Irish Times breaking news
Children among 40 Lebanese killed in air strike
| ||Last updated: 30-07-06, 12:05|
An Israeli air strike killed at least 40 Lebanese civilians, including 23 children, today, prompting the Lebanese government to cancel a planned visit to Beirut by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The raid on the southern village of Qana was the bloodiest single attack during Israel's 19-day-old war on Hizbullah and rescuers said the death toll might rise. The victims, mainly old people, women and children, were sheltering from Israeli shelling in the basement of a three-storey building.
Other houses were destroyed in the dawn raid, killing many people in their sleep.
Lebanese Red Cross officials in Beirut said rescuers had extracted 38 bodies from the devastated buildings, including 23 children, and seven wounded. At least 17 more bodies were feared to be still under the rubble, seven of them children.
Red Cross workers covered the corpse of one dead child with a blanket. A woman in a red-patterned dress lay crumpled and lifeless in the broken masonry. A leg poked out from the rubble nearby. Another child lay dead in the street.
Hizbullah vowed to retaliate for the killing. "This horrific massacre will not go without a response," the group said in a statement.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said he would hold no negotiations before a ceasefire and officials said they had told Ms Rice to stay away from Beirut until the fighting stopped.
|Red Cross members pull bodies out from rubble after an Israeli air raid in Qana|
At a news conference in Beirut, Mr Siniora called for unity "in the face of the Israeli war criminals". "The persistence of Israel in its heinous crimes against our civilians will not break the will of the Lebanese people," he said.
Around 2,000 people gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in Beirut today smashing windows and ransacking offices in a protest over the Israeli air strike. Witnesses said the crowd hurled stones and broke windows before some burst inside.
"Death to Israel, death to America. We sacrifice our blood and souls for Lebanon," protestors chanted. They tore down a United Nations flag outside the building and ripped it to shreds. Members of Hizbullah tried to restrain the crowd.
The air strike, whose target was not immediately clear, occurred as Ms Rice was in Jerusalem on a mission to persuade Israel and Lebanon to agree on an international force to deploy on the border.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert s aid the residents of Qana were warned and told to leave and blamed Hizbullah for the deaths. "No one was ordered to fire on civilians and we have no policy of killing innocent people," Mr Olmert was quoted as saying by Ynet and NRG Websites. "The village and its surrounding areas were a source for launching hundreds of rockets."
Israeli warplanes struck Qana only hours after Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah threatened to rocket more cities in central Israel if attacks on Lebanon continued.
"There are many cities in central Israel which will come into target range ... if the barbaric aggression on our country and people continues," he said yesterday.
Lebanese television stations described the raid on Qana as a massacre. The village is already a potent symbol of Lebanese civilian deaths at the hands of Israel's military. In April 1996, Israeli shelling killed more than 100 civilians sheltering at the base of UN peacekeepers in Qana.
An estimated 750 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 51 Israelis have been killed in the conflict that broke out after Hizboullah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12th.
Confirming a major new incursion into Lebanon today, the Israeli military said tanks and troops had rolled across the border at Metula, under cover artillery fire and air strikes, to try to find and destroy Hizbullah rocket launchers. An Israeli army spokeswoman said five Hizbullah fighters were killed.
Before Lebanon cancelled her visit, Ms Rice had said she hoped for a deal on ceasefire terms to be outlined in a UN Security Council resolution that may be presented as early as Tuesday. Mr Olmert said his country was "in no rush" for a ceasefire, and Israeli forces thrust across the border sparking new clashes with Hizbullah fighters.
© 2006 ireland.com
I normally read something like this, get angry for a minute or so and then go back to my coffee. But not this time. What's to be done? Call Joe Duffy? Seriously, what can I do or you do? Help with this, please.