After Qana: Israel Suspends Air War, 24-Hour Ceasefire Allows Refugees to Flee
I’m calling it A.Q–After Qana. Everything that happens after Qana in this miserable conflict will be colored by Israel’s grisly massacre there yesterday. And everything that happened before as well. At the beginning of the current war, I predicted here that such a gruesome event would occur and that it would spell the end of the operation. I didn’t know what precisely would happen and when. But I knew such a horrible accident had to happen given the IDF’s awful record of killing the guilty with the innocent in Gaza. Now it has.
The only question is whether the Bush Administration has enough saychel (“common sense”) to realize that Israel has played its last card and that it’d be best to call it quits before far worse things transpire. The NY Times characterizes our ‘disastrous’ position thus:
By refusing to call for an immediate cease-fire, even in the face of the Qana bombing, Ms. Rice was teetering on the edge of a public relations disaster, particularly in the Arab world. All day on Sunday, scenes of dead children being pulled out of the wreckage at Qana dominated the airwaves…
Israeli officials continued to say, publicly, that they needed more time to diminish Hezbollah’s military abilities, and America’s insistence on reaching agreement on a political package before calling for a cease-fire worked to give Israel that time.
But that left the impression that Ms. Rice and the Bush administration were willing to stomach the killing of innocent children to reach their larger aims.
And given this cloud-cuckoo land comment from the State Department’s number 3 official, I’d say the U.S. is still willing to drink that Israeli cool-aid:
This has not been a good 2 1/2 weeks for Hezbollah from a military point of view, and they’ve got to be worried about continued Israeli offensive operations.”
I’d say Mr. Nicholas Burns, you’ve got a lot more to be worried about than Hezbollah does. Israel has just blown U.S. Mideast policy and its own invasion to smithereens and you’re still crowing about how cool the Israeli operation has been. Reality bites and it’s just bitten you, Mr. Secretary.
I’m hoping that this abrupt turnabout in Israel policy is the beginning of the end of its abominable invasion of Lebanon. But you wouldn’t know it from this desperate Israeli attempt to escape the obvious:
A senior government source said Monday morning that despite a 48-hour halt in Israel Air Force activity in Lebanon, “there is no cease-fire.”
…[Justice Minister Haim] Ramon told Army Radio: “This (suspension) decision will allow us to continue the war over time and it will take off some of the political pressure, so I am sure this is the right decision for now. It is not stopping the war.
“If it ends today it means a victory for Hezbollah … and for world terror, with far-reaching consequences. Therefore this war is not about to end, not today and not tomorrow,” he said.
Imagine the incredulity with which I greeted this bit of chutzpah from the IDF which essentially says, “well, maybe we weren’t responsible after all:”
The Israel Defense Forces indicated yesterday that it might not have been responsible for the deaths of at least 54 Lebanese, including 37 children , when a building bombed in an Israeli air strike in the village of Qana collapsed yesterday – but was unable to offer an alternative explanation.
The IDF is claiming that it bombed the building at 12 midnight but that it didn’t fall down immediately. What it’s leaving out is that a precision guided bomb could easily kill all the inhabitants with its impact without necessarily immediately bringing the structure down. If you look at images of the dead you can see that the bodies of almost all are quite intact. It wasn’t the building’s colapse that killed them but the blast force of the bomb. To argue otherwise is, well, simply preposterous. I’d urge them to give it up, face facts and fess up.
You’ll recall that Israel responded to Jan Egeland’s recent proposal for a 72 hour ceasefire allowing Lebanese refugees to flee their villages for safety by saying there was no need for it. Amazing how a grisly massacre can make a nation suddenly become a little bit more responsive to the world’s moral concerns:
The bombing, the bloodiest incident in Israel’s 18-day campaign against Hizbullah, drew condemnation from around the world. Late last night Israel announced a suspension of aerial activities in southern Lebanon for 48 hours and said it would coordinate with the UN to allow a 24-hour window for residents in southern Lebanon to leave the area if they wished.
