Qana relives 1996 massacre as air strike kills at least 60 civilians

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The Daily Star – Lebanon

Qana relives 1996 massacre as air strike kills at least 60 civilians

By Nicholas Blanford
Special to The Daily Star
Monday, July 31, 2006

QANA: The bodies were carried into daylight one by one, all gray-skinned with dust, one small boy his mouth stuffed with dirt, a stiffened arm pointing accusingly into the air. Wasps and flies buzzed with greedy excitement around his face and blood-sodden hair. “It’s Ali Shalhoub,” muttered an onlooker as the child was placed on a stretcher and carried away.

Ten years after Israeli forces slaughtered more than 100 civilians sheltering in a United Nations base in Qana, mass death has visited this straggly hill village once again.

“Where is the humanity? Why are these massacres being committed against civilians?” asked Naim Raqa, the head of the Lebanese Civil Defense unit in the nearby village of Jawaya, who was assisting in the rescue operation.

There were dozens of people drawn from two extended families sleeping on the ground floor of an unfinished house when an Israeli jet dropped two bombs on them, destroying most of the building and crushing at least 60 victims under rubble and dirt. Only eight people managed to survive the massive double blast and haul themselves from beneath the debris.

It was the bloodiest moment so far in Israel’s 19-day onslaught against Lebanon.

The half-finished three-story house belonged to Abbas Hashem and lay at the end of a

narrow lane that winds down a hillside flanked by olive groves and small tobacco patches.

The Hashem family and their close neighbors, the Shalhoubs, had moved onto the ground floor 10 days earlier, hoping that a large pile of dirt and sand for construction would help protect them from the heavy artillery bombardments and repeated air strikes in and around Qana.

Although most residents of this village of some 12,000 people had already fled to Tyre, 10 kilometers to the west, or headed further north, the Shalhoub and Hashem families had found themselves cut off.

“We couldn’t get out of our neighborhood because there are only two roads leading out and the Israelis bombed them both several days ago,” said Mohammad Shalhoub, a disabled 41-year-old who was recovering in Tyre’s government hospital.

Both families were asleep when the two bombs dropped hit the building in rapid succession at 1 a.m.

“I felt the blast throw me across the room. I was buried under the rubble along with the martyrs,” Mohammad said.

Mohammad’s wife, Rabab, hauled him clear of the debris and rescued their son, Hassan, 4, but his daughter Zeinab, 6, was left dead under the rubble. He also lost his sister, Fatmeh, and brother, Tayseer.

Further air strikes and heavy artillery bombardments during the night – which destroyed at least four other houses in the neighborhood – meant that it was another six hours before the rescue services could reach the stricken village.

The Hashem house leaned at a perilous angle, threatening to collapse at any moment, as Civil Defense workers climbed gingerly into the building to recover the dead. Two soldiers used spades to carefully dig away at a pile of dirt under which most of the victims were buried.

A kitten mewed as it scampered over the ruins of its dead owner’s home. On a patch of land beside the house, tobacco leaves threaded on wires dried to a wrinkled brown in the sun. Beside the partially demolished house was a deep crater, a familiar sight in South Lebanon, where hundreds of buildings have been flattened by powerful aerial bombs.

Throughout the morning under a blazing sun, sweating rescue workers removed bodies from the house. Most of them were children under 12, all coated in gray dust, some with mouths, eyes and ears clogged with dirt. They showed little signs of injury, however, despite having been sleeping just meters from where the bombs struck.
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

“They suffocated under the dirt,” said Sami Yazbek, head of Tyre’s Lebanese Red Cross unit.

Kamil Sleiman, 35, and Ibrahim Skayki, 38, from the neighboring villages of Ain Baal and Biyada, said they heard the news on television and had come to help. They squatted against a stone wall for a cigarette break, their arms smeared with sweat and dust.

“We lost seven people in Ain Baal,” Skayki said, adding that his carpentry business was destroyed in the first of many air raids on the village since the war began on July 12. “I lost my work and I had debts to pay, but it’s a sacrifice for the resistance.”

An earth-mover ground down the lane and began clawing chunks of concrete away from the building. Even as the rescue team toiled to recover the dead, Israeli jets continued to roar overhead and the thump of air strikes and exploding artillery shells reverberated around the steep valley.

Amid the despair and the grim task of removing the victims, there was deep anger at what they regarded as the callous indifference of the West to their suffering. “We will never wave the white flag. We won’t retreat,” said Mohammad Shalhoub. “I say to the West, this is not the kind of freedom and democracy we want.”

Mohammad’s phone rang constantly as friends and family asked about him and his relatives. One woman, her voice tinny but audible over the cellphone’s loudspeaker, introduced herself as a friend of Tayseer.

“I am his brother,” Mohammad told her.

“How is he?” she asked.

“May God have mercy on him,” he replied gently.

The woman began to sob, moaning: “no, no.”

Another phone call and Shalhoub reeled off a list of names of people who died or survived. “Najwa was injured, Zeinab was martyred,” he said. On mentioning the name of Zeinab, his daughter, he choked up and began weeping while a woman placed a comforting arm across his shoulder.

In a neighboring bed lay Noor Hashem, 13, a niece of Abbas Hashem, in whose house she was sheltering. In a shy tremulous voice, Noor said her mother pulled her free from the rubble along with her older sister, Zeinab, and took them to a neighboring house. Her mother returned to try and find Noor’s three brothers.

“They haven’t come to the hospital yet and my mother hasn’t returned,” she said, and began crying.

Her three brothers are dead, the youngest only 10 months old, but no one at the hospital had the heart to break the news to Noor.

