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Qana Again

By Zahera Harb

07/31/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- April 18 1996 I was there. Children, women and old people lay in dozens, beheaded and eviscerated. They thought that sheltering inside the United Nations headquarters in Qana might save their lives from Israeli indiscriminate shelling over their villages, but it didn't. One hundred and six innocent souls were crushed. I remember how drastic and horrible the scene was. I remember the villagers of Qana shouting at the camera, waving their hands in every direction asking us to film and tell the world what Israel did to the innocents, to their beloved. I remember standing among the scattered bodies of guiltless people paralyzed by the horrors of what I was witnessing and the civil defense rescuers screaming at us to continue filming. I remember the UN soldier sitting in one corner and crying over a child he was playing football with before the Israeli bombs fell. None of the Lebanese has forgotten Qana massacre. It has become part of their collective memory. They felt sad and angry at the international community for not stopping the war Israel had launched on Lebanon. In 1996 Qana was the price Lebanon had to pay for the world leaders to act seriously and intensively to end Israel indiscriminate killings.

Here it happens again. Sixty villagers gathered in a shelter in one of Qana's buildings, probably thinking that the massacre of 1996 would make the Israelis think twice before hitting civilians in Qana again. The Israeli shelling last night proved them wrong.

Again we hear the same Israeli scenario repeated. Israeli spokespersons go on BBC Sky news and CNN to say that Hizbullah fighters were launching rockets from nearby areas. Camera crews showed that all the roads to that building were cut off by Israeli shelling since the beginning of its military operation, thus there was no routes for the missile launchers vehicles to get nearby and as a colleague of mine Hanady Salman reporting from Beirut said: "they were sleeping, in their pyjamas, bare feet, in a shelter. Only to let you know that despite the fact that we're animals, but it would have been impossible for animals to sleep had there been any shelling from anywhere close, as the IDF alleges".

Sixty three innocent souls were hiding there only 8 survived. Those who survived tell the story of thirty seven children fed and put to sleep hours before the attack took place. They were hit twice; those who survived the first hit did not survive the second.

Israel says it was a mistake. They said the same in 1996 until a video recorded by one of the UN soldiers was handed to The Independent veteran Robert Fisk proved that an Israeli 'drone' was flying low over the base. They knew it was full of refugees and still they bombed it.

'Drones' or similar aircrafts have not left the skies of South Lebanon since day one of the attacks. They have surely seen the children coming inside and outside the building despite that they have decided to bomb it.

Israel is repeating history. History of blood and killing and apologies this time should not be enough. The Israeli army should be brought to justice and face the international tribunal for committing war crimes.

The ambassador of Lebanon to Washington Dr Riyad Tabbara once told me that in 1996 the United States did not want to listen to Lebanon's calls for a ceasefire till the Qana massacre took place. My only fear through this crisis was that they were waiting for a new Qana to take place to react. They have it now, will they act.

The Lebanese commemorate Qana every year so they "won't forget". How many massacres would they have to commemorate more so Israel would stop using its excessive force against innocent civilians.

Zahera Harb is a Lebanese journalist

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