From the wreckage in Qana

Posted in Politics + Diplomacy by expresscheckout on 2 August, 2006

Bodies of the dead in Qana 

Robert Fisk Reports From Lebanon on the Israeli Bombing of Qana That Killed 57, Including 37 Children
Lecture date: 07/31/06 Democracy Now!

Lebanon is marking a national day of mourning, a day after Israeli warplanes bombed the village of Qana killing 57. Israel has announced it will halt air strikes for 48 hours in Southern Lebanon, but its ground troops continue to fight. Robert Fisk was in the nearby city of Tyre, where many of the victims were taken following the attack. He joins us from his home in Beirut.

After the attack, Israel released what appeared to be video footage of Hezbollah rockets being launched from Qana towards towns in northern Israel, and the Israeli military said that Qana had been targeted because Hezbollah had been using the village as a base from which to launch rockets. This is not the first time that Qana has been devastated by Israeli fire. In 1996, more than 106 villagers died after Israel bombed the UN compound where they were seeking refuge. In the aftermath of the strike 10 years ago, reporting by Robert Fisk led to the United Nations condemnation of the attack. Robert Fisk had just returned from Tyre, where the victims from Sunday’s Israeli air strike in Qana were taken following the attack.

Robert Fisk. Veteran war correspondent, London Independent, reporting from Beirut.

ROBERT FISK: I went to Tyre, Amy. By the time this has happened — to get from Beirut now to the south takes 46 hours, because of the broken bridges and the bombed roads, and I realized that by the time I got down there, the wounded would have been in the hospitals in Tyre, and the dead would be already brought from Qana to the villages. So when I got there, I went straight to the government hospital in Tyre, where many of the wounded — and there weren’t many, because most of them died — had been taken and where they were counting the number of children.

When I arrived there, there were a number of, maybe 20, 30 children, the corpses of children, lined up outside the government hospital, hair matted, still in their night clothes. The bomb that killed them was dropped at 1:00 in the morning. And they ran out of plastic bags. They were trying to put the children in plastic bags, their corpses, and they would put on it, you know, “Abbas Mehdi, aged seven,” and so and so, aged one, and use a kind of sticking tape on it. But then they ran out of plastic bags, so they had to put the children’s corpses in a kind of cheap carpet that you can buy in the supermarkets, and they roll them up in that and then put their names on again. I was having to go around very carefully and write down, from the Arabic, their names and their ages. It would just say “Abbas Mehdi, aged seven, Qana.”

And, of course, every time I saw the “Qana,” I remember that I was actually in Qana ten years ago when the massacre occurred there then. This is the second massacre in the town whose inhabitants believe that this is the place where Jesus turned water into wine in the Bible, most of whom, 95% of whom, are Christians — I’m sorry, are Muslims. I think all who died were Muslims. The 5% is Christians who have been there for hundreds of years, their families, because they do believe it is the Biblical Qana. There is a claimant to the rival of Qana in Galilee in northern Israel actually.

The Lebanese soldiers were trying take down the names of all who had died, but I found a man with a clipboard who had taken down 40 names, and he said that they weren’t accurate, because some of the children were blown into bits and they couldn’t fit them together accurately and there might be — they couldn’t put the right head on the right body, and therefore they might not be able to have an accurate list of the dead. But he was doing his best in the circumstances of war to maintain the bureaucracy of government.

One by one the children’s bodies were taken away from the courtyard of the government hospital on the shoulders of soldiers and hospital workers and were put in a big refrigerated truck, very dirty, dusty truck, which had been parked just outside the hospital. The grownups, the adult dead, including twelve women, were taken out later. The children were put in the truck first. Pretty grim. As I said, the children’s hair, when you could see the bodies, were matted with dust and mud. And most of them appear to have been bleeding from the nose. I assume that’s because their lungs were crushed by the bomb, and therefore they naturally hemorrhaged as they died.

Click here to listen to the interview or read the full transcript from Democracy Now! online


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