In April 1996, during another attempt by Israel to crush Hizbullah, more than 100 civilians were killed when Israeli artillery shells struck the headquarters of the Fijian UN peacekeeping battalion in Qana, just five minutes’ walk from the Hashem house. The international outcry over that first Qana massacre forced Washington to begin urgently negotiating a cease-fire agreement to halt the bloodshed.

But even as Israeli troops mounted a new incursion into Lebanon faced stiff resistance from Hizbullah fighters, residents of this tragic village feared the worst.

“When Israel is feeling weakened,” said Ghazi Idibi, 38, a neighbor of Abbas Hashem, “it commits bigger and bigger massacres.”

They found them huddled together

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original Guardian article

‘They found them huddled together’

More than 60 people, including 34 children, killed by Israeli attack on home where families were sheltering

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Jonathan Steele and Clancy Chassay in Qana; Rory McCarthy at the Israel-Lebanon border; Wendell Steavenson in Beirut and Julian Borger in Washington
Monday July 31, 2006
The Guardian

It was an unremarkable three-storey building on the edge of town. But for two extended families, the Shalhoubs and the Hashems, it was a last refuge. They could not afford the extortionate taxi fares to Tyre and hoped that if they all crouched together on the ground floor they would be safe.

They were wrong. At about one in the morning, as some of the men were making late night tea, an Israeli bomb smashed into the house. Witnesses describe two explosions a few minutes apart, with survivors desperately moving from one side of the building to the other before being hit by the second blast. By last night, more than 60 bodies had been pulled from the rubble, said Lebanese authorities, 34 of them children. There were eight known survivors.

As yet another body was removed from the wreckage yesterday morning, Naim Raqa, the head of the civil defence team searching the ruins, hung his head in grief: “When they found them, they were all huddled together at the back of the room … Poor things, they thought the walls would protect them.”

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.

The bombing sparked furious protests outside the UN headquarters in Beirut. Lebanon’s prime minister, Fouad Siniora, accused Israel of committing “war crimes” and called off a planned meeting with the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. Israel apologised for the loss of life but said it had been responding to rockets fired from the village.

Muhammad Qassim Shalhoub, a slim 38-year-old construction worker, emerged with a broken hand and minor injuries, but lost his wife, five children and 45 members of his extended family. “Around one o’clock we heard a big explosion,” he said. “I don’t remember anything after that, but when I opened my eyes I was lying on the floor and my head had hit the wall. There was silence. I didn’t hear anything for a while, but then heard screams.”

“I said: ‘Allahu Akbar [God is most great]. Don’t be scared. I will come.’ There was blood on my face. I wiped it and looked for my son but couldn’t find him. I took three children out – my four-year-old nephew, a girl and her sister. I went outside and screamed for help and three men came and went back inside. There was shelling everywhere. We heard the planes. I was so exhausted I could not go back inside again.”

Ibrahim Shalhoub described how he and his cousin had set out to get help after the bombs hit. “It was dark and there was so much smoke. Nobody could do anything till dawn,” he said, his eyes still darting around nervously. “I couldn’t stop crying, we couldn’t help them.”

Said Rabab Yousif had her son on her knee when the bomb fell. “I couldn’t see anything for 10 minutes and then I saw my son sitting in my lap and covered with rubble,” she recalled. “I removed the dirt and the stones I freed him and handed him to the people who were inside rescuing us.

“I then started freeing myself, my hands were free, and then went with two men to rescue my husband. We pulled him from the rubble. I tried to find Zainab, my little daughter, but it was too dark and she was covered deep in rubble I was too scared that they might bomb us again so I just left her and ran outside.” She was in hospital with her son and husband, who was paralysed and in a coma. There was no news of her daughter.

Rescue workers were pulling bodies from the rubble all morning. They came across the smallest corpses last, many intact but with lungs crushed by the blast wave of the bombing.

“God is great,” a policeman muttered as the body of a young boy no older than 10 was carried away on a stretcher. The boy lay on his side, as if asleep, but for the fine dust that coated his body and the blood around his nose and ears.

The house stood at the top of a hillside on the very edge of Qana and its disembowelled remains had spilled down the slope. Bodies were lined up on the ground – a baby, two young girls and two women. The rigid corpse of a young man lay nearby, his arm rising vertically from beneath a blanket, his index finger pointing up to the sky.

“Where are the stretchers, where are the stretchers?” a rescue worker cried as Israeli warplanes roared overhead. Sami Yazbuk, the head of the Red Cross in Tyre said they got the call at 7am, but had to take a detour to Qana because of shelling on the road.

In a nearby ambulance the smallest victims were stacked one on top of the other to make space for the many to come. A boy and girl, both no more than four years old had been placed head to toe. They were still wearing pyjamas.

Family photos – one showing two young children – were scattered in the debris. 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.”

Anger at the attack erupted in Beirut, where windows in the UN building were smashed and its lobby invaded by demonstrators furious at the rising Lebanese death toll. After extensive coverage on Lebanese TV of corpses being taken from the remains of the building, thousands turned out in the city’s main open square to vent their fury. Likewise, in Gaza crowds clashed with Palestinian police after smashing into a Unesco building.

Over the border, Israeli leaders expressed sorrow for the civilian deaths, but the military said that Qana had been targeted because Hizbullah had been using it as a base from which to launch rockets. “There was firing coming from there before the air strike. We didn’t know there were civilians in the basement of that building,” one Israeli defence force spokesman said. He added that rockets had been fired from Qana “in the last few hours” before the air strike.

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.

“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.”

More than 750 Lebanese, most of them civilians have been killed since Israel began its strikes in response to the kidnapping of two soldiers. A total of 51 Israelis, 18 of them civilians, have been killed.

