The inquiry's results, delivered on Wednesday, confirm what the IDF told the press on the day of the tragedy. The IDF said then and now confirms that it deliberately targeted the residential building in an air attack on July 30th just before 1 in the morning. The attack consisted of two missiles. The first exploded; the second did not.
No journalist, no analyst, no cartoonist is now free to rage about the loss of innocent lives, or to claim there has been an act of "Zionist genocide" of the Lebanese without explicitly first dealing with the following short list of issues:
- The residential building was deliberately targeted because it fit the test set out by the Israeli military's guidelines regarding the use of fire against suspicious structures inside villages. The residents had been warned well in advance to evacuate by the mass drop of Arabic-language leaflets; in addition, by various other means, the residents of Qana and the villages surrounding it were warned to leave since they were in a target zone because of Hezbollah's activities. The building in question was immediately adjacent to an area from where missiles had been fired in the previous hours and days at Israel.
- Israeli surveillance of Hezbollah provided explicit confirmation of their exploitation of civilian structures inside villages to store weaponry and hide after launching rockets attacks.
- Intelligence gathered from Qana confirmed that this building was one of those structures.
- From July 12th onwards, more than 150 Hezbollah missiles were launched from Qana at civilian targets in Israel.
- From the official text: "The IDF operated according to information that the building was not inhabited by civilians and was being used as a hiding place for terrorists. Had the information indicated that civilians were present in the building the attack would not have been carried out. Prior to the attack on the aforementioned building, several other buildings which were part of the infrastructure for terror activity in the area were targeted. Our comment: It hurts our enemies to hear this, but Israelis rarely claim to be all-knowing and incapable of making mistakes. Mistakes happen; systems are developed to minimize their frequency and harm. But war is absolutely awful, and the mistakes you make in war are not like mistakes you make in other areas of activity. The consequences are far more serious. This is not what the IDF's report says, but this is exactly what it means.
Fighting terror is different from fighting a conventional war, as the citizens of Bali, Madrid, New York, Washington, London, Paris, Munich, Mumbai and dozens of other cities already know, and as most of the rest of the world is going to learn in the future.
Terrorists, like Hezbollah and Hamas, use civilians as human shields like armies use armour.
Terrorists, like Hezbollah and Hamas, wear no uniforms and conduct none of their operations, ever, within the rules of war
Terrorists, like Hezbollah and Hamas, intentionally operate from within civilian areas and buildings.
They do these things because traditional military forces hesitate before responding in kind, and in particular will think twice and three times before firing on what may be non-military targets. Not, however, all militaries: the British and the Americans felt themselves sufficiently provoked by Nazi Germany to turn Dresden into ash in 1945, at a time when the tide of war was well and truly running in their direction. It seemed the right thing to do at the time. There is not the remotest comparison to what Israel did this week, hitting a carefully-identified, confirmed military target.
It would be a great mistake to think that Israeli society and its institutions are at peace with what happened in Qana. Halutz instructed that guidelines for opening fire against suspicious targets be re-evaluated and updated immediately. They doubtless will. And Israeli soul searching goes on, affecting all parts of our society. Moral issues get taken quite seriously in this country.
But beyond the military and strategic issues at stake here, there is a long list of additional questions that no objective analyst is free to ignore:
- Israel confirms, and no one denies, that the bombing happened in the small hours of the morning and the building collapsed seven hours later. What happened in between? Officers of the IDF have said publicly (certainly on Israel television, to which we're glued at the moment) that they believe Hezbollah explosives brought the building down. Maybe yes, maybe no. But the fact no mainstream journalist or report has raised this possibility suggests they are just so very happy with their pin-it-on-Israel theory that anything less would be a let-down.
- Refrigerated trucks arrived from Tyre before reporters and photographers. There is prima facie evidence that bodies from Tyre's morgue were added to the Qana body count.
- The Lebanese Red Cross says 28 people were killed in Qana. Why do all the newsagency reports from AP, AFP, Reuters and others say 56, 60 and more?
- Confederate Yankee raises non-trivial questions about the absence of concrete dust on the bodies. No, not the bodies where there plainly is concrete dust, but the many others.