IDF jets bombed a building in the Lebanese village of Qana and killed at least 50 civilians, mostly women and children. Israel claims that the village was used to launch Katyusha and longer-range rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, and thus was targeted. The civilians injured claimed Hezbollah had never used their town for assaults. The media is tightly controlled by Hezbollah, and the citizens it controls are deeply loyal to that faction. I have my doubts, especially given this article posted last night at Captain's Quarters (via AJ Strata), which is almost prophetic.
For the West, the killings make a cease fire more urgent, given the profound interest in alleviating the pressure of unpleasant headlines. For Israel, there is a possibility that the bombing will break the deep unity of the populace in fighting Hezbollah. A similar event effectively halted an operation in Lebanon 10 years ago. It would be a disaster fro Israel to stop fighting now, on their own, even if many Israeli leftists do not believe so.
For Hezbollah and Hamas, the bombing is a jackpot. In fact, the whole point of operating within civilian areas is to produce an event such as this. Hamas has already announced that they will retaliate, since Israel has now crossed "all red lines". This is nonsensical propaganda: Hamas sends teenagers to blow up civilians in pizza parlors, so we know they don't really need a reason for murderous terror attacks. Qana is simply the perfect excuse for them to resume such attacks. They can kill as many teenagers as they wish, yet the world will talk instead about the wrongs done by Israel. The world will forget that the IDF had warned villagers to leave that area in the preceding days, and simply won't care that Hezbollah brought the attack by ambushing Israeli soldiers, kidnapping two, and launching random rocket attacks intended to kill Israeli citizens.
Fortunately, immediately after the bombings the Israeli government apologized for the civilian deaths and commenced an investigation. Yet at the same time, they reiterated the need to fight Hezbollah, and put the responsibility for the deaths squarely on that illegal, private army's use of civilian areas for operations. This may defuse any political repercussions within Israel and allow operations against Hezbollah to continue.
Unfortunately, Secretary Rice immediately cancelled her trip to Beirut and will instead return to the U.S. She suggested a cease fire was urgent, indicating greater pressure on Israel, but also seemed willing to allow further Israeli operations.
What Qana will do to American plans is also uncertain. Indications are that a cease fire plan is imminent. While Israel should not be interested in a rushed cease fire, Carl in Jerusalem notes rumors that the U.S. had indicated its own interest in hostilities continuing, which would mean that Qana significantly changed American plans.
UPDATE: Via lgf, video from the IDF showing Hezbollah rockets being launched from behind a thre-story residential building in Qana, as well as the warning to leave the area issued to civilians days before.
Here's a map showing I think the location of Qana. Corrections or confirmations welcome.
UPDATE 2: At Judeoscope, proof that a few dozen dead Lebanese women and children are as valuable to Hezbollah as the damage their rockets have done to northern Israel (via Solomonia). As I said earlier, Hezbollah pretty much hit the jackpot.
Haaretz reports that the IDF believes the building didn't collapse until hours after the strike: "...the attack itself occurred near midnight, while reports of an explosion and the structure's collapse were only received at around 8:30 A.M."
Their story includes this nice little insight into the value of the repoerting that comes out of Hezbollah areas:
Arab media began reporting on the incident after dawn Sunday, approximately seven hours after the strike. The reports did not note, however, that the building collapsed a short time prior to Arab journalists' arrival on the scene.
While Israel is determined to continue their actions against Hezbollah, they have agreed to allow a 48-hour window for civilians in south Lebanon to evacuate. Hezbollah will probably prevent them from doing so. The more Qanas the better for them.
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