For Qana, history has repeated itself. Ten years ago, more than a hundred civilians taking refuge in a UN compound there were killed by Israeli shelling.

At the site of the latest tragedy, a man broke down as another small body was brought out, followed quickly by another. The civil defence workers cradled the corpses before placing them delicately on the bright orange stretchers.

“He was the son of Abu Hachem,” said a young man in the crowd outside the house. “They’re Ali and Mohammed – they’re brothers,” a neighbour shouted.

At Tyre hospital, Dr Salman Zaynadeen said the casualties were the worst thing he and colleagues had ever faced. Twenty-two bodies were in a refrigerated lorry serving as the hospital’s morgue, 12 of them children. “At least 20 more are expected. They range in age up to 75. They were crushed,” he said.

Five dead boys lay in the yard outside. Army staff photographed them for identification purposes.

The youngest, Abbas Mahmoud Hashem, lay on his back with his head turned and his right leg drawn up. A dummy hung on a blue plastic chain round his neck; concrete dust covered his face and hair. He looked about 18 months old.

On a hospital bed, a 13-year-old survivor, Nour Hashem, lay fiddling with her bed sheet, her eyes welling with tears. She had been in the house where so many of her family had been killed but had miraculously escaped with only slight injuries.

“We were all sleeping in the same room, my friend, my sister and my cousin,” she said, her voice still shuddering.
“I pulled the rubble off my mother and she took me to another house, then she went looking for my brothers and sisters. But my brothers and sisters didn’t come and my mother didn’t return.”

Western Mass. IAC Statement on Lebanon

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STOP THE U.S.-ISRAELI WAR: Support the People of Lebanon & Palestine:
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Western Mass. IAC Statement on Lebanon

Bolstered by an air and naval blockade, Israel?s massive offensive against Lebanon continues to kill or injure scores of civilians, while systematically destroying the country?s infrastructure, depriving its people of basic necessities (water, sanitation, medical care, fuel, electricity), and driving 750,000 of them from their homes. Repeated bombing of roads and bridges has made repairs impossible, forcing many of those displaced to flee on foot, compounding the humanitarian crisis.

The July 18 London Times reported: ?The Israeli military says that it was hunting down Lebanon?s Hezbollah guerrillas, but it is the civilian population that is bearing the brunt of the conflict. Survivors interviewed by The Times said that Israel was bombing homes, schools, centres of villages and towns and vehicles including ambulances. Even the Jabel Amel hospital was struck early on Sunday morning by a missile that demolished an entire wing and killed a family of nine.? Citing a ranking UN emergency relief official, the July 20 Irish Examiner provided this grim footnote: ?Nearly a third of the dead or wounded were children and the wounded could not be helped because roads and bridges had been cut by Israeli air strikes.”

Dan Gillerman, Israel?s ambassador to the UN, publicly affirmed the 25-member European Union?s assessment that Israel was using ?grossly disproportionate? force saying, ?You?re damn right we are? (New York Times, July 19).

The Bush administration is deeply complicit in Israel?s ongoing assault against a sovereign state — which violates numerous international laws, including Article 3 of the Geneva Convention — through its veto of a UN resolution opposing the Israeli attack and persistent obstruction of cease-fire efforts. Furthermore, as Israel?s chief supplier of military hardware, the U.S. has studiously ignored Section 4 of its own Arms Export Control Act which prohibits the use of purchased weaponry for the sort of military operations Israel is conducting. The Bush administration is now speeding up deliveries of missiles and other ordnance, enabling Israel to intensify its bombing campaign (New York Times, July 22).

Additional evidence of U.S.-Israeli collusion recently surfaced revealing that the current offensive — frequently depicted as a lightening reprisal — was the result of a long-range strategy involving detailed briefings of U.S. officials (?Israel set war plan more than a year ago,? San Francisco Chronicle, July 21). Moreover, the present conflict is unfolding in a manner that strongly corresponds to a much earlier set of geostrategic aims outlined in a document entitled ?A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,? prepared for the Israeli government by the neoconservative Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (see Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar?s analysis, ?The coup attempt that started a war: Israel?s invasion of Lebanon, its causes and consequences,? July 16, Al Bawaba Online).

Although Mr. Bush and others within his administration list Hezbullah, along with Syria and Iran, as the ?root causes? of this conflagration, they completely disregard far more significant and deeply rooted causes, including Israel?s illegal seizure and 38-year military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza (where Israel constructed settlements) and its gross mistreatment of the indigenous inhabitants of these territories.

In backing Israel?s premeditated war against Lebanon, the Bush administration seeks to advance its larger geopolitical objectives in the Middle East: the destruction of governments or popular movements which present obstacles to U.S. efforts to re-colonize the region by appropriating the natural resources and labor of its people to further enrich U.S. corporate interests. When Condoleezza Rice suggested Israel dismiss calls for a cease-fire because the devastation of Lebanon was part of the ?birth pains of a new Middle East,? she expressed hopes firmly attached to U.S. imperial ambitions.

The Western Massachusetts Organizing Committee of the International Action Center:
1. Condemns Israel?s violation of Lebanon?s sovereignty along with the willful collective punishment of non-combatants through the destruction of civilian infrastructure in contravention of 1949 Treaty of the Geneva Conventions.
2. Demands an immediate end to Israel?s naval and aerial blockade, the withdrawal of all Israeli Defense Forces, with no further incursions on Lebanese territory.
3. Demands financial reparations to Lebanon from Israel and the U.S. for damages inflicted by Israeli Defense Forces.
4. Condemns U.S. complicity in the above-mentioned actions which have increased the potential for a wider conflict involving other states in the region, such as Syria and Iran.
5. Demands the immediate suspension of all U.S. financial and military aid to Israel.