For more on this ghastly massacre read the Guardian’s heartbreaking coverage. This article says the death toll will climb north of 60 and that 34 of the dead were children. There were only eight known survivors of 100 people sheltering in the building. I never would have thought that I would call the IDF child murderers. I don’t go in for histrionics and overstatement. But what else can you call this? There are now 750 Lebanese dead, mostly civilians and half children.
Oh and hey, George Bush, your fingerprints are all over this too. Guess who supplied the bomb that killed them:
The strike that destroyed the building was a precision-guided bomb dropped from the air, the same kind of bomb that destroyed a UN position in Khiyam last week, killing four UN observers. Writing on an olive green fragment of the munition which appeared to have caused the explosion read: GUIDED BOMB BSU 37/B.
The IDF response to their deadly act has been worse than pathetic. The reason they bombed the building? Because rockets had been fired from Qana. Notice they didn’t say that rockets had been fired from the building. In fact they admit that they hadn’t:
…The house that was hit had no direct connection to the rocket-launching cells.
It appears that the building may’ve been hit because of the IDF’s contention that Hezbollah fighters run for cover to civilian buildings after launching rockets:
IAF officials said that immediately after firing rockets at Israel, some Hezbollah cells hide in civilian houses in built-up areas in southern Lebanon.
So in order to deprive Hezbollah of cover you destroyed a building killing 60 civilians in the process. Bravo!
What about that vaunted IDF intelligence prowess? Listen to the clear logic of this Qana resident:
Mohsen Hachem stared at the images. “They had to have known there were children in that house,” he said. “The drones are always overhead, and those children – there were more than 30 – would play outside all day.”
You mean to tell me that the IAF bombed a building without taking any daylight reconnaissance photos of it? And if they’d taken those photos you could undoubtedly tell civilians were in and around it. It simply beggars belief.
More from the masters of moral obfuscation at the IDF:
“We don’t know what the people were doing in the basement. It is possible they were being used as shields or being used cynically to further Hizbullah’s propaganda purposes,” the spokesman said. “We apologise. We couldn’t be more sorry about the loss of civilian life.”
Why certainly. It’s all Hezbollah’s fault. Somehow a Hezbollah fighter managed to drop that bomb on that building. But really, to say Hezbollah forced the civilians to be in the building without providing a shred of evidence that this is so–it shows utter desperation on the IDF’s part to foist the blame where it doesn’t belong. No, I’m afraid this time you’ll have to shoulder all the blame yourself, IDF.
Let’s give the last word to one of the eight survivors:
Zaineb Shalhoub, in the next bed, rested quietly.
“There’s nobody left in our village,” she said. “Not a human or a stone.”
16 thoughts on “After Qana: Israel Suspends Air War, 24-Hour Ceasefire Allows Refugees to Flee – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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I agree with your geenral sentiment but quoting the Guardian as an accurate (and neutral) commentator on events – loses you and your argument credibility
Yes, it is. Hezbollah cleric, quoted in the Guardian: “If they want to kill Hizbullah they have to kill every Shia in the south of Lebanon.” Don’t you think this is calculated? Hezbollah arranges itself so that Israel cannot fight it without killing civilians and then provokes Israel by kidnapping soldiers. Hezbollah has a responsibility to separate itself from civilians. Its utter failure to do so is the primary cause here.
Whether or not the IDF is taking appropriate precautions is a military question, not a political one. I don’t know how precise the Israeli bombs can be, nor do I know what the quality of its intellegence information. But neither do you. Your conclusion, that Israel doesn’t care about the death of civilians, stems from your prejudice against the IDF. You’ve said yourself on this blog many times that you don’t trust the IDF. So when a statement is released about the precautions it takes to prevent tragedies like this one, your knee-jerk reaction is skepticism. But no army in the world has been able to fight a war with less collateral damage. I think if it were possible, Israel would be doing it.
Using the Guardian as an excuse not to take seriously an issue of the gravity of the Qana massacre is foolish on yr part. Which media source is credible in yr. book? Tell me & I’ll find a link which will say essentially the same thing.
