Due to constraints on accessing the Internets these days, I'm not on top of the news here - plus the fact that I can't watch more than a couple minutes of CNN without wanting to throw a brick through the TV, and, well, we're still paying on the damn thing so it's easier just to not watch.
Consequently I'm not on top of the new developments in the Mideast C-Section (like birth pangs only bloodier), and I only learned of the bombing in Qana last night.
(BTW, the comments that "Israeli officials called the attack a tragic mistake" makes me think of the "Mr. Neutron" episode of Monty Python:
Voice Over: And so the Great Powers and the people of Shanklin, Isle of Wight, drew their net in ever-tightening circles around the most dangerous threat to peace the world has ever faced. They bombed Cairo, Bangkok, Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Harrow, Hammersmith, Stepney, Wandsworth and Enfield... But always it was the wrong place.
[Cut to an area of smoking rubble. A van with the words 'US Air Force' on the side trundles through the rubble. It has a loudspeaker on the top of it.]
Loudspeaker: Sorry Enfield!... We apologize for any inconvenience caused by our bombing... sorry...
Life imitates art, I guess.)
Anyway, Qana... Qana... hmm, I seem to recall that name from somewhere:
The Shelling of Qana took place on April 18, 1996 in Qana, a village located southeast of Tyre, Lebanon. Amid heavy fighting between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hezbollah during "Operation Grapes of Wrath", a Fijian UNIFIL compound in the village was shelled by Israeli artillery. Around 800 Lebanese civilians had taken refuge there to escape the fighting, of whom 106 were killed and around 116 others injured. Four UNIFIL soldiers were also seriously injured.
And, suprise of suprises, the claim is made in both cases that Hezbollah was next door:
1996: Following the attack, Lt.-Gen. Amnon Shahak, Israel's chief of staff, at a press conference in Tel Aviv on April 18 defended the shelling: "I don't see any mistake in judgment… We fought Hezbollah there [in Qana], and when they fire on us, we will fire at them to defend ourselves… I don't know any other rules of the game, either for the army or for civilians..."
2006:Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret over the incident and said that residents have been warned to leave the area. Olmert said that Hezbollah used Qana to store and fire Katyusha rockets, and used the villagers as human shields.
Only problem with this, is that this article in Salon points out that Hezbollah, the military wing, anyway, stays as far away from civilians as possible:
So the analysts talking on cable news about Hezbollah "hiding within the civilian population" clearly have spent little time if any in the south Lebanon war zone and don't know what they're talking about. Hezbollah doesn't trust the civilian population and has worked very hard to evacuate as much of it as possible from the battlefield. And this is why they fight so well -- with no one to spy on them, they have lots of chances to take the Israel Defense Forces by surprise, as they have by continuing to fire rockets and punish every Israeli ground incursion.
The article makes the point that Hezbollah's POLITICAL wing is the one that is most often seen, and is what has infiltrated Lebanon's culture so deeply:
But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been.
And the ever-informative Juan Cole points out the difficulty of using military might exclusively to address the problem:
Hizbullah is a mass expression of subnationalism that has the loyalty of some 1.3 million highly connected and politically mobilized peasants and slum dwellers. Over a relatively compact area.
Where subnationalisms are organized by party-militias willing to use carbombings and other asymmetrical forms of warfare, they are extremely difficult, if not impossible to defeat militarily. It would take a World War II style crushing military defeat of these populations, with the willingness of the conqueror to suffer tens of thousands dead in troop casualties. Israel is not even in a position to risk such a thing, given its small population.
In other words, Hezbollah, unlike al-Qaeda, has a massive popular backing in Lebanon, and political negotiation is the only route to deal with the situation, failing resort to wholesale slaughter (though that hasn't stopped some from suggesting it as a solution).