[A draft of this statement was distributed at the July 24 protest in Springfield.]

* EXCERPTS FROM REMARKS BY WMass IAC’s SPOKESPERSON during the July 24 demonstration in defense of the people of Lebanon and Palestine held at the Federal Building in Springfield. These comments suggest an orientation for the anti-war struggle in response to the current crisis.

“At a time when the anti-war movement in the U.S. is somewhat disoriented and less visible on the national scene, today’s protest . . . asks people to take a firm stand on the side of those struggling against imperialism and racism. It doesn’t confuse or conflate the oppressed with their oppressors. It seeks to demonstrate that those suffering in Lebanon, Palestine and throughout the Middle East are not forgotten or friendless, and that we and others in this country emphatically support their right to self-determination. . .

“Our task requires us to stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon and Palestine; to explain what is actually happening — and why — to people here at home; and to elevate the anti-war struggle in the U.S., moving it beyond mere calls for peace (too often laced with moral eqivalence) or expressions of humanitarian sentiment. More is required to achieve true peace and justice. And we can not allow Palestine to be treated as an extraneous issue, one to be placed in the back of the bus. . .” FOR MORE: access a rush transcript of these extemporaneous remarks (containing some minor typing errors) at http://wmass.indymedia.org/newswire/display/797

* FOR INFORMATION concerning the Saturday, August 12 national march on the White House in defense of the people of Lebanon and Palestine, email wmassiac@hotmail.com
PLEASE TYPE “AUG. 12 DC DEMO” in the subject line of your email.
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Issued by the Western Mass. Organizing Committee of the
INTERNATIONAL ACTION CENTER/Troops Out Now Coalition
wmassiac@hotmail.com
http://www.iacenter.org
http://www.troopsoutnow.org

Protesters take to the streets across the US to protest Israel’s war

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Photo album: Israel Attack on Lebanon (warning – graphic photos included in album)

original Socialist Worker article

Protesters take to the streets across the country
Stop Israel’s war on Lebanon
July 28, 2006 | Page 15

OPPONENTS OF Israel’s terror campaign against the people of Palestine and Lebanon made their voices heard at events across the country in July.

— In one of the biggest, some 4,000 people gathered in Chicago on July 22 for a protest called by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, the Council of American-Islamic Relation, the Arab American Action Network and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

“People are sick of seeing their brothers and sisters and families dying in the hundreds,” said Hakim Husien of the Palestine Aid Society. “We also cannot forget the war in Iraq. This is a whole reshaping of the Middle East, and the people here are not going to accept it.”

The demonstration in Chicago saw one of largest turnouts of Arabs and Muslims in many years.

— In New York City that night, 300 attended a forum entitled “Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq: The U.S. and Israel’s All-Out War on the Middle East” at the Judson Memorial Church, featuring the International Solidarity Movement’s (ISM) Huwaida Arraf, Riham Al Barghouti of NY Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, author Anthony Arnove, and Jafer Al Jaferi of the National Council of Arab-Americans (NCA).

— In Seattle on July 22, over 300 people attended a solidarity forum and vigil called by the Arab-American Community Coalition. After the forum, a candlelight vigil was held for the victims of the violence.

— The week before was filled with several events to demand an end to Israel’s assault in Lebanon and Gaza. In New York City on July 18, more than 1,000 people gathered in front of the Israeli Mission to the UN. The demonstration was called by the NCA, the ISM and the ADC and was endorsed by the ANSWER coalition, United for Peace and Justice and the International Socialist Organization (ISO).

— In Boston on July 19, about 300 people from all over Massachusetts rallied at Copley Square to protest Israel’s assault on Lebanon. Most of the people who came were Lebanese, and the square was awash with Lebanese flags.

“I was following what was going on and just had to do something,” said Duane, who came from New Hampshire. “I was just searching on the Internet and found this rally. So I drove down.”

On July 21, 1,000 people rallied at City Hall Plaza in Boston in a protest organized by the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation–just days after a rally of hundreds in Brookline who were to support Israel’s latest crimes. Many people took the day off of work to come to the rally, with a group of Arab auto mechanics from west of Boston closing their car shop to attend the event.

Organizers encouraged people to join the national march on Washington on August 12 against Israel’s wars and the attack on the rights of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S.

— In San Francisco, about 200 people gathered in front of the Israeli consulate on July 13.

“The media doesn’t report the facts,” said Patrick from Students for Justice in Palestine at Berkeley. “They have turned the recent events into retaliation for the ‘kidnapped’ Israeli soldier. That is just a front for their escalating violence. What is never mentioned is that only a few days prior an entire Palestinian family was murdered on a Gaza beach. The media never shows who the real victims are.”

“I am at the protest today to show that as a Jewish person I do not unconditionally support the shameful acts of Israel,” said Eric of the Justice in Palestine Coalition.

— In Washington, D.C., more than 600 protesters gathered outside the White House in a rally called by the ADC on July 19.

— In San Diego, more than 200 turned out for a July 20 emergency demonstration called by the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice. Osama, a 31-year-old ex-Marine born in Iraq, carried a sign saying “Fund people’s needs, not Israeli warfare.” Earlier the same day, a San Diego State University teach-in drew 300 students.

— Some 300 protested in Toledo, Ohio on July 21.

— In Austin, Texas, nearly 200 protested in front of the office of pro-Israel Republican Sen. John Cornyn on July 21.

