QANA, Lebanon - Red Cross workers and residents of Qana, where Israeli bombing
killed at least 60 civilians, have told IPS that no Hezbollah rockets were launched
from the city before the Israeli air strike.
The Israeli military has said it bombed the building in which several people
had taken shelter, more than half of them children, because the army had faced
rocket fire from Qana. The Israeli military has said that Hezbollah was therefore
responsible for the deaths.
"There were no Hezbollah rockets fired from here," 32-year-old Ali
Abdel told IPS. "Anyone in this village will tell you this, because it
is the truth."
Abdel had taken shelter in a nearby house when the shelter was bombed at 1
a.m. When the bombings finally let up in the morning, he went back to the bombed
shelter to search for relatives.
He found his 70-year-old father and 64-year-old mother both dead inside.
"They bombed it, and afterwards I heard the screams of women, children,
and a few men they were crying for help. But then one minute after the first
bomb, another bomb struck, and after this there was nothing but silence, and
the sound of more bombs around the village."
Masen Hashen, a 30-year-old construction worker from Qana who lost several
family members in the air strike on the shelter, said there were no Hezbollah
rockets fired from his village. "Because if they had done that now, or
in the past, all of us would have left. Because we know we would be bombed."
Qana had been a shelter because no rockets were being fired from there, survivors
said. "When Hezbollah fires their rockets, everyone runs away because they
know an Israeli bombardment will come soon," Abdel said. "That is
why everyone stayed in the shelter and nearby homes, because we all thought
we'd be all right since there were no Hezbollah fighters in Qana."
Lebanese Red Cross workers in the nearby coastal city of Tyre told IPS that
there was no basis for Israeli claims that Hezbollah had launched rockets from
"We found no evidence of Hezbollah fighters in Qana," Kassem Shaulan,
a 28-year-old medic and training manager for the Red Cross in Tyre, told IPS
at their headquarters. "When we rescue people or recover bodies from villages,
we usually see rocket launchers or Hezbollah fighters if they are there, but
in Qana I can say that the village was 100 percent clear of either of those."
Another Red Cross worker, 32-year-old Mohammad Zatar, told IPS that "we
can tell when Hezbollah has been firing rockets from certain areas, because
all of the people run away, on foot if they have to."
While IPS was interviewing people in Qana at the site of the shelter Monday,
Israeli warplanes roared overhead. Vibrations from nearby bombing rattled many
buildings. At least three villages in southern Lebanon were attacked in Israeli
air strikes Monday.
Following the international outcry over the air strike, Israel declared a 48-hour
cessation of air strikes in order to carry out a military probe into the Qana
Despite the false Israeli statement that it was halting its air strikes, Israeli
Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Army Radio that the stoppage "does not
signify in any way the end to the war."
Israel has rejected mounting international pressure to end the 20-day-old war
against Hezbollah. The United Nations has indefinitely postponed a meeting on
a new peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon.
While defending the Israeli air strike on the civilians in Qana, Israel's ambassador
to the United Nations Dan Gillerman told the UN Security Council that Qana was
"a hub for Hezbollah," and said that Israel had urged villagers to
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said in reply to questions in New
York Monday that the bombing was "totally, totally its [Hezbollah's] fault."
(Inter Press Service)