbollah were killed. 

Last night, the CNN anchors kept asking the openly exasperated CNN reporters who had been to the scene if they had seen any rocket parts at the scene. To which one CNN reporter (I believe it was Karl Penhaul) replied, with frustration in his voice, that he had seen lots of dead children, and body parts, but he had yet to see a rocket part. Tonight as I write this, General David Grange is on CNN complaining that Hezbollah waits for Israelis to kill civilians and then videotapes the scene for political purposes. He complained that there was "overreaction" on the part of the international community. His only suggestion for Israel was that perhaps they should change tactics because they were losing the propaganda war.

I have news for General Grange, it was CNN who was on the scene of this one rather quickly. It was CNN reporters who were visibly shaken by this incident. No amount of spin from you or anyone else will wash away this war crime.

Here’s is how The Guardian newspaper saw the war crime:

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, when some of the men were making late night tea, an Israeli bomb pulverised the house. Some 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 tonight, more than 60 bodies had been pulled from the rubble, said the Lebanese authorities, 34 of them children; there were only eight known survivors.

The bombing, the bloodiest single incident in Israel’s 18-day campaign against Hizbullah, drew instant condemnation from around the world and sparked furious protests outside the UN headquarters in Beirut. The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, accused Israel of committing "war crimes" and called off a planned meeting with the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. Israel apologised for the loss of life but said it had been responding to rockets fired from the village.

Mohamad Qassim Shalhoub, a slim 38-year-old construction worker, emerged with a broken hand and minor injuries, but he lost his wife, five children and 45 members of his extended family. "Around one o’clock we heard a big explosion," he said. "I don’t remember anything after that, but when I opened my eyes I was lying on the floor and my head had hit the wall. There was silence. I didn’t hear anything for a while, but then heard some screams."

"I said: ‘Allahu Akbar [God is great]. Don’t be scared. I will come.’ There was blood on my face. I wiped it and looked for my son but couldn’t find him. I took three children out – my four-year-old nephew, a girl and her sister. I went outside and screamed for help and three men came and went back inside. There was shelling everywhere. We heard the planes. I was so exhausted I could not go back inside again. "

Ibrahim Shalhoub described how he and his cousin had set out to get help after the bombs hit. "It was dark and there was so much smoke. Nobody could do anything till dawn," he said, his eyes still darting around nervously. "I couldn’t stop crying, we couldn’t help them."

Said Rabab Yousif had her son on her knee when the first bomb fell.

"I couldn’t see anything for 10 minutes and then I saw my son sitting in my lap and covered with rubble," she recalled. "I removed the dirt and the stones I freed him and handed him to the people who were inside rescuing us.

"I then started freeing myself, my hands were free, and then went with two men to rescue my husband. We pulled him from the rubble. I tried to find Zainab, my little daughter, but it was too dark and she was covered deep in rubble I was too scared that they might bomb us again so I just left her and ran outside." She was in hospital with her son and husband, who was paralysed and in a coma. There was no news of her daughter.

In addition to being a war crime, this is also an act of cowardice by Israel. Faced with the launching of a rocket containing up to a 90-pound warhead, Israel’s response was to launch a bunker buster to destroy a nearby building. Given that these rockets, the Katyushas, are small enough to be man portable, what is the military justification of using a bunker buster bomb to destroy a mobile launcher? What was Israel trying to achieve?

It seems to me if Israel wanted to take down a guerrilla force like Hezbollah, they would engage in ground combat with them. But, perhaps it is easier to bomb buildings full of civilians rather than to fight men with guns. That is an act of a coward. At the beginning of this conflict, Israel’s military already stated Israel’s intention to go after civilians and civilian infrastructure:

Israel called Wednesday’s abductions an act of war, and Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, head of Israel’s Northern Command, said he has "comprehensive plans" to battle Hezbollah throughout Lebanon, not just in its southern stronghold.

"This affair is between Israel and the state of Lebanon," Adam said. "Where to attack? Once it is inside Lebanon, everything is legitimate — not just southern Lebanon, not just the line of Hezbollah posts." (Watch as Israeli forces enter Lebanon — 2:29)

Earlier, Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, told Israel’s Channel 10, "If the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years."

"Everything is legitimate" indeed! Seldom have war criminals declared their intentions so plainly ahead of the crime.

Who else is complicit? Why, it is the Bush Administration. Fragments found at the site of the bomb that murdered the women and children had this label on it: "GUIDED BOMB BSU 37/B". That is the label of an American 5000 pound bunker buster, courtesy of the Bush Administration. Just last week the Bush Administration rushed a new shipment to Israel so they could blow up more civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Today, as the entire world demanded an immediate ceasefire, the United States stood alone at the United Nations in rejecting any cessation of hostilities. Just as it did last week, the United States has blocked a ceasefire. In doing so, it is complicit in this Israeli war crime.

