Severe reactions to an attack by the Israeli Air Force on the Lebanese town of Qana, located 16 km east of Tyre, has provoked widespread condemnation of Israel’s continuing military operation; and may even be a major ‘turning point’ in this 19 day old war. The air raid, occurring in the early Sunday morning hours, resulted in a basement shelter filled with refugees, many of them women and children, being hit by IAF bombs with more than 60 people reported killed and injured. As the bodies were continuously pulled out of the rubble, the angry outcry has resulted in a cancellation of a planned visit to Beirut by U.S. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice. Though Israeli military authorities reported that Qana had been used to launch Katyusha rockets into Israel, the resulting death and injury and of innocent civilians has created such a strong backlash against Israel that an immediate and unconditional ceasefire is now being demanded by world leaders, including Jordan’s King Abdullah, who called the attack “an ugly crime”.
Israel Defense Minister Amir Peretz has asked the IAF to investigate the cause of the attack and why this particular location (i.e. the shelter area) was attacked. This effort is not enough to placate an extremely agitated Lebanese populace who afterwards surrounded and broke into the U.N. Beirut headquarters, smashing everything they could lay their hands on, and waiving yellow Hezbollah flags, as well as shouting slogans tied to that organization.
The reverberations from this attack, called an international outrage by many, could well be Hezbollah’s “secret weapon” as they know that international public opinion is even more potent than their continuing to shoot their missiles into the Jewish State. Incidents such as this have always occurred during warfare; and a very similar one occurred in Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War when an American launched ‘smart bomb’ struck a shelter in central Baghdad, killing more than a hundred civilians. That incident, and the public outcry it created, resulted in an immediate scaling down of U.S. attacks on the Iraqi capital, and may have helped keep Saddam Hussein in power, even after his army was crushed.
Hezbollah has successfully used civilians to keep their enemies at bay, and even in the initial attacks on southern Beirut, Hezbollah had used heavily populated areas to launch missiles, as well as hide militiamen and arms. This may have also occurred in what will now be referred to as the ‘Qana massacre’. And regardless of the outcome of Israel’s investigation, the international condemnation pouring out, with the help of zealous news medias, will most likely result in even Ms. Rice and U.S. President Bush calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
Hezbollah, especially their leader Sheikh Nasrallah, couldn’t be more pleased, and are probably already making plans on how to exploit this event to the fullest. They even know that if an international peacekeeping force is sent to S. Lebanon (most likely composed of many American combat personnel, despite being stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan) will be to Hezbollah’s advantage, as a few well- orchestrated suicide terror attacks will make this force flee like the Americans did form Beirut in 1982. And Nasrallah also knows that he doesnâ€™t even have to fire any more of his Katyusha rockets into Israel, as the ‘missiles’ of anti- Israel public opinion have already been very successfully launched.