On April 18, 1996, Israel committed the unthinkable – Oblivious to international laws and human decency it deliberately targeted a United Nations compound in which over 800 refugees of war, all Lebanese nationals, sought refuge, as to strike fear at the heart of Lebanon and most specifically the Hezbollah.
Left bruised and humiliated by the Hezbollah advances and military superiority, Israel’s military commanders resorted to the most abject of all tactics to regain their footing – the targeting of a civilian population, hoping that by spilling enough innocent blood the people of Lebanon would recoil in horror and fright, unable to risk anymore of their children.
For well over a decade Lebanon has mourned and remembered its martyrs, it has cried the lives of its children, the lives which murderous Israel reaped apart before they could blossom. But as the blood of Qana has sipped into the soil, forever embedded in Lebanon’s history, an entire nation still await vindication, for there are crimes which can never and should never be forgiven.
Qana massacre has since become a symbol of resistance, a reminder of Israel’s wickedness and inhumanity. An illegitimate power which foundations have been built on Palestine stolen lands Israel is no more than a usurper, an institutional abomination which should never have to come to be. If ever anyone was in doubt of the treachery and sheer villainy and depravity of Israel and its Zionist leaders, Qana should stand a testimony.
Following a three years truce -1993-1996 – Hezbollah resumed its shelling campaign against Israel in March 1996, keen to demonstrate its military capacity as to ward off the enemy and put an end to Israel’s reign of terror in southern Lebanon. It is important to note that if the international community has been keen to portray Hezbollah as the attacking force in 1996 April War, it is essentially to defend his people’s freedom and Lebanon territorial sovereignty that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah – Secretary General of the Hezbollah – moved his men into position. It was more out of necessity and sense of duty than love for confrontation that the Hezbollah declared war on Israel.
Too often depicted as the innocent party by western powers, it is crucial to remember that it was in response to the unwarranted killing of two Lebanese nationals in Yater – Southern Lebanon – by an IDF missile that Hezbollah decided to retaliate against Zionists. If anything, Hezbollah uphold its duty toward Lebanon by opposing tyranny.
In the weeks which followed Hezbollah’ shelling of Israel, IDF Major-General Amiram Levine became only too aware of the giant his forces had awaken. For the first time in three years Israel felt inherently threatened in its positions in the Levant, faced with an enemy much bigger and potent than it ever anticipated.
It is to crush such threat that Israel launched on April 11, 1996 its so-called Operation Grapes of Wrath, what Lebanon will come to know as April War.
---------- What happened in Qana
On April 9th, after Hezbollah responded to Israel’s killing of a 14-year old boy by shooting a veritable barrage of missiles into northern Israel, Major-General Amiram Levine, a man whose hands are tainted with the blood of innocence, warned, "The residents in south Lebanon who are under the responsibility of Hezbollah will be hit harder, and the Hezbollah will be hit harder, and we will find the way to act correctly and quickly." Nine days after he threatened southern Lebanon with heavy military retribution, Major-General Levine would reign death from the sky upon unarmed civilians in an operation so bloody and cruel that to this day words cannot being to encompass the scope of such massacre.
In a bid to escape Israel’s missiles hundreds of Lebanese villagers fled to Qana UN compound, where they assumed they would be safe; little could they have anticipated Israel’s profound disregard for the sanctity of human life.
According to a UN report, on April 18, “Hezbollah fighters fired two or three Katyusha rockets and between five and eight mortars at Israeli soldiers near the Red Line (the northern limits of the "security zone") from positions about 220 meters southwest and 350 meters southeast of the United Nations compound. 15 minutes later, at 2:08 PM, an Israeli unit responded by shelling the area with M-109A2 155 mm guns.”
By willingly targeting Qana UN compound the IDF assassinated over 100 civilians in a matter of hours. While Israel military command has always denied it knew of the presence of civilians, a video recording made by a UNIFIL soldier of Force Mobile Reserve (FMR) clearly showed a reconnaissance drone hovering above the UN compound, proof the IDF had detected civilians prior to authorizing the air strike.
Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk who reported on Qana, wrote at the time, “It was a massacre. Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this. The Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disembowelled. 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 the United Nations shelter, believing that they were safe under the world's protection. Like the Muslims of Srebrenica, the Muslims of Qana were wrong.
In front of a burning building of the UN's Fijian battalion headquarters, a girl held a corpse in her arms, the body of a grey- haired man whose eyes were staring at her, and she rocked the corpse back and forth in her arms, keening and weeping and crying the same words over and over: "My father, my father." A Fijian UN soldier stood amid a sea of bodies and, without saying a word, held aloft the body of a headless child.”
And the world remained silent
As incomprehension and sheer disgust of Israel spread like wild-fire throughout the Islamic community, western powers stood motionless before such ignominy, inclined to categorise Qana massacre under “unfortunate incident” for they could not bear the alternative. Admitting to Israel’s war crimes would have in essence forced the United Nations to sanction Tel Aviv, something of course Zionist sympathizers the world over would never have tolerated, let alone stood for. Thus western powers retreated in silence, hoping that as dust would settle on Qana, the world would forget the blood which had been shed.
But how can any of us forget? How are we meant to move on from such atrocity? Especially when those responsible continue to sneer, full of contempt for the many lives they destroyed. Can we ever forget the words of Prime Minister Shimon Peres, “I don't see any mistake in judgment … We fought Hezbollah there [in Qana], and when they fire on us, we will fire at them to defend ourselves… I don't know any other rules of the game, either for the army or for civilians.”
Despite many calls from both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Israel was never made to answer for its crimes; instead it has been hailed a hero by the United States for so bravely resisting enemy fire.
But while Israel continues to stand on the blood of our martyrs, it is their memory which will animate our heart and strengthen our arms for there is no rest for the wicked.
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