The most disingenuous comment on this tragedy so far has come from none other than George W Bush:

President Bush on Sunday renewed his call for a "sustainable peace" in the Middle East while his administration urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties in the wake of a deadly airstrike in Lebanon.

"Our hope for peace for boys and girls everywhere extends across the world, especially in the Middle East," the president said before the start of a T-ball game at the White House.

"Today’s actions in the Middle East remind us that friends and allies must work together for a sustainable peace particularly for the sake of children," Bush told the teams of youngsters and visitors. [Emphasis added by me.]

George W Bush pays lip service to the killing of Lebanese children while supplying the very bombs that killed them. A reporter asked Mr. Bush after his comments if he was putting principle ahead of lives. Mr. Bush walked away without answering – no doubt with thoughts of his "culture of life" agenda dancing through his otherwise empty thoughtscape.

Ehud Olmert began this orgy of killing to rescue 2 Israeli soldiers. What has he achieved so far? He has killed civilians in their homes. He has killed civilians as the fled the carnage. He has killed civilians in ambulances. His warplanes have strafed civilians as they lay dying on the highways of Lebanon. His missiles have found their mark on the helpless forms of sleeping infants.

What has he achieved? He has failed to damage Hezbollah. In fact, Hezbollah is stronger today than they were at the beginning of this conflict. Hezbollah is stronger today because of Ehud Olmert’s actions and George W Bush’s inactions. The only certainty is that the blood of Lebanese children is on Olmert’s hands. This stain will not wash off – no matter how much spin and what justification is spun by Israel or the Bush Administration.

Israel says it needs two more weeks to bring Hezbollah to heel. Instead what Israel will get is two more weeks of killing civilians. Hezbollah will do just fine.

This war is over save the killing.


This entry was posted in Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Middle East Conflict, Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to War Crime In Qana

  1. Robbie says:

    It took me three hours to write my last post because I was thoroughly disgusted by what happened this morning. I had CNN in the background and saw that interview with the IDF spokesman. What a tool![-x

    And now there’s a 48 hour moratorium on air strikes while they “investigate” the war crime. Yeah, I have a feeling this will go as far as the 2004 Presidential Election voting fraud investigations: nowhere

    Sit back and get x(…CNN will have more breaking news on Tuesday morning’s death toll when the air strikes resume.

  2. Mash says:

    Yeah, they “investigated” the 1996 massacre in Qana also. I am not sure what is there to investigate. Either they killed them delibierately or they were indescriminitely bombing civilians. Either way its a war crime.

    It took me a long time to write this. I was flipping through pictures from Qana and couldnt bring myself to write anything.

  3. Yes, it’s shocking what they did. It’s not a “tragedy”, as Mr. Blair called it, because that implies some passive occurence that just happened. Instead, both Britain and the US are complicit in this to level of a partner, by providing the military and political support to allow it to continue.

    A couple of days ago, the UN proposed a 72 hour truce to allow humanitarian agencies to do their work. Israel rejected it, pointing to the “humanitarian corridor” which in fact did not exist (according to MSF and all the other relief agencies).

    After Qana, Condoleeza Rice proposed a 48 hour ceasefire, and Israel complied. It shows just how much power the US has over Israel, and so how complicit they are in the atrocities – all it would take to enforce a ceasefire is a quick phonecall from the White House to Olmert. Hell, it could have been stopped a year a go if, when the Israelis showed the plan to the US, they had been told they were off their heads.

  4. Group Captain Mandrake says:

    Disgusting…the US and Israel may be the only two nations on earth with such callous disregard of the Geneva conventions and international laws of war. This is going to keep haunting us for decades–that we sent bunker busters to Israel faster than FedEx overnight so they could blow up more civilian buildings.

    I for one am certainly tired of my tax dollars going to support atrocities in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and now Lebanon too. This administration has turned our nation into a “state sponsor of terror.” :-<

  5. Zebster says:

    So the answer is what? Make no mistake that a ground war against Hezbollah would have the same results.
    Qana was cowardly and plain wrong, but The Fog of War will produce those results EVERY TIME. But it’s my opinion there’s more blame to go around than just Israel.

  6. Of course Israel is not the *only* party at fault. There’s the US, the UK, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria, the whole international community, the UN…there’re many people involved in this.

    The reason why we should focus mainly on the crimes of Israel rather than Hizbullah is that there really is no equivalence here. What Hizbullah did was wrong and criminal, but Israel is slaughtering hundreds of innocent people and destroying a country that was on the road to recovery.

