The child lies like a rag doll - a symbol of the latest Lebanon war
By Robert Fisk in Beirut
Independent" -- -- How soon must we use the words "war
crime"? How many children must be scattered in the rubble of Israeli
air attacks before we reject the obscene phrase "collateral damage"
and start talking about prosecution for crimes against humanity?
The child whose dead body lies like a rag doll beside the cars which
were supposedly taking her and her family to safety is a symbol of
the latest Lebanon war; she was hurled from the vehicle in which she
and her family were traveling in southern Lebanon as they fled their
village - on Israel's own instructions. Because her parents were
apparently killed in the same Israeli air attack, her name is still
unknown. Not an unknown warrior, but an unknown child.
The story of her death, however, is well documented. On Saturday,
the inhabitants of the tiny border village of Marwaheen were ordered
by Israeli troops - apparently using a bullhorn - to leave their
homes by 6pm. Marwaheen lies closest to the spot where Hizbollah
guerrillas broke through the frontier wire a week ago to capture two
Israeli soldiers and kill three others, the attack which provoked
this latest cruel war in Lebanon. The villagers obeyed the Israeli
orders and initially appealed to local UN troops of the Ghanaian
battalion for protection.
But the Ghanaian soldiers, obeying guidelines set down by the UN's
headquarters in New York in 1996, refused to permit the Lebanese
civilians to enter their base. By terrible irony, the UN's rules had
been drawn up after their soldiers gave protection to civilians
during an Israeli bombardment of southern Lebanon in 1996 in which
106 Lebanese, more than half of them children, were slaughtered when
the Israelis shelled the UN compound at Qana, in which they had been
So the people of Marwaheen set off for the north in a convoy of cars
which only minutes later, close to the village of Tel Harfa, were
attacked by an Israeli F-16 fighter-bomber. It bombed all the cars
and killed at least 20 of the civilians travelling in them, many of
them women and children. Twelve people were burnt alive in their
vehicles but others, including the child who lies like a rag doll
near the charred civilian convoy, whose photograph was taken - at
great risk - by an Associated Press photographer, Nasser Nasser,
were blown clear of the cars by the blast of the bombs and fell into
fields and a valley near the scene of the attack. There has been no
apology or expression of regret from Israel for these deaths.
The innocent continued to die yesterday in Israeli air attacks
across Lebanon. Five civilians were killed when an Israeli missile
struck a house near the town of Nabatea. Three members of the Hamed
family were killed along with their Sri Lankan maid. In the village
of Srifa, in the south, Israeli air strikes flattened 15 houses
which were homes to at least 23 people but - with no lifting
vehicles able to reach that part of the country - there was no way
of rescuing anyone alive trapped in the buildings.
The Lebanese civil authorities, however, were able to give names to
the dead after an Israeli air raid on the Bekaa Valley village of
Nabi Chit; they included Ali Suleiman; Daoud Hazima; Khadija
Moussawi and her children Bilal, Talal and Yasmine; Maouffaq Diab;
Ahmed and Khairallah Mouawad; Mustafa Jroud and Bushra Shuqr. At
least three of the names were female. Another four civilians were
killed in an air raid on the village of Loussi in eastern Lebanon.
The Israelis constantly boast of their "pin-point" or "surgical"
precision in air attacks. If this is true, then there are far too
many civilians being killed in the Lebanese bloodbath to make every
one of them an accident. And since Israel's target list now includes
obviously civilian targets - deliberately bombed to punish the
civilian population - the evidence is mounting that these air raids
are intended to kill the innocent as well as the Hizbollah
guerrillas whom Israel claims to be fighting.
True, the Hizbollah are killing civilians in Israel, but their
missiles are inaccurate and the West, which has done no more than
mildly disapprove of Israel's retaliatory onslaught, must surely
expect higher standards of the Israeli armed forces than of the men
whom both Israel and President George Bush describe as "terrorists".
Why, for example, did the Israelis attack and destroy the
headquarters of the Liban-Lait company in the Bekaa Valley, the
largest milk factory in Lebanon? Why did they bomb out the factory
of the main importer for Proctor and Gamble products in Lebanon,
based in Bchmoun? Why did they destroy a paper box factory outside
Beirut? And why did Israeli planes attack a convoy of new ambulances
being brought into Lebanon from Syria yesterday, vehicles which were
the gift of the medical authorities of the United Arab Emirates? The
ambulances were clearly marked as a relief aid convoy, according to
an Emirates official. Were all these "terrorist" targets? Was the
little girl in the field at Tel Harfa a "terrorist" target?
An example of Israel's lack of care in targeting Lebanon came
yesterday morning when an Israeli plane fired four missiles into a
disused parking lot in the Christian district of Ashrafieh in
Beirut. Their targets turned out to be two derelict water drilling
lorries which were standing tyre-deep in weeds. Were the tubes on
the back of the lorries supposed to be missile launchers? And if so,
who imagined that Hizbollah would ever try to conceal such weapons
in a Christian area of Beirut where Hizbollah believe many of
Israel's own collaborators live.
In Beirut and Nabatea, Lebanese security men claim to have arrested
"collaborators" who were "painting" houses and cars with phosphorus
to guide in Israeli jets to destroy them. At the same time, the
Lebanese Minister of Finance, Jihad Azour, stated that 45 bridges
had been destroyed across Lebanon and 60,000 families - 500,000
civilians - have been displaced.
Thousands of foreigners - many of them Lebanese holding dual
citizenship - continued to leave the country by bus and ship
yesterday, including hundreds of Britons who started the evacuation
on Monday in HMS Gloucester. Americans were leaving by sea, although
a French security company in Amman - SPO Middle East - was reported
to have been hired by the US to evacuate its citizens by bus at a
cost of $3,000 (£1,700) a head.
They, of course, are the lucky ones, who will finish their journeys
in Damascus or Cyprus rather than beside a burnt convoy at Tel Harfa.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited