Qana dead 'a bunch of Arabs'

Friday 10 May 1996 23:02 BST

Jerusalem (Reuter) - Israeli gunners have said they had no regrets over killing more than 100 civilians sheltering in a United Nations base in southern Lebanon because the dead were "just a bunch of Arabs".

A soldier, identified as Sergeant Y, was quoted by the Jerusalem weekly Kol Ha'ir as saying: "It's a war, in a war these things happen ... It's just a bunch of Arabs."

The sergeant, in his reference to Arabs, used the Hebrew derogatory term Arabushim, which has no English equivalent.

The soldiers said they were firing at guerrillas near the UN camp at Qana and that it had been a mistake to hit the camp where hundreds of refugees were sheltering. The attack took place during Israel's operation against Hizbollah guerrillas last month.

A UN report this week said it appeared unlikely the slaughter was by accident. Israel, which has given varying versions of what happened, insists it was a mistake. Another soldier from the artillery battery said the commander gathered his troops after the shelling for a talk.

"He told us, 'This is war. For God's sake, the shits are shooting at you. What are you going to do?' He said we were shooting well and to continue this way, and that Arabs, you know, there are millions of them."

An official army spokesman statement issued yesterday questioning the accuracy of the newspaper report.

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