  7. Mash says:

    Jamie, I will second your comment.

    Zeb, I agree there are many causes for this conflict. But I think that is largely irrelavent when civilians are indiscriminately being killed. The bombing of Qana is nothing new. In 1996, they did the exact same thing.

    As for the fog of war, I think that is much more relavent in a ground operation. War crimes cannot be excuses using a fog of war rationale anyway.

    Here, Israel deliberately targeted a civlian building from the air without any resistance from anti aircraft fire. They had plenty of time to assess the situation. They did not care. It was retribution pure and simple. They used one, possibly two, bunker busters on this building. If they were going after a Katyusha launcher, I think that is a bit of an overkill.

    I could quote the clauses from the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions that describe just this type of targeting as a war crime, but I think this crosses the war crime threshold so convincingly that the answer is rather self evident.

  8. Zebster says:

    I don’t disagree really with what you’re saying…I just haven’t seen really any condemning of Hezbollah.
    And a monumental wrong (Israel vis-a-vis Qana) does not wipe out the wrong of Hezbollah’s goal of hoping that Israel would, in fact, react the way it did and kill civilians. I frankly believe that is Hezbollah’s goal.

  9. Mash says:

    Zeb, the next time Hezbollah kills 60 civilians you can rest assured I will write about it. Please read my posts on Iraq’s Dawa party and the Hezbollah connection. I was complaining about it when no one thought it was a good story.

    However, I don’t believe in giving false balance to a story where there is none. Israel is categorically the aggressor here. They are killing Lebanese because they cant seem to find enough Hezbollah to kill.

    For every time Israel kills a lot of Lebanese civilians, and there have been a lot lately, I will not balance it with, oh by the way, Hezbollah lobbed missiles into an empty field.

    When Hezbollah manages to kill a bunch of Israelis, which I hope does not happen, I will write about it. But it is rather pointless to say there is balance when I am writing a post on a massacre in Qana.

    Blowing up a whole country because 2 of your soldiers were captured smacks a little of madness and a lot of barbarism.

  10. Mash says:

    One other thing, if Hezbollah’s goal is to get an overreaction from Israel (which I think is partly true), that by no means gets Israel off the hook when it overreacts.

    That is simple ethics I would teach my own child. A guy spits on your face and you blow him away with a shotgun. Well, you are pretty much guilty of a crime there.

  11. Zebster says:

    My timing in asking for balance couldn’t have been worse perhaps and my comments in no way are meant to minimize what happened in Qana. If you look at my blog, I was one of the very first to question this strategy from the beginning. It just seems to me that we on the left have focused too much on Israel and not enough on Hezbollah, particularly if you believe as I do that getting a lot of civilians killed is Hezbollah’s goal.

  12. Group Captain Mandrake says:

    Zebster and Mash, you are both right in my view (in a way)–yes, Z, Hizbullah is a despicable organization that targets civilians and is morally repugnant if for nothing else than that…period. And Israel does have a right to defend itself…the operative word, however, being DEFEND. Qana was not a strategic threat, neither was the UN border post, neither were all those red cross ambulances that were targeted despite CRYSTAL CLEAR MARKINGS on their roofs.

    The fact is, we can argue about intent till the cows come home, but even giving Israel the benefit of the doubt on targeting noncombatants, the ratio still speaks for itself: over 10 TIMES as many innocent Lebanese as Israelis killed…and in many cases, under extremely suspicious circumstances. Israel is no longer defending itself, it is punishing Lebanon for allowing Hizbullah free rein…and civilians are at the spearpoint. Their tactics are compromising their own goal of kicking Hizbullah out; in fact, Lebanese civilians in the south will probably start chaining themselves to trucks to PREVENT Hizbullah from leaving, all because of the “total war” tactics of the IDF. Olmert isn’t doing anybody any good here, any more than George is doing any good in Iraq. ‘Tis an ill wind…

  13. Zebster says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Captain, and I’ll reiterate that I really have no disagreement with Mash either. :)>-

  14. Mash says:

    Zeb, I welcome a little disagreement. 🙂 You make your points clearly and without malice, and I respect that very much.

    This is a very complex and emotional issue. It is difficult to balance the news of the moment against the larger issues that fuel the conflict.

    I have chosen to stake out a position defending innocent civilians. That I believe is consistent with my other writings. You will notice that my posts veer from analysis to emotional rants. Such is the nature of the topics we cover, I guess.

    Now I am off to read your posts.

    As for Mandrake, you sir are an officer and a gentleman, Group Captain! :d

  15. Group Captain Mandrake says:

    Aww, thanks Mash. :”> Obviously you haven’t been talking to any of my ex-girlfriends.

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