I’ve also quoted Haaretz & the NY TImes in this post. Is one of Israel’s leading newspaper also not credible to you?
No, Hezbollah is under no obligation to fight a war as you would have it fight. That’s the problem with folks like you. You’re offended because a guerrilla army is fighting on terms that guerrilla armies have used to fight for generations if not centuries. We don’t get to set the terms under which they fight.
And the idea of blaming Hezbollah for Qana I find morally offensive. It allows you to feel morally superior because you can get Israel off the hook in terms of its own responsibility. Israel dropped the bomb. Hezbollah didn’t. Hezbollah didn’t force those people to shelter in that building, despite what pro-Israel partisans claim. That building was not used by Hezbollah. The IDF cannot even show Hezbollah fighters running into the building to seek refuge after rocket attacks. The building had nothing to do with any attacks. So how do you justify hitting it?
More moral obtuseness. It MOST DEFINITELY IS a political question since the entire Arab world is now in a frenzy for Israeli and U.S. blood after this disaster. The fact that you don’t acknowledge or recognize shows you are wearing blinders.
Quite the contrary. This blog has been speaking of IDF intelligence blunders for months. They’re documented here & in the media (including Israeli media) for all to see including you. The fact that you don’t indicates that you don’t want to see or just aren’t reading those reports. Either way, it’s not a good sign as far as having an unblinkered view of the conflict.
Not, it stems fr. the evidence. If the IDF cared about civilian deaths it would use diff. methods to prosecute the war. I have no innate prejudice against the IDF. I believe Israel has legitimate defense interests. I believe Israel was justified in responding against Hezbollah and other terror attacks. I just don’t believe the particular military strategy they’ve chosen is either effective or morally sustainable.
No Israeli statement has been released that I know of which details any specific “precautions it takes to prevent tragedies like this one.” I don’t consider Ehud Olmert saying Israel doesn’t target civilians to be either credible or detailed enough to warrant serious consideration. If Olmert had provided specific information which the IDF used in targeting the building which led them to believe it was a Hezbollah facility or that there were no civilians there, then I’d at least entertain his evidence. But he has not done so.
This is patently false. The NATO war in Kosovo was just such a war. While there were civilians killed there, the strikes were relatively surgical compared to what Israel has done. Another thing you don’t admit or understand is that Israel deliberately WANTS collateral damage. It wants to rain down terror on the civilian population & infrastructure to political effect, falsely believing that by doing so it will bend Lebanon to its will.
Hezbollah has a moral responsibility to separate from civilians because its guerrilla tactics are directly contributing to civilians casualties. I hope you’re not suggesting that only Israel has a responsibility to limit collateral damage to civilians while Hezbollah is free to endanger them under the guise of “guerrilla warfare”.
I’m not trying to get Israel off the hook. As I admitted in my previous comment, I don’t know whether the IDF can be more surgical without undermining its goals (although, unlike you, I’m inclined to believe PM Olmert). My point is that REGARDLESS of Israeli efforts to minimize (or failire to minimize) civilian casualities, Hezbollah bears the primary responsibility for beginning this war. Had Hezbollah not captured three soldiers, the IDF wouldn’t be flying F-16s over Beirut and blowing up buildings.
We can argue all day about whether Israel is trying to limit civilian casualties and if so, whether its trying hard enough. But what’s absolutely clear is that Hezbollah isn’t. It isn’t trying to limit Lebanese casualities and it certainly isn’t trying to limit Israeli ones. In fact, it’s making a concerted effort to kill as many as possible, on both sides of the border. I don’t see how you can accuse me of “moral obtuseness” while ignoring the obviously criminal party in this conflict.
This constant argument about how HesbAllah conducts its operations is delusional. I am just so sick of the arrogance behind it. You’re going to tell HezbAllah how it should act? Rediculous.
Does HezbAllah blend with the community? OF COURSE IT DOES. What would you have them do, park their rocket launchers on some barren hillside? With the drones snapping photos of them? And the high-res satellite images being fed to the IDF from the US? How dumb would that be?
