Leading article: Qana: the guilty must be punished

Share
Related Topics
When it was first claimed at the United Nations that the Israelis had deliberately shelled the UN compound at Qana in Lebanon, it seemed almost unbelievable. Yet the UN's investigation into the incident and the accumulation of evidence since backs up the claim. It seems increasingly probable that the Israeli defence forces knew of the presence of refugees in the camp, knew where their shells were landing, and knew that innocent people were being killed. This is not the same as "collateral damage", that much-abused phrase to describe the death of the innocent in the pursuit of the guilty.

The UN report on the incident is also thought to conclude that Hizbollah members had been using the camp as a refuge, after they had set off rockets aimed at Israeli soldiers. Israel may say that there were guerrillas in the camp, and that it was them, not the civilians who where the target. But more than 100 civilians died when the shells exploded over the compound. Far from seeking to avoid this, the Israeli army seems to have calculated that it was an acceptable loss. That typifies the cynical logic that guided Operation Grapes of Wrath from start to finish.

Israel's most recent assault on Lebanon has invited an incident of this kind from the start, and the 100 who died at Qana are by no means the only innocent civilian casualties of the exercise. By relying on bombardment from artillery, gunboats and aircraft, and abstaining from the commitment of ground troops, Israel left itself with only the bluntest of weapons. Hizbollah is a guerrilla organisation and cannot be targeted in the same way as the infrastructure of a state.

The incident has ramifications far beyond Lebanon, beyond the Middle East. The United Nations is being taken for a fool again, treated as a dupe. Just as, in Bosnia, the idea of "safe havens" came to be nothing more than a bitter joke, so in Lebanon the UN's humanitarian mission has been mocked in a deadly and cynical way. The concept that the UN can provide shelter for refugees is an important one. It should not be the target of artillery attack. The UN report on the incident must be published, even if it is embarrassing for Israel and the United Nations.

Heads must roll. Someone at a high level in the Israeli military was responsible for this operation, and to show that it is serious about responding to this incident, the Israeli government must find out who and remove him.

That, in itself, is not sufficient. The Qana massacre results directly from a much bigger problem, that of the Israeli attitude towards Lebanon. Israel has the right to defend itself, but that is not the same thing as treating Lebanon as an artillery range, or as a place to prove the virility of the Peres government.

The killings at Qana, indeed the Israeli assault upon Lebanon, have solved nothing. In an interview with the Independent on Sunday, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah's leader, has committed the organisation to further attacks on Israeli targets. The "peace" that was reached is in effect little more than a code of conduct for an ongoing and bloody war. Hizbollah's rocket attacks on Israeli civilians are, of course, unacceptable; but until Israel accepts UN resolution 425 and withdraws from Lebanon, no lasting peace is possible.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Patrick Cockburn: Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on