“It’s high time that Western governments start taking responsibility for their actions,” said protester Sterling Hall. “We need a generation to stand up for what’s right and own up to the past generation’s crime.” Co-sponsors for the event included MeCHA, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Code Pink and the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

— In Greensboro, N.C., 50 people protested on July 18 in 95-degree heat. And in Rochester, gray skies and rain couldn’t stop 80 people from protesting at the Federal Building on July 22.

— On July 24, 100 people protested at the federal building in Springfield, Mass. “The children of Lebanon don’t know anything about militaries,” said an iman with Islamic Society of Springfield. “They are dying.”

— On July 19, 250 people gathered at the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, chanting “Hey, Olmert, what do you say? How many kids have you killed today?” ANSWER, Al-Awda, Women in Black, Muslim Student Associations from a dozen colleges, the ISO and KPFK radio helped turn people out. Demonstrators shouted down about 50 Israel supporters who came to counterprotest.

— Counterprotests were organized in several cities against rallies in support of Israel’s assault on Gaza and Lebanon, including New York City where a dozen activists gathered to protest a rally that featured a swarm of Democratic politicians including Sen. Hillary Clinton.

— On July 23, 150 people in Los Angeles gathered at the Israeli consulate in support of Lebanon and Palestine and to protest some 2,000 Israel supporters.

Speakers at the “Community Rally to Support the People of Israel” included many elected officials, including Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “We’re here to defend [Israel’s] unassailable right to defend itself,” said Villaraigosa to loud cheers.

— In Burlington, Vt., about 40 people picketed outside Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders’ office on July 19 to protest Sanders’ continued support of Israel. “What Israel is doing in Lebanon, attacking civilian targets like airports, is the extension of what they have been doing to Palestine,” said Jimmy Leas, a member of Vermonters for a Just Peace in Israel/Palestine.

Activists are determined to keep turning up the heat on Israel and its supporters in the White House. Building solidarity with Arab activists in this fight will be critical.

Mark Clinton, Ben Davis, Patrick Dyer, Kate Johnson, Sarah Knopp, Kurt Krueger, Frank Laporte, Ken Love, Kristin Lubbert, Robert McDonald, Amy Muldoon, Khury Petersen-Smith, Andrew Sisco, Brad Ward-Robinson and Chris Yarrison contributed to this report.

Why the U.S. supports Israel’s destruction of Lebanon

original article

A statement by the International Socialist Organization
Why the U.S. supports Israel’s destruction of Lebanon
July 28, 2006 | Page 3

THE ISRAELI attack on the Lebanese people is a war that the U.S. government wants. It is an escalation of Israel’s ongoing war on the Palestinian people–and is designed to advance the dominance of the U.S. and Israel in the wider Middle East.

The U.S. bears responsibility for the death and destruction caused by the Israeli armed forces: the killing of hundreds of people, the displacement of many hundreds of thousands, and the bombing of bridges, power plants, factories and roads–operations designed to “turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years,” as Israeli army chief of staff Dan Halutz put it. Israel has deliberately created a vast humanitarian crisis by devastating Lebanon’s infrastructure, causing critical shortages of food, medicine, shelter and fuel.

The Israeli attack is not a response to the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters, as claimed. Rather, it is a long-planned campaign that was politically approved and militarily equipped by the U.S. In the context of ongoing wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, the Israeli war on Lebanon is a part of the U.S. effort to militarily dominate the Middle East and Central Asia and control oil and gas resources there.

As activists in the United States, we have a special responsibility to stand with the Lebanese and Palestinian people and all those who resist Israel’s Washington-backed war, and reject the pretext of a “war on terror” claimed by both major U.S. political parties and the corporate media.

The carnage and humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s U.S.-made warplanes, missiles and bombs–in Gaza and the West Bank as well as Lebanon–give the lie to promises of “democratization” that accompanied the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The U.S. anticipated that the invasion of Iraq would open the way to further “regime changes” in the Middle East. Instead, resistance to the occupation led to a deepening military and political crisis for U.S. imperialism. As a result, Iran–targeted by the U.S. as part of a supposed “axis of evil”–has become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf.

The U.S.-Israeli war in Lebanon is aimed in large part at curtailing Iran’s and Syria’s influence–and preparing the ground for possible direct military action against them as well.

Collaborating with the U.S. and Israel in this effort are its client states in the Middle East–the Mubarak police state in Egypt, the reactionary Saudi and Jordanian monarchies and NATO member Turkey. All these governments fear popular struggles among the Lebanese and Palestinians that might set an example for workers and oppressed minorities among their own populations.

But the scale of the destruction of Lebanon is also meant to send a message to the world at large–that the U.S. and its enforcer, Israel, are prepared to use the most barbaric means to achieve their aims.

Israel: Washington’s attack dog
The U.S. “green light” for the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon is part of a wider decision to unleash Israel’s American-made arsenal–augmented by the express delivery of “bunker-buster” bombs–to further Washington’s agenda.

The Bush administration had previously approved the Israeli government’s unilateral “separation plan”–“withdrawal” from the Gaza Strip that turned the area into the world’s largest prison. Besieged Gaza recalls nothing so much as the Nazi-imposed Warsaw Ghetto to isolate Polish Jews during the Second World War.

Since the victory in December by the Islamist Hamas party in Palestinian elections–a vote held at Washington’s insistence–the U.S. and Israel have effectively nullified the democratic choice of the Palestinian people. They have imposed devastating economic sanctions on the Palestinian Occupied Territories, dramatically worsening already severe poverty levels and pushing the health care system into collapse.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military conducts assassinations via air strikes, uses heavy artillery in densely populated areas and conducts regular and highly destructive military attacks with tanks and bulldozers–all with terrible loss of Palestinian lives. Israeli forces have also arrested government ministers who belong to Hamas.