If the situation were reversed, and it was HezbAllah with the F-16s and drones and tanks, and it was the IDF with some highly inaccurate rockets, any Israeli commander who did NOT order his troops to hide would be immediately removed from the field. And for good reason.
It’s quite rich after Israel’s blitzkrieg assault on Lebanon to be talking about Hezbollah having moral obligations. I’d say their biggest responsibility as far as they’re concerned is to survive to fight today & another day. Given how carefully Israel is adhering to those moral standards you tout so highly, I find it hard to fault Hezbollah for its behavior. And as Chris says, if the shoe were on the other foot we all know that the IDF wouldn’t hesitate to use the exact same tactics Hezbollah now uses.
And besides, you haven’t answered what was my original & more essential question. Hezbollah did nothing to the civilians attacked in Qana. It had nothing to do w. them or the building. So how do you continue to somehow blame Hezbollah & exonerate the IDF for an incident in which Hezbollah had no direct involvement? It’s all a way to get Israel off the hook imo.
Again, letting Israel off the hook. Of course, Hezbollah initiated the current round of fighting. But Israel had many choices how it would respond militarily (& there are many options I could’ve supported for such a response). It happened to choose one of the worst strategies it could’ve chosen and now is paying the price for it.
Perhaps you can argue all day about it. But to me & perhaps 85% of the rest of the wworld the evidence is incontrovertible. I don’t need to argue about what I know to be true. You apparently don’t believe in empirical evidence or, if you do, you refuse to believe what’s before your very eyes.
PUH-leeze! Hezbollah has killed 51 Israelis (a terrible toll I acknowledge) over half of whom are soliders. But Israel has killed around 800 Lebanese, the vast majority civilian & at least half children. Spare me the moralizing about Hezbollah’s depradations.
You haven’t been reading what I’ve written here & in my other Lebanon posts. I freely acknowledge Hezbollah has violated international law & should face judgment for it…as long as Dan Halutz sits in the dock right next to Nasrallah. They both deserve to spend a few decades in prison thinking of all the innocent souls they killed.
Of course I’ll tell Hezbollah what to do. Why shouldn’t I point out moral bankruptcy when I see it? Do you think it’s ridiculous for Richard to tell Israel what to do?
What I would have them do is release the soldiers so everyone can go home. But short of that, if Hezbollah intentioally blends in with the community, then it has to take responsibility for civilian casualities because it actively puts them in danger.
If the situation were reversed I would be demanding of Israel what I’m demanding of Hezbollah: release the soldiers.
Why do you think that ethics is a zero-sum game? “Israel’s blitzkrieg assault” has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not Hezbollah is to blame.
Hezbollah indiscriminately launched hundreds of rockets into northern Israel. The intention of those rockets was to kill civilians. You want to let Hezbollah off the hook because of their poorly-made rockets but that should be besides the point. Why should the quality of Hezbollah rockets affect their moral culpability? Even if I grant you that Israel isn’t trying to limit collateral damage, it’s a far stretch to accuse the IDF of trying to kill as many civilians as possible. Which is exactly what Hezbollah is doing.
I am a Jew. I lived in Israel two years & have a grad degree in Hebrew Lit. I speak Hebrew. I love its people & wish it peace. I criticize out of heartbreak. I have a right to speak about Israel & to hope that someone will care enough to listen.
What credibility do you have to Hezbollah that they should pay you an ounce of attention? You can shout fr. the rooftops about their moral perfidy, but you’ve never expressed any understanding or empathy for anything they or their followers experience so I find it strange you would feel you were an appropriate moral arbiter as far as they are concerned.
‘If wishing made it so.’ But it won’t. It doesn’t have to take such responsibility & won’t at least until you become Hezbollah’s chief. Then you can take responsibility on their behalf.
That’s not what I asked. I asked if Israel were the weaker party in the conflict & hid its soldiers among civilians & innocent Israelis died because of this would you say the same thing to Israel as you’re saying to Hezbollah? Would you be willing to demand that Israeli soldiers separate themselves fr. civilians & make themselves sitting ducks for superior enemy weapons?
