Massacre in Sanctuary; Eyewitness
By Robert Fisk - 19th April, 1996
Qana-South Lebanon: the place where the Israeli shells killed 102
people, mostly women and children, taking refuge in a United Nations
headquarters on April 18, 1996.
Qana, southern Lebanon - It was a massacre. Not since Sabra and
Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this. The Lebanese
refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms
or legs missing, beheaded or disembowelled. There were well over a
hundred of them. A baby lay without a head. The Israeli shells had
scythed through them as they lay in the United Nations shelter,
believing that they were safe under the world's protection. Like the
Muslims of Srebrenica, the Muslims of Qana were wrong.
In front of a burning building of the UN's Fijian battalion
headquarters, a girl held a corpse in her arms, the body of a grey-
haired man whose eyes were staring at her, and she rocked the corpse
back and forth in her arms, keening and weeping and crying the same
words over and over: "My father, my father." A Fijian UN soldier stood
amid a sea of bodies and, without saying a word, held aloft the body
of a headless child.
"The Israelis have just told us they'll stop shelling the area," a UN
soldier said, shaking with anger. "Are we supposed to thank them?" In
the remains of a burning building - the conference room of the Fijian
UN headquarters - a pile of corpses was burning. The roof had crashed
in flames onto their bodies, cremating them in front of my eyes. When
I walked towards them, I slipped on a human hand...
Israel's slaughter of civilians in this terrible 10-day offensive -
206 by last night - has been so cavalier, so ferocious, that not a
Lebanese will forgive this massacre. There had been the ambulance
attacked on Saturday, the sisters killed in Yohmor the day before, the
2-year-old girl decapitated by an Israeli missile four days ago. And
earlier yesterday, the Israelis had slaughtered a family of 12 - the
youngest was a four- day-old baby - when Israeli helicopter pilots
fired missiles into their home.
Shortly afterwards, three Israeli jets dropped bombs only 250 metres
from a UN convoy on which I was travelling, blasting a house 30 feet
into the air in front of my eyes. Travelling back to Beirut to file my
report on the Qana massacre to the Independent last night, I found two
Israeli gunboats firing at the civilian cars on the river bridge north
Every foreign army comes to grief in Lebanon. The Sabra and Chatila
massacre of Palestinians by Israel's militia allies in 1982 doomed
Israel's 1982 invasion. Now the Israelis are stained again by the
bloodbath at Qana, the scruffy little Lebanese hill town where the
Lebanese believe Jesus turned water into wine.
The Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres may now wish to end this war.
But the Hizbollah are not likely to let him. Israel is back in the
Lebanese quagmire. Nor will the Arab world forget yesterday'a terrible
The blood of all the refugees ran quite literally in streams from the
shell-smashed UN compound restaurant in which the Shiite Muslims from
the hill villages of southern Lebanon - who had heeded Israel's order
to leave their homes - had pathetically sought shelter. Fijian and
French soldiers heaved another group of dead - they lay with their
arms tightly wrapped around each other - into blankets.
A French UN trooper muttered oaths to himself as he opened a bag in
which he was dropping feet, fingers, pieces of people's arms.
And as we walked through this obscenity, a swarm of people burst into
the compound. They had driven in wild convoys down from Tyre and began
to pull the blankets off the mutilated corpses of their mothers and
sons and daughters and to shriek "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great") and to
threaten the UN troops.
We had suddenly become not UN troops and journalists but Westerners,
Israel's allies, an object of hatred and venom. One bearded man with
fierce eyes stared at us, his face dark with fury. "You are
Americans," he screamed at us. "Americans are dogs. You did this.
Americans are dogs."
President Bill Clinton has allied himself with Israel in its war
against "terrorism" and the Lebanese, in their grief, had not
forgotten this. Israel's official expression of sorrow was rubbing
salt in their wounds. "I would like to be made into a bomb and blow
myself up amid the Israelis," one old man said.
As for the Hizbollah, which has repeatedly promised that Israelis will
pay for their killing of Lebanese civilians, its revenge cannot be
long in coming. Operation Grapes of Wrath may then turn out then to be
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