Sunday, July 30, 2006
United Nations Stormed in Beirut Amid Lebanese & Global Condemnation of Qana Massacre
Sunday 30 July 2006 5:49 AM GMT
Thousands of Lebanese protesters have stormed the UN building in Beirut in fury after at least 20 children and dozens of other civilians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Lebanese town of Qana.
Hundreds of demonstrators are running through corridors in the building smashing offices as they vent their anger of the deaths.
Smoke has been seen rising from parts of the building as UN security troops struggled to contain crowds.
The anger erupted after an Israeli bombing raid killed 21 children and dozens of adults as they slept in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Lebanese media reported that dozens of people remain trapped inside the three-storey building which was sheltering several families, some of whom had fled the Israeli bombardment of the Lebanese coastal town of Tyre.
Yasir Abu Hilala, Aljazeera's correspondent in Qana, said aid workers had only managed to pull out three people alive.
Efforts to get the wounded to hospital have been hampered as all roads around Qana have been destroyed by Israeli air strikes, he said.
The Israeli army has rejected responsibility for the deaths, saying that Hezbollah bore the blame because it used the village as a site for launching rockets.
However Hasan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah MP, told Aljazeera that Israel had committed "a new massacre".
"This massacre will enhance the Lebanese people's determination to endure Israeli aggression and will increase the [Hezbollah] resistance's determination to confront this enemy," he said.
"Israel is mistaken and deceived if it believes it can break the will of the Lebanese people in this way."
The attack came as Hezbollah fighters battled Israeli forces making a new thrust into southern Lebanon, Lebanese security sources said on Sunday.
Fighting erupted when Israeli forces crossed the border from the Israeli village of Metula towards the town of Khiam following aircraft and artillery strikes.
The Israeli army said a new wave of Hezbollah rockets hit the Israeli towns of Nahariya, Kiryat Shemona and an area close to Maalot, although no injuries were reported.
An Israeli missile strike hit the main Lebanese border crossing into Syria on Sunday, forcing it to close for the first time since the conflict began more than two weeks ago.
Israeli fighter jets fired three missiles at the Masnaa crossing, which lies about 300m beyond a Lebanese customs post. No casualties were reported in the strike.
The passage has been a vital escape route for tens of thousands of Lebanese fleeing the fighting into Syria after Israel bombed Beirut airport.
The bodies of eight civilians were found near Tyre following Israeli missile strikes on Saturday, Salam Daher, the Lebanese civil defence chief, said.
Rescue workers say dozens more civilians, including a large number of children, are still buried underneath the rubble of houses destroyed in attacks around the city.
The Lebanese health minister has said the recovery of bodies in the south could raise the death toll from the fighting.
Up to 600 Lebanese people, mainly civilians, are thought to have died in the offensive, while 51 Israelis have also been killed since Israel launched its offensive in mid-July following the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and rocket attacks by Hezbollah fighters.
The Israeli military also said on Saturday it had hit several Hezbollah targets, including a missile launchpad it suspected was used to fire a new type of missile that landed in the northern Israeli town of Afula.
Missiles and shells were fired into the Bekaa Valley targeting a bridge and vehicles, Aljazeera's correspondent said, while Israeli forces pulled back from positions on the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Bint Jbeil, where nine Israeli soldiers died last week.
Tanks and armoured vehicles left the hills overlooking the town and returned to Marun al-Ras, which was captured by Israeli forces on July 23, police said.
Israel has also continued to bombard Bint Jbeil and nearby Aitarun from Marun al-Ras.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said Israeli troops "have modified their deployment because of the developments on the ground".
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Israeli attack draws outrage
Sunday 30 July 2006 10:41 AM GMT
Israel's air strike drew international condemnation
Western and Arab leaders have condemned Israel's attack on a village in south Lebanon which killed at least 50 civilians, among them children, as protesters stormed the UN headquarters in Beirut.
Sunday's strike, the bloodiest since Israel's showdown with Lebanon's Shia group Hezbollah began on July 12, prompted the Lebanese government to cancel a visit by the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.
Lebanon's premier, Fouad Senioria, said: "There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now."
Hezbollah threatened to retaliate, saying that "this horrific massacre [at Qana] will not go without a response".
Rice 'deeply saddened'
Rice said she was "deeply saddened by the terrible loss of innocent life". She also urged Israel to take "extraordinary care" to avoid civilian deaths in Lebanon.
And while calling for a ceasefire, she said that a truce could not mean a return to the position before the war, which was triggered by Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a raid out of south Lebanon on July 12.
Israel and the United States have said they want to ensure that Hezbollah can no longer carry out raids and rocket attacks and that it is eventually disarmed under a UN resolution.
Israel said it had attacked Qana on Sunday because Hezbollah was launching rockets from that area.
