Arab Americans Mark Fourth Anniversary of Qana Massacre
Washington D.C., April 17 — Tomorrow, April 18, 2000, marks the fourth anniversary of the Qana Massacre, in which over one hundred civilians sheltering in a United Nations observer camp in southern Lebanon were killed by Israeli armed forces. Arab-Americans are commemorating the Massacre and remembering the victims through various events around the country, including a large rally in Dearborn, Michigan last Sunday. Over 400 people marched in this annual commemoration. Two of the victims were children from Dearborn who were visiting family in southern Lebanon, and their parents took part in the Dearborn march. As a result of the Massacre, Dearborn became a sister city to Qana. Last year a delegation from Dearborn went to Qana, and a delegation from Qana is expected in Dearborn in two weeks.
The Qana Massacre was the culmination of an Israeli assault on the civilian population of southern Lebanon in 1996 code-named “Operation Grapes of Wrath.” In the days leading up to the Massacre, numerous Lebanese civilians were killed by indiscriminate Israeli attacks on the towns and villages of southern Lebanon, and over three hundred thousand were forced to flee their homes to escape the bombing. At about 2:00 pm on April 18, 1996, Israeli occupation forces in Lebanon fired 36 heavy artillery shells at a compound of Fijian U.N. observers in which hundreds of Lebanese civilians from the nearby town of Qana where seeking shelter from the Israeli bombardments. At least 105 people, all unarmed civilians, were killed.
Famed British journalist Robert Fisk of The Independent, the first international reporter to arrive at Qana, said “”Blood ran in streams from the gates of the United Nations’ compound in which those poor people had taken refuge. They were the gates of hell. As I walked inside, I saw a young girl holding in her arms the body of a middle-aged man, rocking the corpse from side to side and weeping and crying over and over ‘my father, my father.‘ There were babies without heads, women without arms. I will never forget what I saw.”
Israel claimed that the attack was a mistake. However, Major-General Franklin van Kappen, who conducted an investigation for the United Nations into the massacre, reported to the Security Council that “While the possibility cannot be ruled out completely, it is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors.” Following its own investigation, Amnesty International stated that “Amnesty International believes that the IDF intentionally attacked the UN compound.” On June 7, 1997, the United Nations demanded that Israel pay $1.7 million in damages to the UN for the Qana Massacre.