Peres is forced to change course

MIDDLE EAST IN TURMOIL

ROBERT FISK

Rmeile

The sea was calm and out in the tranquil bay, the Israeli missile- boats rode the full tide. Just a puff of smoke from their decks showed that it was business as usual. On my car radio, Uri Dromi, the Israeli government spokesman, was telling us of his regret for the massacre at Qana and of Israel's enormous respect for civilian life. The shells hit just to the east of the coastal highway, sending a shower of earth and rocks into the air. They were back at the usual job of firing at the traffic between Beirut and Sidon, 26 artillery rounds in just 50 minutes.

What world did Mr Dromi inhabit, I wondered, as the gunboats fired away? They were trying to cut Lebanon in half, to persuade the thousands of civilians who daily drive on the only road between Lebanon's two largest cities to go home, to break the highway passage between Beirut and southern Lebanon. Of course, the Lebanese went on driving the road. And we all know what the Israelis would say if they were hit. Had they not been warned not to go to Sidon?

Down in Qana, the wickedness of Thursday's massacre has still to be absorbed by the dazed UN Fijian soldiers who spent 12 hours dragging the torn corpses of 105 civilians out of their compound after Israeli shells cut them to pieces.

But of double standards, they knew all too much. "If this had happened in Israel - if the Lebanese army killed a hundred Israelis in a shelter and then said sorry and asked for a ceasefire - can you imagine what would happen?" a European UN soldier asked. "It would be World War Three and President Clinton would be denouncing an act of barbarous terrorism." True, Mr Clinton did bring himself to refer yesterday to the "terrible events" which had occurred in Lebanon, although he did not find the courage to add the words "caused by Israel", which would have angered America's Jewish community but which might have softened the growing fury of the West expressed here by Muslim and Christian Lebanese. For it has not been lost on the people of southern Lebanon - nor on UN troops - that Washington prevented the UN from condemning Israel for attacking a UN compound.

The refugee massacre - or "event" as Mr Clinton prefers to call it - will be remembered in Qana today when many of the 105 dead will be given a mass burial in the village. Yesterday General Stanislaw Wozniak, the UN's Polish commander in Lebanon, spoke with both emotion and bitterness of the Israeli attack on his refugee-packed battalion headquarters. "I can't find words to describe what I feel after seeing this," he said. "Why civilians? Simply, you don't attack civilians. You don't attack UN positions."

He had, he said, held a "general-to-general" discussion with his Israeli opposite number, General Amnon Shahak, and expressed the view that no such attack must ever recur, a somewhat mild dressing-down for General Shahak, given the scale of the slaughter. It might have been expected that the Israeli air force would have respected the peace of Qana yesterday but even as General Wozniak was visiting his smashed compound, two Israeli jets flew low over the village and broke the sound barrier with a shattering explosion.

Survivors of the massacre told of how those Lebanese refugees wounded by the initial Israeli artillery rounds shrieked in agony among the dead until further shells cut the refugees there to pieces. In all, 26 Israeli shells hit the base after six Katyusha missiles were fired at the Israelis 350 yards from the UN base. One man described how a dead woman, who bled over his body during the 20-minute attack, saved his life when her body absorbed the shards of metal from later shells. Blood still lay congealed on the steps of the base, along with pieces of human remains.

What has so infuriated the Lebanese, however, is not just the double standards of Mr Clinton but the West's apparent acceptance that the massacre was a mistake - as if the rest of Israel's latest military adventure in Lebanon was a moral war of "surgical strikes" and "precision bombing". Surgical it may have been - and all too precise - but the targets have been almost entirely civilian. How else can one account for the fact that more than 200 civilians have been killed - but a maximum of only seven Hizbollah guerrillas?

If Qana was a mistake, the Lebanese ask, what about the Israeli missile attack on a home in Nabatea a few hours earlier in which a family died, the youngest a four-day-old baby? Or the three children and two women slaughtered in the ambulance on Saturday. Or the two-year old girl decapitated by a missile in Beirut on Monday. Or the three sisters cut down by Israeli shells a week ago. Or the 27-year-old woman whose car was hit by an Israeli missile a day earlier. Were these all mistakes? Or were they surgical precision?

Letters, page 16

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Grad / Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultant - Oil & Gas

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000. : SThree: Progressive Global Energy a...

Commercial Property

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: KENT MARKET TOWN - An exciting new role has ar...

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices