SIDON, Lebanon - The Israeli attack on Qana has taken the biggest toll of the
war, but it is only one of countless lethal attacks on civilians in Lebanon.
Large numbers fled the south after the Israeli military dropped leaflets warning
of attacks. Others have been unable to leave, often because they have not found
the means. The Israelis have taken that to mean that they are therefore Hezbollah.
Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon announced on Israeli army radio Thursday
that "all those in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some
way to Hezbollah."
Justifying the collective punishment of people in southern Lebanon, Ramon added,
"In order to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers battling Hezbollah
militants in southern Lebanon, villages should be flattened by the Israeli air
force before ground troops move in."
This policy explains the large number of wounded in the hospitals of Sidon
in the south.
Wounded people from southern Lebanon narrate countless instances of indiscriminate
attacks by the Israeli military.
Thirty-six-year-old Khuder Gazali, an ambulance driver whose arm was blown
off by an Israeli rocket, told IPS that his ambulance was hit while trying to
rescue civilians whose home had just been bombed.
"Last Sunday people came to us and asked us to go help some people after
their home was bombed by the Israelis," he said from his bed in Hamoudi
Hospital in Sidon, the largest city in southern Lebanon. "We found one
of them, without his legs, lying in a garden, so we tried to take him to the
On the way to the hospital, an Israeli Apache helicopter hit his ambulance
with a rocket, severely injuring him and the four people in the back of the
vehicle, he said.
"So then another ambulance tried to reach us to rescue us, but it too
was bombed by an Apache, killing everyone inside it," he said. "Then
it was a third ambulance which finally managed to rescue us."
Khuder, who had shrapnel wounds all over his body, said "this is a crime,
and I want people in the West to know the Israelis do not differentiate between
innocent people and fighters. They are committing acts of evil.. They are attacking
civilians, and they are criminals."
At Labib Medical Center in Sidon, countless survivors of Israeli bombardment
had similar stories to tell.
Sixteen-year-old Ibrahim al-Hama told IPS that he and his friends were hit
by an Israeli bomb while they were swimming in a river near a village north
"Two of my friends were killed, along with a woman," said al-Hama.
"Why did they bomb us?"
In an adjacent room, a man whose wife and two small children were recovering
from wounds suffered in Israeli bombing told IPS that they had left their village
near the border because the bombings had become fierce, and the Israeli military
had dropped leaflets ordering them to leave.
"We ran out of food, and the children were hungry, so they left with my
wife and her sister in a car which followed a Red Crescent ambulance, while
another car took the two other sisters of my wife," he said. "They
reached Kafra village, and an F-16 bombed the car with my wife's two sisters.
They are dead."
Such killings have been common throughout the south.
On July 23, a family left their village after Israelis dropped leaflets ordering
them out. Their car carried a white flag, but was still bombed by an Israeli
plane. Three in the car were killed.
The same day, three of 19 passengers in a van heading away from the southern
village Tiri were killed when it was bombed by an Israeli plane.
A 43-year-old man from the village Durish Zhair south of Tyre lay at the Labib
Medical Center with multiple shrapnel wounds and half his body blackened by
"Please tell them to stop using white phosphorous," he said. "The
Israelis must stop these attacks. Do not allow the Israelis to continue murdering
us." He and his family were bombed in their home.
Zhair said his family were scattered in hospitals and refugee centers in Sidon
and Beirut. But in the hospital hallway outside his room, head nurse of the
hospital Gemma Sayer said "all of his family is dead. We cannot tell him
yet because he is so badly injured."
United Nations forces have been targeted again by the Israelis. Two soldiers
with the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon were wounded after their
observation post was damaged in an Israeli air strike.
Last week, an Israeli missile killed four UN observers, an attack that UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan described as "apparently deliberate."
Thousands of angry protesters stormed the UN building in Beirut Sunday after
at least 34 children and 20 adults were killed inside a shelter targeted by
an Israeli air strike in the southern town Qana.
As Israeli military drones buzzed over the capital city, smoke was seen rising
from the building as UN troops struggled to control the crowds.
Efforts to evacuate the wounded in Qana have been hindered because roads around
the town have been destroyed by air strikes.
The Israeli military refused to take responsibility for the Qana deaths, because
they said Hezbollah had used the village to launch rockets.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud told reporters Sunday that the Qana attack
was a "disgrace" and that there was no chance for peace talks until
an immediate cease-fire was called. "Israel's leaders think of nothing
but destruction, they do not think of peace."
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora described the bombing in Qana as a "war crime."
At least 600 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 51 Israelis have been killed since
the conflict began.
(Inter Press Service)