Qana: after the massacre

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Abul Fadl

Shawwal 08, 1417 1997-02-16

Occupied Arab World

by Abul Fadl (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 25, No. 22, Shawwal, 1417)

On a recent visit to the southern Lebanese village of Qana one could not find even traces of joy. Instead, anger with the Israeli murderers and their American supporters was palpable on every street corner. The village is still draped in grief over the massacre perpetrated by Israeli gunners last April.

The mass grave, where the mostly charred and mangled remains of the victims are laid to rest, stands as another somber reminder of Israeli brutality against the people of South Lebanon. In the serenity of the bereaved village, the flapping of flags at the grave site performs a continuous requiem for the memory of the 120 innocent civilian victims. Despite the azure beauty of the sky, the magic of the horizon and the alluring attractiveness of the landscape, the smell of death and destruction still lingers in the air. It overwhelms visitors with pain, sadness and gloom.

The grisly memory of the Qana massacre still haunts 66-year old Kazim Muhammad Hammadah. From his house, located across the street from the headquarters of the Fijian contingent of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) where the victims had sought shelter from Israeli bombardment, Hammadah witnessed firsthand the carnage that took place on the afternoon of April 18, 1996. The ghastly, macabre scenes of that gruesome massacre were too heavy for his old, sensitive heart to bear. Since that time. he has suffered four nervous breakdowns and one heart attack.

In an interview with the Crescent International, Hammadah smoked one cigarette after another as he recalled the painful images and memories of the bloodbath which claimed the lives of scores of his relatives and friends. He said that Israel had made public its intention to bomb Qana a few hours before unleashing its artillery barrage. The warning was broadcast on a radio station belonging to the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a local proxy militia created by Israel to help its occupation army patrol its self-declared ‘security zone’ in South Lebanon.

At 1:55 pm on that inauspicious day, all hell broke loose. The blood of civilians flowed without mercy as ‘Israeli artillery lobbed some 90 shells from land and sea, ‘ Hammadah said. Standing at the front of his house, he became transfixed as he watched with horror artillery shells slamming into two UNIFIL warehouses where about 1,000 civilians, mostly women and children. had sought shelter. Yet, like their brethren in Bosnia who were deluded into believing that they could find protection and security in UN-designated safe havens, the refugees at the UN base in Qana paid a heavy price to find out that the blue helmets afforded Muslims neither protection nor safety from their enemy ‘ s brutality.

The injured victims and the remains of the dead were airlifted by local ambulances and UNIFIL helicopters to hospitals in Tyre and Sidon. However, the destroyed UN buildings and their surroundings were caked in mangled fragments of human flesh, blood. bones and clothes. Mr. Hammadah related that the stench of these fragments attracted stray dogs which ate from the flesh of the victims. The UN subsequently burnt the buildings to avoid potential health hazards.

‘More than a third of the victims are from Qana,’ Kamel Futuni, 67, the mukhtar (mayor) of Qana, told the Crescent International . ‘The remaining ones are from neighbouring villages such as Siddiqin, Hawsh and Hanaway.’ Futuni, who lost his cousin Hussein in the massacre, added that among the victims were also a number of Christian women and children.

The reaction of Israeli leaders to the news of the massacre did not leave any doubt that they were as hardened to human slaughter as butchers to sheep. Rather than expressing any sorrow or regret over the violent death of innocent civilians, Israeli leaders simply apologised to the UN peacekeepers for what they described as ‘human error’ or merely a ‘mistake’. If anything, this callousness provided another evidence that such human virtues as remorse, sorrow or regret over the violent death of innocent civilians have no place in the zionist psyche.

Hammadah dismissed as a brazen, outright lie the Israeli claims that the bombardment of the UNIFIL base was an ‘error’ or a ‘mistake’. He insisted that it was a deliberate, premeditated, cold-blooded massacre perpetrated by professional killers. The Israelis knew exactly what they were doing. He saw two Israeli planes monitoring the shelling of the UN base. ‘One hovered over the base and the other to the east of the base.’ He added that these planes took an active part in the bloodshed by ‘cutting off all the roads that link Qana with neighbouring villages.’

For his part, mayor Futuni categorically denied the Israeli allegation that the attack was a retaliation for the firing of Katyusha rockets by resistance fighters from a location 300 meters from the UNIFIL post. ‘No bombing whatsoever was fired from the village on the day of the massacre,’ he averred.

In Hammadah’s opinion Israel and the US are Tweedledum and Tweedledee: ‘Those who perpetrated the massacre are criminals. Israel and America accuse us of terrorism, while they are the real terrorists. They are "absolute evil," as Sayyid Musa al-Sadr [the leader of the Lebanese Shi’ite community and founder of the Amal Movement who disappeared in 1978 while on an official visit to Libya] has said."

Moreover the determination of the people of Qana to liberate their land has not been diminished by the pugnacious rhetoric and aggressive approach of the current Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mayor Futuni stoutly proclaimed ‘We do not bother about threats. This criminal Netanyahu stink [naten in Arabic]. We did not commit any aggression against them. Nor did we occupy their land. It is they who have come to occupy our land and throw us out of our homes?

He added: ‘We do not fear Israel We are not ready to leave our homes. . We will remain here steadfast.’

Hammadah, whose son Ali attained martyrdom on Ramadan 14 1415 AH (Feb. 14,1995) in a daring operation against the Israeli occupiers and their SLA minions near the villages of Taybeh and Qantarah, was equally intrepid and dauntless ‘People are not afraid of bombardment or of Israel,’ he said. ‘He who has time left from his life survives and he whose time is over dies.’

Like most of the bitter. bereaved population of South Lebanon, his wife, Hajjah Umm Muhammad spoke defiantly. ‘We do not know fear. Allah is the One who takes away the souls whenever He wants. If the bombardment resumes only the young children will leave. We the adults, will not leave [our village].’

Brimming with confidence and audacity she added: ‘All of us are in the Resistance. Children are in the Resistance. Women are in the Resistance. We will continue to resist until they get out of our homes and land.’

This unwavering spirit of resistance will turn Israel’s bitter ‘grapes’ of occupation and wrath into the sweet grapes of liberation and victory, insha’Allah.

Muslimedia - February 16-28, 1997

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