“We have lived through hell,” Qana resident, Fawzeya Atwi cried. “The people were chopped into pieces by the Israeli bombs. They bleed these people. You should have seen the heads.”
“Do you know what the dogs did at night after the killings? They were hungry and I saw them in the ruins eating fingers and pieces of our people,” Atwi said about the Qana massacre during the July 2006 Israeli War on Lebanon.
Head of the Red Cross in Tyre Sami Yazbak, who was helping to pull bodies from the ruins, told The Guardian that the first call about the bombing was received at 7 a.m., 6 hours after the bombing took place. He said that previous shelling on the road to Qana had delayed the arrival of Red Cross personnel.
Yazbak said that “many of the children who were sleeping inside were handicapped.”
Many journalists who arrived in Qana to cover the incident became rescuers, dugging through the rubble with the Red Cross in search for bodies.
Journalist Bahia El Ainain talks about her experiences during the 2006 Israeli massacre in Qana. “I cried several times. I couldn’t be a journalist over being a mother when I saw dead young girls. I couldn’t but think of my daughter.” She also recounts an incident when she was on a roof, along with all the foreign press and their cameras. Bahia pushed the cameras away; she admits that her patriotism outweighs the journalist’s instincts for objectivity.
WINE TURNS TO BLOOD
The southern Lebanese town of Qana is believed by some to be where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee mentioned in the Gospel of St John.
But in modern times it is blood, not wine, that is indelibly linked with the town. The blood of Lebanese civilians killed in Israeli bombing.
In 1996, one of the deadliest single events of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict took place there – the shelling of a UN base where hundreds of local people were sheltering.
More than 100 were killed and another 100 injured, cut down by Israeli anti-personnel shells that explode in the air sending a lethal shower of shrapnel to the ground.
Ten years later, the town is again in the headlines, this time because of a massive bomb dropped by an Israeli aircraft, causing a building to collapse on top of dozens of civilians – many of them children in their pajamas- taking cover in the basement. It was an attack by the Israel Air Force on a three-story building in the small community of al-Khuraybah near the South Lebanese village of Qana on July 30, 2006. 28 civilians were killed, of which 16 were children.
Israel is back in the Lebanese quagmire.
“Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disemboweled. There were well over a hundred of them. A baby lay without a head. The Israeli shells had scythed through them as they lay in their building’s shelter, believing that they were safe.
A pile of corpses was burning. The roof had crashed in flames onto their bodies, cremating them in front of the world’s eyes. When I walked towards them, I slipped on a human hand…” an investigative journalist who was present that day describes what she saw.
The aerial attack killed members of the Shalhoub and Hashem families.
HEZBOLLAH SINKING LEBANON INTO CRISIS
One day after Qana massacre, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was “deeply saddened” by such losses.
“Too many families have been displaced. Too many people urgently need medical care, or are living in shelters,” she said. But she qualified her statement adding “I know what caused this. And I know that there are underlying circumstances having to do with the need to really make this a strong and democratic government that can really extend its authority, that can rebuild its army, that can shield itself from harmful foreign influences, that cannot… have its territory be used in the way that Hezbollah, without its knowledge, used its territory, really sinking then the whole area into the kind of crisis that we’ve got.”
The US is the main supplier of military equipment and the main political backer of Israel.
Responding to the incident, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora denounced “Israeli war criminals” and canceled talks with Condoleezza Rice. In a television address to the country, he said, “There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional cease-fire as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres.” After the announcement, Rice canceled her planned visit to Beirut.
Saniora appealed to the U.N. Security Council for an emergency session, which held consultations on July 30. In a statement, the Security Council expressed the world body’s “extreme shock and distress” at the Qana bombing and offered its condolences for the deaths.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a July 30 statement on the Israeli attack on Qana: “Issuing advance warning to the civilian population of impending attacks in no way relieves a warring party of its obligations under the rules and principles of international humanitarian law.” It also called for “a distinction to be drawn at all times between civilians and civilian objects on the one hand, and military objectives on the other. All necessary precautions must be taken to spare civilian life and objects.”
Human Rights Watch also warned that the “consistent failure to distinguish combatants and civilians is a war crime.”
More than 600 Lebanese civilians have been killed by Israel in July 2006 War and close to 800,000 displaced, as a result of what Israel said were two Hezbollah-captured Israeli soldiers that Israel wanted back and refused to exchange for detainees held in Israeli prisons.
Now I’ll leave you with pictures because a picture is worth a thousand words.