• July 30, 2006

New Qana Massacre Kills 55 Civilians

An Israeli air strike killed at least 55 Lebanese civilians, including 21 children, in the southern village of Qana on Sunday, July 30, in the bloodiest single attack during Israel’s 19-day-old war on Hizbullah

Several houses collapsed and a three-storey building where about 150 civilians were sheltering was destroyed, witnesses and rescue workers told Al-Jazeera satellite channel.

Lebanese Red Cross workers covered the corpse of one dead child with a blanket. A woman in a red-patterned dress lay crumpled and lifeless in the broken masonry, Reuters reported.

A leg poked out from the rubble nearby. A child lay dead in the street.

Distraught people in Qana screamed in grief and anger amid the rubble of wrecked buildings.

People scrabbled at slabs of concrete with their bare hands to try to reach those still buried in the debris.

The bodies they pulled out included those of a baby and a 70-year-old man.

Ibrahim Shalloub, speechless with distress, was desperately looking for his sister, still buried under the rubble.

No Rush

The Israeli army said it had warned residents of Qana to leave and said Hizbullah bore responsibility for using it to fire rockets at modern-day Israel.

Military experts, speaking to Al-Jazeera satellite channel, refuted the Israeli rationale, saying that no body has ever seen a Hizbullah launch pad or fighters in the battle field, which demonstrates the military fact that they are operating from remote non-residential areas.

In his first reaction after the massacre, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel is in no hurry to strike a ceasefire that would end the bloodshed in Lebanon.

“Israel is in no rush to reach a ceasefire before we get to that point where we could say that we reached the main objectives we had set forth. This includes the ripening of the

diplomatic process and preparing the multinational force,” Olmert said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.

Israel on Saturday, July 29, rejected UN calls for a 72-hour pause in fighting to enable relief workers to evacuate elderly, young and wounded people from south Lebanon and to bring in emergency aid.

“There is no need for a 72-hour temporary ceasefire because Israel has opened a humanitarian corridor to-and-from Lebanon,” claimed Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner.

Qana is already a potent symbol of Lebanese civilian deaths at the hands of Israel’s military.

In April 1996, Israeli shelling killed more than 100 civilians sheltering at the base of UN peacekeepers in the village during Israel’s “Grapes of Wrath” bombing campaign.

Amnesty International conducted an on-site investigation of the incident in collaboration with military experts at the time.

Amnesty concluded that Israeli army “intentionally” attacked the UN compound, and failed to substantiate their claim that the attack was a mistake.

Human Rights Watch concurred, “The decision of those who planned the attack to choose a mix of high-explosive artillery shells that included deadly anti-personnel shells designed to maximize injuries on the ground — and the sustained firing of such shells, without warning, in close proximity to a large concentration of civilians — violated a key principle of international humanitarian law.”

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