The first order of business today is setting the record straight.
It appears that in the course of Israeli bombing in the Lebanese village of Qana, a building collapsed and some 60 civilians, including women and children, were killed. (See below as to why I say "it appears.") It is exceedingly likely that you will have heard about this from various media sources and, at the same time, heard about what heartless and vicious people we Israelis are.
I will say again what I’ve said here before: There is no fighting force in the world more humane than Israel’s.
The Israeli government has expressed deep (and deeply sincere) regret over this incident: there is no desire on the part of Israel to hurt innocent Lebanese civilians and they are never deliberately targeted.
Qana, however, is right in the middle of an area from which Hezbollah has been firing rockets into Israel — rockets that have killed and maimed innocent Israeli civilians, even hitting into hospitals once and again. Hundreds of rockets have been fired from the area; some 100 plus directly from Qana. Both rockets and launchers have been hidden inside the village, and apparently equipment was stored directly in the building in question here.
There has been heavy fighting in that area for about three days. Israel warned civilians to leave when the fighting started. The IDF did not know that civilians remained in the area; it is bewildering that in the face of the fighting that had been going on for days they had not gotten out.
This is what PM Olmert had to say about the incident: "…the village of Qana was not attacked accidentally. It serves as a base for launching rockets at…the north, and especially at Kiryat Shmona and the Hula Valley. It is not only a base of terror…storerooms of…Hezbollah equipment …[were] hidden in the village.
"…Hezbollah is using its citizens as a human shield, they want to see children’s blood. This is the only weapon they have left."
Let this be clear, then: If Israel’s is the most humane fighting force, Hezbollah’s is the least. They invite civilian deaths so that Israel’s image will be damaged.
The IDF held a press conference this evening, at which they provided videos of rocket firings from the Qana area, as well as of Hezbollah guerillas moving launchers towards the shelter of residential buildings after launchings are complete.
Then there is this significant information: There was a roughly eight hour time lapse from when Israel targeted the building (about midnight) and when it collapsed (8 am). The IDF is now saying they cannot account for this. It is conceivable that the building was weakened and took time to buckle. But there is another possibility: That it was an explosion of Hezbollah stored weaponry that brought the building down and not the Israeli bombing.
No matter what caused the building to collapse, one cannot help but wonder why were there still civilians there after the building had been hit. If they had the very potent warning of knowing the building had been hit, why were they still there eight hours later? I would guess that there is a great deal more going on than has reached public awareness at this point.
Needless to say, all hell has now broken loose. Riots in Lebanon — directed in good part at the UN, fury within the UN, cancelled diplomatic meetings. Condoleezza Rice was due in Lebanon today but was told not to come until a ceasefire had been arranged.
For us here in Israel this is a near unbearable situation. The world is so easily deflected from the reality of what is happening. Once there is a parity implied — implied that they do terrorist acts, and we do terrorist acts and in a way it’s all of a piece — the enormous import of the situation is lost. It’s easily forgotten that there are forces of evil at work here, forces that must be taken down. It’s easily forgotten that Israel is in an existential battle with a proxy of Iran, which threatens the world. Instead, we become the bad guys.
It is an obscenity if this will somehow be parlayed into a moral victory or an advantage for Hezbollah.
Said Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gillerman today, "I am beseeching you not to play into their hands, not to provide them with what they are seeking while sacrificing their own people as human shields and as victims."
Olmert made quite clear at the Cabinet meeting today that he did not intend to end the offensive against Hezbollah prematurely because of this incident, and indeed the ground war is continuing. Israel is said to need another 10 to 14 days to meet its military objectives.
Word is out, however, that Israel has agreed to a 48 hour cessation of air activity so that the incident might be investigated.
The UN has demanded an investigation, but the US is blocking any condemnation of Israel.
Hopefully tomorrow: follow-up on this fluid and volatile situation, and a serious look at what "sustainable" ceasefire arrangements might look like.
This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2006/7/30/posted-july-30-2006.html