Haaretz reports: "Hezbollah on Friday struck deeper inside Israel than ever before, firing missiles which struck open fields near the town of Hadera, 75 kilometers (50 miles) south of the Lebanese border, police said. No injuries were reported."
I just read also, in the New York Times, that Israel extends strikes north of Beirut, hitting village: "At least 20 people were killed today in an Israeli rocket attack on a village near the Syrian border, according to Lebanese officials, who said most of the dead appeared to be farmers."
The attack came as Israel made a round of airstrikes whose effect was to tighten the blockade it has imposed on Lebanon since the conflict began more than three weeks ago.
Warplanes bombed four bridges north of Beirut, in the first strikes in the heartland of the country’s Christian populace, cutting off one of the main routes for the trickle of aid entering the country. At least five civilians were reported killed in the bridge attacks, and six others died in attacks elsewhere in and around the capital, news services said.
The Israeli military said that targets in Beirut included a Hezbollah bunker hidden under a soccer stadium, and that 30 targets were hit in southern Lebanon.
This photograph from the New York Times article, by Hussein Malla of the Associated Press, shows "Red Cross rescue workers carr[ying] the body of a man who was killed in an Israeli airstrike targeting a bridge that linked Beirut to northern Lebanon."
According to this story, then, Israeli airstrikes killed at least 31 people in Lebanon today. From reading these stories, it's not clear that all of them are civilians, or that the final number will actually be 31 dead, but let's take it as assumed that Israel is responsible for the violent deaths of quite a few civilians today in Lebanon, in addition to destroying bridges and other buildings. It's also not clear how careful the Israelis were in trying to avoid civilian deaths - did they know that the people they were about to kill were farm laborers, as Lebanese officials report? This is the continuation of the New York Times report:
The farming village where the rocket attack took place, El Qaa, lies at the northern tip of the Bekaa Valley in the country’s east. It is close to one of the country’s last accessible border crossings, and is about 10 miles from the town of Al Hermel, a Hezbollah stronghold.Perhaps the Israeli attack was intended to hit the border crossing and by mistake hit the village. Were the Israelis careful to make sure of their target? I don't think there's any way of knowing right now, and it's not much consolation to the families of the dead and wounded that Israel may not have intended to kill these particular people.
Lebanese officials told news services that the dead were farm laborers who were loading fruits and vegetables on trucks at the time of the attack. Ali Yaghi, a civil defense official, told The Associated Press that at least 23 people were killed and that more might be buried under the rubble. He said 11 workers were wounded, and a foreman on the farm said they were taken to Syria because Israeli airstrikes had blocked roads to local hospitals.
I'm asking these questions for a couple of reasons: one is to consider the questions of intention and carefulness. Is the IDF in fact being as careful as it claims it is? Does it in fact intend to avoid hitting civilians? (This is to exclude the question of whether it is possible for the IDF to be careful enough to avoid hitting civilians). Do the IDF commanders care about these questions? To answer them, one could look at statements by IDF spokesmen and commanders, and could also analyze (probably after the war is over) whether their actions fit their words.
At this point, I don't have the time to search for IDF statements, but Human Rights Watch has issued a report that says, "Statements from Israeli government officials and military leaders suggest that, at the very least, the IDF has blurred the distinction between civilians and combatants, arguing that only people associated with Hezbollah remain in southern Lebanon, so all are legitimate targets of attack. Under international law, however, only civilians directly participating in hostilities lose their immunity from attack. Many civilians have been unable to flee because they are sick, wounded, do not have the means to leave or are providing essential civil services."
Human Rights Watch presents evidence that Israeli leaders have blurred the distinction between Hizbollah combatants and civilians:
On July 17, for example, after IDF strikes on Beirut, the commander of the Israeli Air Force, Eliezer Shkedi, said, “in the center of Beirut there is an area which only terrorists enter into.” (Source: Amir Buchbut and Itamar Inbari, “IDF: Hezbollah Did Not Intercept an Israeli Aircraft,” available in Hebrew, as of July 28, 2006) The next day, the IDF deputy chief of staff, Moshe Kaplinski, when talking about the IDF’s destruction of Beirut’s Dahia neighborhood, said, “the hits were devastating, and this area, which was a Hezbollah symbol, became deserted rubble" (source: Hanan Greenberg, “Three Reserve Battalions Called Up," available in Hebrew as of July 28, 2006).These are incriminating statements - I remember reading Haim
On July 27, Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said that the Israeli air force should flatten villages before ground troops move in to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers fighting Hezbollah. Israel had given civilians ample time to leave southern Lebanon, he claimed, and therefore anyone remaining should be considered a supporter of Hezbollah. “All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah,” he said (source: BBC News Online, “Israel says world backs offensive” July 27, 2006).
Ramon's statement at the time, and being shocked by it.
I'm not going to enter into the question right now of whether Israel in fact is acting as HRW has charged, or whether it should change its tactics, but rather into the question of intention and how one's feelings can alter one's intentions, perhaps even unconsciously. I know that yesterday, when I heard about the eight Israeli civilians killed by Hizbollah rockets, I felt sad and angry, and really didn't care how many Lebanese, innocent or not, the Israeli army killed. When my feelings cooled down a bit, I began to care again, but to be honest, my feelings are really with Israelis and not with Lebanese.
My mind - my reason - tells me that I should consider carefully the charges made by Human Rights Watch, and not dismiss them out of hand. My sense of fairness and justice tells me that every person is made in the image of God, and that I should care for the lives of every human being, regardless of religion or nationality. But in this situation, it is very hard for me to follow my reason or my sense of justice, because my feelings - of fear and anger - overwhelm reason or justice. Perhaps this is what happened to Haim Ramon, who is after all the Justice Minister in the Israeli government - although since I can't read his mind, I really don't know.
If my feelings were not involved in this war, it is possible that it would be much easier for me to adhere to reason and my sense of justice. But it is very hard, given my emotional involvement, to view events coolly and dispassionately, and to give equal weight to the statements and actions of Israelis and Lebanese. I think I understand now what it means to be caught up in the "fog of war." The fog of war comprises both the moral confusion wrought by war as well as uncertainty about what is actually happening.