Flashback 1996: Israeli Military Missiles Behead Babies, Dismember Qana Residents
Fawzaya Zrir, a small, frail woman in a scarf, simply walked up to the French Foreign Minister and began talking to him with an odd mixture of affection and anger. “For us, France is our mother and God is our father,” she said in a flight of rhetoric that might have been written by the Quai d’Orsay public relations men, who beamed happily at this fortunate encounter.
Then things began to go wrong. “We have lived through hell”, Mrs Zrir continued. “The people were chopped into pieces by the Israeli bombs. They bleed, these people. You should have seen the heads.”
At the French foreign minister’s right, a Lebanese softly translated the woman’s dreadful words. The PR men began to look uneasy. “We have lived here 40 years and now we are treated like animals”, the woman cried. “Do you know what the dogs did at night after the killings? They were hungry and I saw them in the ruins eating fingers and pieces of our people.”
The blood of all the refugees ran quite literally in streams from the shell-smashed UN compound restaurant in which the Shiite Muslims from the hill villages of southern Lebanon – who had heeded Israel’s order to leave their homes – had pathetically sought shelter. Fijian and French soldiers heaved another group of dead – they lay with their arms tightly wrapped around each other – into blankets.
A French UN trooper muttered oaths to himself as he opened a bag in which he was dropping feet, fingers, pieces of people’s arms. And as we walked through this obscenity, a swarm of people burst into the compound. They had driven in wild convoys down from Tyre and began to pull the blankets off the mutilated corpses of their mothers and sons and daughters and to shriek “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great”) and to threaten the UN troops.
Israel’s slaughter of civilians in this terrible 10-day offensive – 206 by last night – has been so cavalier, so ferocious, that not a Lebanese will forgive this massacre. There had been the ambulance attacked on Saturday, the sisters killed in Yohmor the day before, the 2-year-old girl decapitated by an Israeli missile four days ago. And earlier yesterday, the Israelis had slaughtered a family of 12 – the youngest was a four- day-old baby – when Israeli helicopter pilots fired missiles into their home.
Shortly afterwards, three Israeli jets dropped bombs only 250 metres from a UN convoy on which I was travelling, blasting a house 30 feet into the air in front of my eyes. Travelling back to Beirut to file my report on the Qana massacre to the Independent last night, I found two Israeli gunboats firing at the civilian cars on the river bridge north of Sidon.