These actions are proof–if more was needed–that Israel wants not “partners for peace” among Palestinians, but complete submission.

Anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism and imperialism
The total backing for Israel’s barbaric war by U.S. politicians and the media reflects not only Washington’s decades-old alliance with Israel, but also the rise of racism and state repression against Arabs and Muslims in the U.S.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. has used the “war on terror” to drastically curtail civil liberties. Racial profiling, interrogations, detention and deportation have become the reality for Arabs and Muslims.

This racism also pervades the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as evidenced by the massacres and rapes carried out by U.S. armed forces in Falluja, Haditha and other cities in Iraq. Racism, too, is used to justify the dehumanization, torture and murder of Muslims and Arabs in the U.S. military prisons at Guantánamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib.

This racism converges with the assumptions of the Zionist project–that Arabs and Muslims have no rights worth respecting.

Resisting U.S.-Israeli aggression
U.S. politicians and the media excuse Israel’s wars on both the Palestinians and the Lebanese people by claiming that Israel has a “right to defend itself”–code words for the arbitrary redrawing of borders, military assaults on defenseless people, and the murder and imprisonment of anyone who resists.

The corollary is that Hezbollah and Hamas must be cut off from receiving aid and weapons from Syria or Iran, and Israel must continue to receive U.S.-made F-16 jets to rain bombs on Lebanon and Gaza and $3 billion in direct aid from Washington each year.

Despite this hypocrisy, some parts of the U.S. antiwar movement continue to view the much smaller armed operations of Hezbollah and Hamas as part of a “cycle of violence” with Israel’s vastly greater destructive power–or even hold Hezbollah responsible for the destruction of Lebanon because of its capture of the two soldiers.

But as the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe argues, “Retaliating to such a low-key operation with a total war and destruction indicates clearly that what matters is the grand design, not the pretext…the wider Israel’s military might expands, the easier it is to complete the unfinished business of the 1948 [founding of Israel]: the total de-Arabization of Palestine.”

Israel’s drive to consolidate its control led to the Israeli invasions of Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 and the occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982 until 2000. The current Israeli war has similar aims as the previous ones: to eliminate any challenge to its dominance.

Nevertheless, the resistance to the imperialist and Zionist project continues among Palestinians, in Lebanon and elsewhere. Although dismissed as bands of terrorists by Israel and the U.S., Hezbollah and Hamas are mass organizations whose influence has grown precisely because of their resistance to Israel.

The need for a principled antiwar movement
The Israeli onslaught in Lebanon poses an urgent challenge to the antiwar movement in the U.S. The crushing of a weak sovereign state by an enormously powerful Washington-backed military demands a response from all those who stand for peace and justice.

Unfortunately, there has been a longstanding unwillingness among leading voices in the U.S. antiwar movement to raise the issue of Palestine–partly because of sympathies with Israel among some, partly out of fear of offending the movement’s supposed friends in the Democratic Party.

Yet the Democrats, like the Republicans, are a pro-imperialist party committed to any effort that protects and expands U.S. power overseas, including those undertaken by Israel. The antiwar movement can’t rise to the challenge if it tailors its activities and arguments to suit a party that supports war and occupation.

Anti-imperialist and antiracist politics are not a diversion for the U.S. antiwar movement. On the contrary, they are key to its revival and growth.

Israel’s war on Lebanon is the harbinger of a new, even deadlier turn in Washington’s “war on terror.” Opposing the U.S. government’s imperial agenda is vital to reviving and strengthening the antiwar movement in the U.S., building international solidarity and opposing the interventions of U.S. imperialism–whether conducted through the U.S. or Israeli military.

British investigating report US sent bunker busters via Scotland

original article

Britain checking report US sent bombs to Israel via Scotland
(AFP)

27 July 2006

LONDON – The British government was on Thursday investigating a report that two cargo planes carrying bunker-busting “smart bombs” from the United States to Israel made a stopover in Scotland, a spokesman said.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said on Wednesday that she had raised the report with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and would issue a formal complaint to Washington if it is found to be true.

“We’re following up on what the foreign secretary of state (Beckett) said last night,” a Foreign Office spokesman told AFP without elaborating.

The Daily Telegraph said two chartered Airbus A310 cargo planes that were filled with GBU28 laser-guided bombs landed at Scotland’s Prestwick airport over the weekend for refuelling and for the crew to rest on the way to Israel.

It said the Israelis want the 5,000 pound smart bombs to attack bunkers being used by leaders from the Lebanese Shia Muslim Hezbollah militia, during the conflict in Lebanon.

Responding to a question asking whether it was acceptable for a British airport to be used as a staging post for the transport of weapons, Beckett told Channel 4 News Wednesday: “No I am not happy about it.

“Not least because it appears that in so far as there are procedures for the handling of that kind of cargo — hazardous cargoes irrespective of what they are — it does appear that they were not followed.

“I have already let the United States know that this is an issue that appears to be seriously at fault … that we will be making a formal protest if it appears that that is what has happened.

“We are still looking into the facts, but I have already notified the United States that we are not happy about it.”

It has also been claimed in past months that Prestwick Airport was used by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for so-called ”extraordinary rendition” flights to transport security suspects to third countries where they may have been tortured.

Red Cross workers angry at violation of humanitarian law

Traprock’s coverage of July 24th protest

original Star article

Red Cross workers angry at violation of humanitarian law
July 25, 2006 Edition 4

Tyre, Lebanon – Three dirty bandages hide the worst of Zainab Jawad’s swollen and bloodied nose. Her arm – fractured in two places – is strapped to her chest.

