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Qana, Katyushas and Carnage

Following the IAF bombing of a building in Qana, Lebanon, which killed 56 including 37 children, Israel has agreed to a 48-hour cessation of air strikes in Southern Lebanon. In that time, Israel will be investigating the bombing and encouraging Lebanese civilians once again to leave the area of Lebanon south of the Litani River, coordinating with the UN in order to achieve this.

Israel steadfastly maintains that rockets were being fired from Qana, which is not being disputed. Said IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, “We were operating in a place from where Katyushas are being fired and we distributed notices to residents. Unfortunately, people who assembled in the area, whom we were unaware of, were harmed.” Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said that since the conflict began, “hundreds of rockets have been fired from the Qana area.” More specifically, Israeli Air Force Chief of Staff Brigadier General Amir Eshel said that 150 Katyushas have been fired from Qana in the past 20 days.

Curiously, a Jerusalem Post report quotes various Israeli military officials, including General Eshel, stating that the building had been hit at midnight Saturday night, but only collapsed just before 7 a.m. A ‘high-ranking officer’ said, “We warned the residents that we would be attacking there. We work under the assumption that the villages are empty and that whoever is there is affiliated with Hizballah.”

Eshel’s claim that the building collapsed seven hours later was disputed by people at the scene, however. According to those claims, the building collapsed after a second strike on the building shortly after the first at 1 a.m. local time. Various media crews did not arrive on scene, however, until after dawn. It was also reported that bodies were not evacuated from the building until after television media crews had arrived on scene.

Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora canceled talks with Secretary of State Rice, who was in Jerusalem and due to meet with Lebanese officials just four hours after the incident. Said Siniora, “There is no place this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional cease-fire, as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now.”

The Security Council quickly released a statement on the Qana attack, expressing “extreme shock and distress at the shelling by the Israeli Defense Forces of a residential building in Qana.”

Images of the victims being extracted from the rubble has stirred anger throughout the world, leaving Israel to defend its actions with a press conference showing video of Katyusha rocket launches in Qana. Inexplicably, Israel allowed a 12-hour delay between the initial coverage and their own press conference.