Israel's brutality against civilians in Lebanon

Wednesday, February 23, 2000 - 11:00

On February 7, Israel launched a devastating series of bombings against civilian areas in Lebanon, which injured 17 civilians and destroyed three major electrical power plants.

The Israeli air strikes followed a series of successful military actions by the Lebanese resistance which were directed solely against Israeli troops occupying Lebanese soil. Yet again, Israel chose to respond by attacking civilian areas.

The intention of Israel's latest attacks is to terrorise the Lebanese people and plunge the country into darkness. The Lebanese people have suffered for years without adequate electricity and Israel has repeatedly attacked Lebanon's power system in the past (last June, eight civilians were killed is such a raid).

These brutal acts are only the most recent Israeli government assaults on civilians in Lebanon. Israel has invaded Lebanon in 1978, 1982, 1993 and 1996. In these invasions, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. These invasions have included several of the most notorious massacres of recent decades. Israeli troops occupy at least 10% of the country, an area described as a "security zone".

In Israel-occupied Lebanon, thousands of civilians have been killed and thousands more brutalised and tortured. Hundreds of villages have been cut off from the rest of the country and Israel has stolen water and top soil.

Israel has occupied southern Lebanon since 1978 in defiance of the United Nations Security Council, including the United States. The council in 1978 unanimously demanded (resolution 425) that Israel withdraw its troops from Lebanon "forthwith" and without condition. For 22 years, Israel has ignored its obligations under UNSCR 425.

The Lebanese people have an absolute and unquestionable right to resist Israeli military occupation of their country. Moreover, Lebanese resistance against Israeli occupation forces is in furtherance of the demands of UNSCR 425. Israel describes all Lebanese resistance as "terrorism". The only way for the conflict in southern Lebanon to end is for Israel to abide by its obligations under resolution 425 and withdraw its occupation forces from Lebanon.

The invasion of 1996 was explicitly targeted against civilians, according to statements at that time by Israeli Prime Minister Peres. During the invasion, a rocket attack on an ambulance carrying civilians killed six, an attack on a house in upper Nabatiyya killed nine civilians, and 102 civilians were massacred at the UN compound at Qana, including scores of women and children.

In July 1993, Israel attacked Lebanon, killing more than 125 civilians. Nearly half a million people were forced to leave their homes, including nearly all of the inhabitants of Tyre, one of Lebanon's major cities.

Israel's invasion in 1982 caused 19,085 deaths and 31,915 wounded, overwhelmingly civilians. Half a million people were displaced by Israel's ferocious attack on cities, villages, homes and civilian infrastructure. The 1982 invasion culminated in the Israeli-coordinated massacre at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut in which at least 1500 unarmed civilians were systematically murdered.

In March 1978, Israel's invasion left more than 1000 Lebanese dead, including 81 massacred in Al-Abasiya, 31 massacred in Al-Khiyam and 29, mostly children, massacred in Kouneen. 260,000 civilians were displaced.

At least 21 Lebanese civilians kidnapped by Israel are being held in Israeli jails as hostages. Israel's Supreme Court ruled that they could be held as "bargaining chips". Israel also holds at least 161 Lebanese men, women and children hostage in its notorious El-Khiam prison and torture centre, without any access to family, doctors, lawyers or visits from the International Red Cross. More than 2000 Lebanese civilians have been held there, including hundreds of children. Fourteen hostages have died in detention. Brutal torture is common at El-Khiam.

Amnesty International condemned the direct attacks on civilians and civilian targets carried out by the Israel Air Force and called on the Israeli government to immediately cease further attacks. "Civilians all over Lebanon have been punished for attacks in south Lebanon on the Israel defence forces and its militia ally, the South Lebanon Army, by Hizbullah", AI said. "Israel's direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects violate fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. These require parties to an armed conflict to distinguish at all times between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives, and to direct their operations only against military objectives."

[Abridged from a report by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. E-mail <adc@adc.org> or visit <http://www.adc.org> for more information.]

From GLW issue 394