Stretched out on a hospital bed, the 8-year-old squeezes shut her brown eyes as she fights back sobs at Tyre’s Najem Hospital.

On Sunday, Israeli bombs destroyed her family’s home in the southern Lebanese village of Ayta Chaeb. Then rockets hit the car as they fled.

“What I remember most is the sound, the sound of the planes and I was scared because I thought there were so many,” she says. “I fell asleep last night, but all I could hear in my sleep were planes.”

Zainab’s aunt is in the next bed. Her mother, Usra, and 4-year-old brother, Mohammed, are in a room nearby. The boy’s leg is in a cast to his hip. His mother’s leg is in traction after steel pins were installed in several places.

When the bombing started, Usra and her three sisters fled with the two children. They were headed for Basariya, north of Tyre, but 3km from the port city rockets hit their car. Two sisters, both teachers, were killed.

Jawad Najem, a surgeon at the hospital, says patients admitted on Sunday were burn cases that resulted from phosphorus incendiary weapons.

The Geneva Conventions ban using white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas. The Israeli military says its use of weapons “conforms with international law”.

It also says it warned all residents to leave areas that have been targeted.

“The IDF (army) operates solely against terrorist organisations and terror infrastructure. The responsibility for endangering (the) civilian population rests on the Hezbollah terror organisation,” the military said in a statement.

Najem said he had also treated a 14-year-old boy, Mahmoud Sarour, for phosphorus burns to his face. His 8-month-old sister, Maryam, also suffered similar burns to her neck and hands when an Israeli rocket hit her family’s car just 1km from the hospital.

The children were with their father, mother and other family members when their car was hit by an Israeli missile. The father died instantly.

The Sarour family were evacuated yesterday from Tyre on the Princesa Marrisa, a ferry chartered by Germany to rescue expatriates trapped in the south. They were taken to Larcana, Cyprus.

The Sarours were taken by taxi to the Tyre port because the Lebanese Red Cross had suspended operations outside the city proper because Israeli jets on Sunday blasted two ambulances with rockets, said Ali Deebe, a Red Cross spokesperson in Tyre.

One ambulance had gone south of Tyre to meet an incoming ambulance and transfer the wounded onward to the hospital.

The rocket, Deebe said, had wounded six ambulance workers and three civilians – an 11- year-old boy, an elderly woman and a man.

“One of the rockets hit right in the middle of the big red cross that was painted on top of the ambulance. This is a clear violation of humanitarian law, of international law,” he said.

Kassem Shalan, one of the ambulance workers, said nine ambulance workers had been hurt in the attack.

Amateur video provided by an ambulance worker confirmed Deebe’s account of damage to the ambulances, showing one large hole and several smaller ones in the roof of one ambulance and a very large hole in the roof of the second ambulance. Both vehicles were destroyed.

Israeli rockets have been hitting around Najem Hospital for most of the past two weeks, said Inaya Haydar, the hospital’s director of nursing.

She said she had not left the hospital in 13 days. – Sapa-AP

Woman and Grandson Die in Gaza Tank Fire

Traprock’s coverage of July 24th protest

Arab News article

Woman and Grandson Die in Gaza Tank Fire
Hisham Abu Taha, Arab News

GAZA CITY, 25 July 2006 — A woman and an 11-year-old boy were among five Palestinians killed yesterday by Israeli tank fire in the northern Gaza Strip in two separate incidents.

A 60-year-old Palestinian woman and her 11-year-old grandson were killed in the neighborhood of Sudania, west of the town of Beit Lahiya, medical sources said.

An army spokesman told AFP that ground forces operating outside the Gaza Strip opened fire after identifying a rocket-launching cell in the northern Gaza Strip.

Earlier, three Palestinians were killed and three others wounded when an Israeli tank fired on a building in Beit Lahiya, medical sources said. A shell from the tank hit a high-rise building in the town, not far from Gaza’s border with Israel.

In other violence, two Palestinian were wounded by Israeli fire, including an airstrike on a house of a member of the Islamic Jihad movement, security sources said.

The home of Mohammed Al-Sheikh Dib of Jihad’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, in the Shatti refugee camp was destroyed when Israeli aircraft fired two missiles, the sources said. One person, who was not inside the building, was wounded in the attack.

An Israeli military source told AFP that the house was targeted because it contained stocks of weapons and rockets. The source also said that the army had ordered the residents of the house to leave minutes before the strike.

The deaths bring to 112 the number of Palestinians killed since Israel began a massive military operation in the Gaza Strip on June 28, after Palestinians seized one of its soldiers in a cross-border raid.

One Israeli soldier has also been killed in the violence from friendly fire.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called yesterday on the United States to pressure Israel to stop its nearly month-old offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“All that we ask the American administration is to take a moral stance toward the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian suffering and to bear its responsibility as a superpower in this world,” he told The Associated Press in an interview. He called on America “to restrain the Israeli aggression and stop it.”

Haniyeh spoke as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to the region to discuss Israel’s other fight with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Rice was also scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. She would not be meeting with Haniyeh because the US considers his Hamas group a terror organization.

“In Gaza, there is what resembles a real human catastrophe,” Haniyeh said.

In another development, Palestinian groups yesterday called for a general strike and demonstrations to protest against the arrival of Rice in Ramallah.

“The Islamic and national forces decided during a meeting today to organize a general strike in Ramallah… to protest the arrival of Condoleezza Rice” who is due to meet Abbas, an MP of the hard-line Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Khalida Jarar, told AFP.

— With input from agencies

Olmert: No halt to Lebanon offensive

Traprock’s coverage of July 24th protest

original Aljazeera article

Olmert: No halt to Lebanon offensive

Tuesday 25 July 2006 11:38 AM GMT

The Israeli prime minister has said Israel is determined to continue its military campaign in Lebanon, as he met with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to discuss the conflict.