Not the way international war crimes are determined. Israel doesn’t get to say: “we’re not at fault for killing civilians because the other started it.” The court will judge both sides’ crimes separately & w/o any regard for ea. other.
I clarify my pt. of view to you over & over & yet you don’t seem to be reading or understanding. I didn’t say Hezbollah is “off the hook.” Quite the contrary.
I DID say that there is an element of proportionality involved usually in international affairs (though hardly ever in Israeli practice). If you kidnap two of my soldiers I don’t usually kill 800 of your citizens & do over $1 billion in damage to yr country. In this sense, Israeli policy has gone quite mad. And the madness is calculated, just as the madness of Nixon’s Hanoi bombing campaign was designed to convince the N. Vietnamese that he’d be willing to bomb them back to the Stone Age.
The other problem w. seeing Hezbollah as the sole guilty party is it allows Israel to demonize it and see it as an existential threat to the nation’s existence which it is not by any means. Their is much hysteria as far as Israel’s view of Hezbollah. Only a clear-eyed country can see its options & make wise decisions as to which ones it should choose. A country blinded by hate & hysteria makes awful choices as we see in this case. We can of course say the same about Hezbollah. But again this doesn’t let Israel ‘off the hook’ as you say.
I don’t know, Richard. At some point you just have to throw up your hands. It’s impossible to have any kind of meaningful dialog with people who simply will not address or understand your issues, facts, or concerns. Or mine, for that matter.
Their statements are filled with “shoulds” and shouldn’ts” and “they have to do this” and “the others are justified in that” which is just cloud koo-koo land. It’s not a logical position to take for one simple reason – the actual facts on the ground are consistently avoided.
The argument that HezbAllah is responsible for civilian deaths is just beyond delusional to me. And it’s an argument you read over and over and over from the more vehemently pro-Israeli posters. Let me tell a very short story.
Our next door neighbors have a boy by the name of Johnny. Now Johnny’s a bully. He just beat up my son for the 10th time. But this is cool because tomorrow I’m going to kill his entire family. The most excellent part is that it will actually have been Johnny’s fault! Cool!
But wait. Johnny may end up killing my son. But that, of course, will be MY fault.
Gee, now I’m all confused.
As this post is already quite old in blog-years, I’ll just make a few brief comments. You misunderstand my point about Hezbollah taking responsibility of civilian casualties. I don’t mean that Hezbollah must take responsibility, in the sense of a public acknowledgement. I mean that in objective ethical terms, Hezbollah is the responsible party. The civilian deaths are primarily a result of both Hezbollah’s initial attack on Israel and its use of civilian buildings to hide rockets. I don’t mean that Israel isn’t responsible. Any army must recognize the collateral damage it causes and try to minimize it, which Israel is doing. We disagree on whether or not the IDF can minimize it further. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, I grant you that the IDF is negligent in its attacks. There is a substantial moral (and legal) difference between negligence and murder. I’ve made this distinction on this blog before but it bears repeating. Putting Halutz and Nasrallah in the same category is repulsive. The rockets launched against northern Israel aren’t even aimed at military or political targets. Nasrallah’s entire strategy is to kill civilians and he does nothing to hide his intentions. His goal is Iran’s goal: the destruction of Israel.
I dare you to provide one single shred of evidence that Israel is minimizing collateral damage in Lebanon. What you say is ludicrous. And we don’t disagree on whether the IDF “can minimize it further,” we disagree on whether the IDF cares at all about such damage. Did you read my post in which the IDF admitted that the only reason it agreed to the 48 hr suspension of air activity was to “change the tone” regarding the Qana massacre. In other words, they didn’t give 2 shits that they’d killed 41 civilians in a single strike. They cared that the incident was devestating their PR machine & wanted to change the tone. They try to minimize damage all right, but not to civilians.
