Sunday, July 30, 2006

Of human shields, despots and missiles

The tragedy in Qana -- an inarguable anomaly in an Israeli campaign designed to avoid civilian casualties -- has resulted in the predictable outcry. The EU, Spain, France, and Iran issued various condemnations. The Lebanese prime minister reportedly requested a UN Security Council meeting that would demand a ceasefire.

Perhaps the Security Council could also take that opportunity to revisit its resolution 1559, which expresses:

“[Grave concern] at the continued presence of armed militias in Lebanon, which prevent the Lebanese government from exercising its full sovereignty over all Lebanese territory,

“Reaffirming the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory...

“3. Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias;

“4. Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory...

Perhaps any new UN resolutions will also take into account the failures of 1559.

Al Jazeera -- not exactly Israel's bosom buddy -- reports that Hezbollah's use of human shields may be to blame:

...An Israeli foreign ministry official, Gideon Meir, said: "We deeply regret the loss of any civilian life and especially when you talk about children who are innocent.

"One must understand the Hezbollah is using their own civilian population as human shields. The Israeli defence forces dropped leaflets and warned the civilian population to leave the place because the Hezbollah turned it into a war zone."

Further, Israeli officials -- including Olmert, Halutz, and Peretz -- have apologized for the deaths in Qana.

No word on Hezbollah apologies for the 90 rockets targeting civilians on Saturday with 100 more on Sunday. The latter attack reportedly utilized Syrian Fajr-5 missiles, each of which was packed with over 200 pounds of explosives, the first time this type of ordnance has appeared on the battlefield. These weapons, along with Katyusha rockets packed with ball-bearings, are intended solely to shred civilians. That is why -- in addition to hundreds of thousands of Lebanese refugees -- over half a million Israelis are living in bomb shelters or have fled south.

To their credit, Israel has been resolute:

"Hizbullah, like other Islamic terror movements, threatens the entire civilization. When we decided to respond, we knew that we would need to be strong in the face of difficult situations," said Olmert.

Olmert said that the area was a focal point for the firing of Katyusha rockets on Kiryat Shmona and Afula. He said that from the outset of the conflict, "hundreds of rockets have been fired from the Qana area."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz was also profoundly repentant for the fatal strike, saying, "this is a tragic incident that is a result of war. Hizbullah operates in the heart of populated centers with the full knowledge of endangering the lives of innocent civilians."

...IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz also expressed sorrow over the loss of innocent life. "We were operating in a place from where Katyushas are being fired and we distributed notices to residents... "We have been attacking in Qana for three days," the high-ranking IAF officer said. "They have fired dozens of rockets from there over the past week at Kiryat Shmona, Afula and Ma'alot."...

It is indeed a world turned upside down. A terrorist organization has defied UN resolutions. It has targeted US Marines as well as Israeli soldiers and civilians. It has encouraged Arab civilian deaths -- women and children especially -- by employing human shields. It has packed bombs with ball-bearings to ensure maximum collateral damage.

But it has used the mainstream media more effectively than the Israelis. And certain useful dupes are more than willing to oblige.

Update 10:53 ET: the IDF reportedly has video of Hezbollah firing rockets from the location in Qana that was hit.

Update 18:00 ET: Interesting news out of Israel as the IDF reports that the Qana building fell hours after strike:

...An IDF investigation has found that the building in Qana struck by the Air Force fell around eight hours after being hit by the IDF.

“The attack on the structure in the Qana village took place between midnight and one in the morning. The gap between the timing of the collapse of the building and the time of the strike on it is unclear,” ...the structure was not being attacked when it collapsed, at around 8:00 in the morning... ...The IDF believes that Hizbullah explosives in the building were behind the explosion that caused the collapse.

Another possibility is that the rickety building remained standing for a few hours, but eventually collapsed. “It could be that inside the building, things that could eventually cause an explosion were being housed, things that we could not blow up in the attack, and maybe remained there, Brigadier General Eshel said.

”I’m saying this very carefully, because at this time I don’t have a clue as to what the explanation could be for this gap," he added...

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