Ehud Olmert said there would be no stopping in the two-week offensive and that “severe measures” would be taken against Hezbollah.

Speaking in Jerusalem ahead of the meeting he said, “Israel is determined to continue on in the fight against Hezbollah. We will … stop them.

“We are using the basic elementary right of self-defence.”

Rice said a ceasefire was needed in the region, but not at any price.

“A durable solution will be one that strengthens the forces of peace and democracy in the region,” Rice said before the talks.

“It is time for a new Middle East. It is time to say to those who do not want a new Middle East that we will prevail,” she added.

Ceasefire conditions

Rice told Lebanese leaders on Monday that Hezbollah must return two captured Israeli soldiers and withdraw from Israel’s border before there could be a ceasefire, Lebanese politicians said.

“I have no desire to be back in three weeks or three months or six months when once again extremists have decided to use their advantages to destabilise the region,” she said.

Washington is arguing that UN resolution 1559 and the Taif Agreement, which ended the Lebanese civil war in 1990, need to be fulfilled.

Both documents call for the Lebanese government to exercise full control over its territory, and the disarmament of militias -including Hezbollah.
Lebanese politicians want an immediate ceasefire before a long term deal, but Israel wants Hezbollah to leave the border area and free the captured soldiers without conditions.

Ground raids and air strikes have failed to stop around 1,200 rockets being fired into northern Israeli towns and cities, where they have killed 17 civilians so far.

Rice left Israel after the talks to meet Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, before she heads to an international conference in Rome on the conflict on Wednesday.

Palestinians’ plight

Rice assured Abbas that the US has not forgotten the Palestinians’ plight and discussed getting additional aid to the debt-laden Palestinian government.

During the meeting that included about a dozen US and Palestinian officials, Rice and Abbas talked about the state of the Israeli soldier captured last month by Palestinian gunmen.

Rice said she briefed Abbas “on efforts we’re making to bring about an urgent but enduring cease-fire in Lebanon, one that can deal with the causes of extremism that began this crisis and that can also lead to the establishment of the sovereignty of the Lebanese government throughout its territory”.

Rice vowed that the US would not tire in its attempts to achieve “two states living side by side in peace”.

Abbas renewed a call for an Israeli-Palestinian truce, following a month-long Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, launched to free a captured Israeli soldier.

“We are exerting all our efforts to release the Israeli soldier,” he said, adding that he hoped thousands of Palestinian prisoners would also be freed by Israel.

“Israeli aggression in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must stop immediately so we can strengthen the truce and start a political process that aims to end the occupation,” he said.

Ramallah protest

More than 2,000 Palestinians took to the streets of Ramallah before Rice’s visit to show support for Hezbollah and protest against US policies.

The protesters walked through the centre of the capital, where most of the shops closed down after calls for a general strike, shouting “Bush is a criminal”, “The United States is a terrorist” and “Rice, Rice, you are a crow, what misery you bring with you”.

Stone-throwing demonstrators also tried to break into Abbas’ headquarters, but were stopped by security forces there.

European and Arab foreign ministers are set to discuss proposals for an international “buffer” force of the border between Israel and Lebanon at the Rome meeting.

Several European Union nations have said they were ready to contribute to the force.

Humanitarian corridor

Amir Peretz, the Israeli defence minister, said on Tuesday that Israel would maintain a security zone until the proposed international force arrives there.

Peretz did not say whether soldiers would stay in Lebanon or would maintain the zone using air strikes and artillery fire.

“There will be a security zone, which will be under the control of our forces if there is not a multinational force,” he said. “If there is not a multinational force that will get in to control the fences, a multinational force with an enforcement capability, we will continue to control (Hezbollah) with our fire toward any one who will get close to the defined security zone.”

The US backs the idea of a humanitarian corridor in Lebanon to get help to the needy, an idea Israel says it could support.

At least 408 people in Lebanon and 41 Israelis have been killed in the violence which began after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.

About 750,000 Lebanese have been displaced.

Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip is also continuing to try to recover a soldier captured by Palestinian fighters and halt rocket fire.

Israeli forces have killed at least 121 Palestinians in the month since then.

Agencies

Israel used cluster grenades on civilians

Traprock’s coverage of July 24th protest

Aljazeera printing of Reuters article

Israel used cluster grenades on civilians

Tuesday 25 July 2006, 3:52 Makka Time, 0:52 GMT

A US-based human rights group has accused Israel of using artillery-fired cluster grenades against a Lebanese village last week during its assault against Hezbollah.

Human Rights Watch said on Monday that it had taken photos of cluster grenades stored by Israeli artillery teams on the Israel-Lebanon border.

It also said that a cluster grenade attack on Wednesday killed one and wounded at least 12 civilians in the village of Blida.

“Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when used around civilians,” Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director, said in a statement.

“They should never be used in populated areas.”

An Israeli army statement said: “The use of cluster munitions is legal under international law and the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] uses such munitions in accordance with international standards. We are checking the specific details of the incident mentioned in the report.”

Violating a ban?

Human Rights Watch said it had photographed M483A1 artillery shells stored on the Israeli side of the border, which deliver 88 cluster sub-munitions per shell and have a failure rate of 14 per cent, often leaving behind dangerous unexploded shells.

It said it believed the use of cluster grenades in populated areas could violate a ban on indiscriminate attacks contained in international humanitarian law.

“Our research in Iraq and Kosovo shows that cluster munitions cannot be used in populated areas without huge loss of civilian life,” Roth said.

“Israel must stop using cluster bombs in Lebanon at once.”