Come on. You’re being quite disingenuous. Once again, Halutz has killed 900 Lebanese civilians, caused the displacement of 1 million Lebanese (1/3 of the entire population), & $2 billion in damage to Lebanese infrastructure. What has the mighty Nasrallah done? Terrified northern Israel–yes. Displaced a portion of the northern population–yes (but not nearly as many as have been displaced in Lebanon). Damage to infrastructure? Not really though individual apartments & homes have been destroyed. Killed? Yes, about 30 civilians & 30 or so IDF (rough numbers). But do the math? Who’s committed more mayhem?
You should read the post I published yesterday about Ze’ev Sternhell about how the failure of the IDF mission in Lebanon has forced it to seek a new rationale, & that new rationale is that Lebanon has now become a war of survival–which it clearly isn’t. Israel is not in existential danger fr. Hezbollah. And you are intellectually disingenuous in raising this specter. It’s a non-starter.
Sure, Iran says it’d like to destroy Israel. Even Hezbollah says this. But neither can do it, not by a long shot. Israel says it would like to destroy Hezbollah. But can it do it? No. Neither side can destroy the other though both may want to. Both sides lie when they use arguments like this.
I do agree that HezbAllah’s rocket attacks are killing innocent (what I consider to be innocent) people, and there can be no excuses for this. Any action of that kind is inexcusable and, yes, they seem to show no remorese for this. That is lamentable, no question.
But here’s my point. You say that HezbAllah is responsible for all the innocent deaths of Lebanese because they started it. It’s this that I don’t agree with and for the following reason.
On June 24th, Israeli soldiers kidnapped a doctor and his brother from Gaza. As far as I can tell, they are civilians with no connections to Hamas or any other armed group. They have since disappeared into the prison system of Israel and have not been heard from since. Stories, as confirmed by Amnesty Internaitonal, continue to stream out of Israel about regular torture in these prisons.
On the very next day, June 25th Corporal Gilad Shait was kidnapped. This was obviously a reprisal kidnapping. And this, I think, is a crucial point. They didn’t kidnap Shalit just for the heck of it. They were playing tit-for-tat.
After that, Israel moves in with its tanks and its shelling of Gaza and consequent loss of innocent life.
Soon after, HezbAllah kidnaps 2 Israeli soldiers and the gates of hell have opened: A thousand killed (mostly women and children) and almost a million refugees created.
I am convinced that if the original kidnapping of the doctor and his brother had not happened, it is extremely unlikely that any of the subsequent events would have happened. I think it is incorrect to say that HezbAllah started it. I very much believe that it was, indeed, Israel who started this.
I hate to play the tit-for-tat game, though. It is endless:
* On June 8, the Israeli army assassinated the recently appointed Palestinian head of the security forces of the Interior Ministry, Jamal Abu Samhadana, and three others.
* On June 9, Israeli shells killed seven members of the same family picnicking on Beit Lahiya beach. Some 32 others were wounded, including 13 children.
* On June 13, an Israeli plane fired a missile into a busy Gaza City street, killing 11 people, including two children and two medics.
* On June 20, the Israeli army killed three Palestinian children and injured 15 others in Gaza with a missile attack.
* On June 21, the Israelis killed a 35-year old pregnant woman, her brother, and injured 11 others, including 6 children.
I found you on google. I’d be interested how you would respond to the new proof that the Qana ambulance “missle strikes” was staged for the media and Israel bashers like yourself.
Will you admit you were duped but stick to your opinion, or will this enter into how you see the middle east?
As you can see from the pictures, they simply took to top light off the ambulance. It is not even damaged inside.
Is this some Zionist trick?
“The new proof,” eh? What “proof” would that be? The type of propaganda that passes for “proof” at LGF & their blog ilk doesn’t pass muster around here. So go back to your propaganda mill where you belong & stop wasting the time of people that actually care about reality rather than illusion (or is it “delusion”?) as you do.
Certainly not. It’s you who are duped, but you have duped yourself. You pro-Israel hacks are having a collective fever dream. And you certainly don’t let something as mundane as reality interfere with it.