Israel regrets Qana killings, but vows to press on
July 30, 2006, 15:45
Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, expressed "deep sorrow" over the bombing of a Lebanese village today that killed at least 54 civilians, including 37 children, but vowed the war against Hizbollah would go on.
Trying to stem international outrage over the attack on Qana, the Israeli military said it was unaware civilians were sheltering in the buildings it bombed and blamed Hizbollah fighters for using the area to fire rockets at the Jewish state.
The death toll and the television images coming out of the southern Lebanese village have intensified international pressure on Israel to accept an immediate ceasefire.
"I would like to express my deep sorrow at the death of innocent civilians," political sources quoted Olmert as telling cabinet ministers after the air raid. But Olmert said the offensive would continue.
"We will not blink in front of Hizbollah and we will not stop the offensive despite the difficult circumstances. It is the right thing to do," he said. The government promised an investigation into the bloodiest single attack during Israel's 19-day-old offensive on Hizbollah.
The raid has drawn parallels to Israeli shelling in April 1996 that killed more than 100 civilians sheltering at the base of UN peacekeepers in Qana during Israel's "Grapes of Wrath" bombing campaign against Hizbollah.
Israeli officials quickly went on the defensive. The army said it had warned civilians to leave days ago. Olmert ordered humanitarian aid be allowed to reach the village. Senior officials blamed Hizbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, for starting the war by abducting two Israeli soldiers and killing eight others in a cross-border raid on July 12.
"There is not one person whose heart is not crushed when children are killed," Justice Minister Haim Ramon told the cabinet, Army Radio reported. "But Israel is not the one that spilled the blood of the Lebanese children. Hizbollah is the one that spilled the blood."
Indeed, the war has huge popular backing in Israel, where more than 300 000 people in the country's north have fled Hizbollah rocket attacks and sought shelter further south. Many commentators call the offensive's Israel's most "just war" since the founding of the country in 1948.
At least 542 people have been killed in Lebanon in the war, although the health minister estimated the toll at 750 including unrecovered bodies. Fifty-one Israelis have been killed.
Tempers flare at peace rally; Hundreds pack Portage and Main
Sun Jul 30 2006
By Carol Sanders
Winnipeg Free Press
TEMPERS on both sides flared yesterday when protesters denouncing the attacks on Lebanon showed up for their publicized 1:30 p.m. rally on the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street only to find that Israeli-government supporters had already taken over the site.
Members of the Peace Alliance of Winnipeg and Canadian Arab Federation supporters arrived for the rally at Winnipeg's most famous landmark and found the Israeli-flag-waving pickets occupying the high-profile intersection.
"Occupiers never quit," said Z.K. Thiessen, carrying a banner for the Peace Alliance of Winnipeg. "We never attend their rallies," she said after being heckled by a woman in the pro-Israeli camp.
"The potential for conflict is great," said Diane Zack, a Jew who was there to protest with the peace group. "I had no idea the Zionists would choose to come and disrupt this rally."
Close to 200 people packed into the corner at the height of the demonstration.
In Halifax, hundreds also marched yesterday to condemn Prime Minister Stephen Harper's defence of Israel's attacks on Lebanon, waving placards and marching through the city's downtown chanting for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
The Peace Alliance of Winnipeg wanted to stage its protest by sculptor Leo Mol's Tree Children statue at Portage and Main, which was unveiled during the International Conference on War-Affected Children in 2000.
The latecomers, who outnumbered the Israeli supporters, ended up rallying at the edge of the corner and closer to Lombard Avenue, with the pro-Israeli pickets standing firm at the choicest spot in the middle.
There were 18 police officers there to keep the peace, along with their paddy wagon.
Patrol Sgt. Cam Jones said Winnipeg police take it to all demonstrations "just in case." They didn't need it yesterday, although there were a few times when it looked like the rally might turn ugly.
Officers intervened when individuals from both sides made incursions into each other's territory, gently but firmly telling them to calm down and get back to their group.
When an Israeli-flag-waving man went into the middle of a group on the pro-Arab side, police went with him and guided him back to his camp.
A man carrying a Peace Alliance banner who wanted to make room to unfurl it in front of the Israeli banner got too close and was directed to stay back.
Both sides took photographs of demonstrators on the opposing side and heckled each other.
A woman carrying a "Stop the Assault on Lebanon" sign who went over to talk to the Israeli group was dismissed.
"This lady should get a bomb on her house -- then see what she'd say," said Hartley Zelcer, referring to the sign-waving woman with the Peace Alliance.
Zelcer is one of 100 Winnipeggers planning a trip to Israel in five months to celebrate their children's bar and bat mitzvahs. He said the peace protesters have no idea what Israelis have suffered through with Hezbollah holed up in Lebanon next door and attacking them.
"We're not against the Lebanese," said Tahl East, who grew up on the Lebanon-Israel border and spent eight years of her childhood in bomb shelters on the "security belt" her father commanded for the Israeli army.
Her aunt, Shifra Tobiasch, said she's infuriated by the "propaganda" painting Israel as the villain, and the peace activists who believe it but don't know the truth.
"I lived there all my life," said Tobiasch, who retired with her Israeli police officer's pension to Canada 10 years ago and is now a Canadian citizen.
"The only people I'm angry at are the Israeli government," said Majeeda Harb, who fled Lebanon with her husband and six children a week ago on a Canadian-sponsored evacuation ship. "It was hard for my children," she said.
"I was scared," said her daughter, Chafica, who's going into Grade 5 at Inkster School. "I was in the shower and there was a bomb that exploded," said the 10-year-old.
"Innocent people in Lebanon are being killed," said her mother.
Caught in the middle of the demonstrations yesterday were 20-somethings Omar Kinnarath and his friend, Mia Feuer. The Muslim and the Jew were aghast at the level of animosity on both sides of the demonstration.
"I don't know what to make of this," said Feuer, a sculptor whose exhibit based "on this hell on the other side of the world" is opening Oct. 6 at Outworks Gallery.
"I wish it would end. Why can't we spend our energies on making love and making art?" she asked, apologizing if she sounded "too hippy."
"I'm here to rally for peace," Kinnarath said. "There's hate on both sides and it's stuff that's carrying on from back home," said the first-generation Canadian.
"That's got to stop," he said, gesturing toward the people who had to be separated from each other at Winnipeg's most famous landmark.
"There's no reason this party and this party can't come together," he said. "They're both chanting 'Peace.' "
IT'S DIFFICULT NOT TO AGREE WITH THIS LAST YOUNG COUPLE, DON'T YOU THINK? BUT HATRED RUNS DEEP.IT'S ALWAYS EASIER TO FIND REASONS NOT TO DO SOMETHING THAN TO DO SOMETHING...
AS JOHN LENNON SANG, IMAGINE...
--PHOTO CREDIT AND STORY, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS