News Release

Claims vs. Facts on Qana

Today, the Washington Post ran an op-ed headlined “The Rules of War,” by Moshe Yaalon, former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces and now a distinguished military fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.(Full article)

Yaalon was head of Israeli army intelligence when Israel bombed a civilian shelter in Qana in 1996. A civil suit in the United States, charging him with war crimes, is pending.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch issued a report, “Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon,” based on their investigations in Lebanon.

The following are quotes taken from each:

Yaalon: “Hoping to retain its high moral standards in the face of such a cynical enemy, Israel has made every effort to avoid harming civilians.”

HRW: “In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.”

Yaalon: “It is clear to any objective observer that Hezbollah is using Lebanese civilians as human shields. It builds its headquarters in densely populated areas, embeds its fighters in towns and villages, and deliberately places missiles in private homes, even constructing additions to existing structures specifically to house missile launchers.”

HRW: “Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack.”

Yaalon: “But at Qana, Hezbollah responded to Israel’s compassion with more cynical brutality. After launching missiles at Israel, the terrorists rushed inside a building. When Israel fired a precision-guided missile to strike at the terrorists, scores of civilians, including children, were killed.”

HRW: “Human Rights Watch researchers visited Qana on July 31, the day after the attack, and did not find any destroyed military equipment in or near the home. None of the dozens of international journalists, rescue workers, and international observers who visited Qana on July 30 and 31 reported seeing any evidence of Hezbollah military presence in or around the home around the time that it was hit. Rescue workers recovered no bodies of apparent Hezbollah fighters from in or near the building.”

The following are available for interviews:

PETER BOUCKAERT
NADIM HOURY
Bouckaert is head of the emergencies division of Human Rights Watch. Houry is Lebanon researcher for the group.

NOURA ERAKAT
Erakat is grassroots national organizer and legal advocate at the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. She has been working with the Center for Constitutional Rights as well as Qana survivors.

She said today: “Moshe Yaalon is currently facing a civil suit for war crimes in U.S. federal court because evidence suggests that the 1996 Israeli shelling of a UN compound in Qana that killed 106 civilians was deliberate and not an accident as he has claimed. He has asserted that civilian deaths are to be blamed on Hezbollah despite a 1996 UN investigation that found, ‘the pattern of impacts is inconsistent with a normal overshooting of the declared target by a few rounds.’ The UN investigation and the report on which it was based were never released due to intense political pressure from the U.S. and Israel.”

The legal complaint [in PDF] can be found here and here.
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167