An Israeli foreign ministry official, Gideon Meir, said: "We deeply regret the loss of any civilian life and especially when you talk about children who are innocent.
"One must understand the Hezbollah is using their own civilian population as human shields. The Israeli defence forces dropped leaflets and warned the civilian population to leave the place because the Hezbollah turned it into a war zone."
France and Britian condemned the attack.
The office of the French president, Jacques Chriac, said in a statement: "The president learnt with concern about the act of violence which cost the lives of numerous innocent victims, notably women and children in Qana.
"France condemns this unjustified action, which demonstrates more than ever the need for an immediate ceasefire without which there will only be other such incidents."
And Britain's foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, described the strikes as "absolutely dreadful" and "quite appalling".
"We have repeatedly urged Israel to act proportionately," she said.
Arab and Muslim leaders said international law had beeen violated and spoke of "crimes".
King Abdullah of Jordan said: "This criminal aggression is an ugly crime that has been committed by the Israeli forces in the city of Qana that is a gross violation of all international statutes."
Abdullah, a close US ally, repeated his call for an immediate ceasefire.
Iran, accused by Washington of backing Hezbollah, also condemned the raid.
"I think Israeli officials and some American ones should be tried for these sorts of crimes," said Hamid Reza Asefi, the foreign ministry spokesman.
"The Arab Republic of Egypt is highly disturbed and condemns the irresponsible Israeli attack on the Lebanese village of Qana, which led to the loss of innocent victims, most of which were women and children," a statement from the presidency said.
Egypt, which has already called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, stressed "the need for a serious international effort to issue an urgent Security Council resolution to stop military attacks immediately".
Aljazeera + Agencies
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Rice talks cancelled after deadly raid
Sunday 30 July 2006 4:26 AM GMT
Rice said she was "deeply saddened" by the bombing
Lebanon has cancelled a visit by Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, following an Israeli air raid in southern Lebanon which killed at least 50 people.
Emile Lahoud, the Lebanese president, told Aljazeera on Sunday that the air attack in Qana was a "disgrace" and that there was no chance of holding peace talks until a ceasefire was agreed.
"Israel's leaders think of nothing but destruction, they do not think of peace," he said, adding that the Lebanese cabinet would discuss whether to ask the United Nations Security Council to call for a ceasefire.
Fuad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, said that the bombing had targeted an innocent village and was an Israeli "war crime".
"There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now," Siniora said at a press conference.
Rice, who said she was "deeply saddened" Qana bombing, is currently in Israel but had been expected to visit Beirut during her Middle East trip to press for talks between leaders from Israel and Lebanon.
In Beirut, angry locals stormed the United Nations building in protest at the bombing in Qana, hurling stones and calling for the US ambassador for leave the city.
The US has faced mounting criticism from around the world for not calling for an immediate ceasefire in southern Lebanon and for apparently giving Israel a green light to press on with its offensive.
Up to 600 Lebanese are thought to have died in the Israeli offensive, while 51 Israelis have been killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks.
Rice's visit to Jerusalem came as France draws up a draft United Nations Security Council resolution that would call for an immediate truce between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shia group based in southern Lebanon, and prepare for a peace mission.
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, has dismissed Rice's visit, saying that the group would target cities in central Israel "if the barbaric aggression on our country and people continues".
Meanwhile, Israeli defence sources told Israel's Haaretz newspaper on Sunday that the Israeli army's general staff had received orders to accelerate its offensive on Hezbollah before the declaration of any ceasefire.
A draft resolution prepared by France proposes deploying up to 20,000 peacekeepers along Lebanon's borders with Israel and Syria.
The proposal stresses the need for "a permanent ceasefire and a lasting solution to the current crisis between Israel and Lebanon" while addressing
"the root causes that have given rise to the current crisis".
The conditions for a permanent ceasefire include a buffer zone stretching from the Blue Line - the UN-demarcated boundary that Israel withdrew behind in 2000 - to the Litani River, which was the northern border of Israel's occupation of Lebanon in 1982.
The buffer zone would be "free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Lebanese armed and security forces and of UN-mandated international forces," the draft says.
Other conditions include the release of the two Israeli soldiers whose abduction by Hezbollah sparked Israel's devastating military campaign and the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, which demands that Hezbollah be disarmed and that Lebanon extends its control to its southern border with Israel, where Hezbollah has de facto control.
Lebanon must also firm up its border "especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including in the Shebaa Farms area", the draft is reported to say.
Israel seized the Shebaa farms in the 1967 war and still occupies the area. Lebanon claims the region but the UN says it is Syrian, and Syria and Israel should negotiate its fate.
Finally, the draft calls for the international community to give financial and humanitarian aid to Lebanon.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, is to preside over a meeting on Monday of possible troop contributors, including the 25-member European Union, Turkey and other nations currently contributing to a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
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