War etc

A war crime?

The front page of today’s Independent carries the headline “A WAR CRIME?”, and a picture of Ali Sha’ita and his mother, who were part of a civilian convoy that was attacked by Israeli helicopters after having been ordered to evacuate their home village of et-Tiri. The accompanying article by Robert Fisk costs £1 to read, which is approximately £1 more than I’m willing to pay to read Robert Fisk, but presumably the content isn’t dissimilar to what’s in the Times:

The narrow roads that meander through the valleys and undulating chalky hills east of Tyre were a place of terror and death yesterday as Israeli helicopters attacked civilian vehicles fleeing Israel’s 11-day onslaught in south Lebanon. Dr Ahmad Mrowe, director of the Jabal Amel hospital in Tyre, said: “Today is the day of the cars. It has been very bad.” By early evening, the Jabal Amel hospital alone had received 41 wounded, most of them serious, according to hospital sources, all thought to be civilians seeking refuge north of the Litani river after heeding Israeli warnings to leave the area.

Or what’s in the Guardian:

In their leaflet campaign, the Israelis have warned repeatedly they would consider minivans, trucks and motorcyles as targets. “The minivans are a target for Israel because they can take Katyusha rockets for Hizbullah, so they do not contemplate too long,” (a) UN official said. “They just shoot it.” In Tyre, south Lebanon’s main town and a stopping point on the flight to the north, the hospital received a steady flow of injured. By late afternoon there were three dead and 41 injured, two critically.”They are bombing them all in their cars,” said Ahmed Mrowe, the director of Jabal al-Amal hospital.

Or what’s in the Telegraph:

When Zein Zabad made it to the hospital on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, he thought that he and his family were safe. An Israeli helicopter pilot thought otherwise. Mr Zabad had just driven eight terrifying miles through a heavy Israeli barrage, trying to move his wife and four children to safety from their home in Mansouri, a village of orange groves on the Mediterranean coast. Only 40 yards from the gate his Nissan people carrier was engulfed in flames and he was blown out on to the road. The vehicle had been struck by a missile fired from an Apache attack helicopter. The Israeli army has said that its operations are directed only at Hizbollah terrorists, but it is hard to see how this claim squares with a missile attack on a civilian car near a clearly marked hospital. Aircraft have been dropping leaflets in the area, warning residents to leave. Now it appears that any vehicle – although almost all are probably used by civilians to flee – is a military target.

Norm linked recently to a piece by Jeff Weintraub in which he said that Hezbollah “is not in any meaningful sense a “resistance” movement with defensive or potentially valid goals. It is an effective and dedicated political, military, and terrorist organization, armed with thousands of rockets that it has shown itself willing and able to use against civilians throughout northern Israel (a straightforward war crime, by the way), which is determined to continue open-ended military conflict against Israel with the ultimate goal of Israel’s destruction”. I wouldn’t argue with any of this particularly, including the bit about it being a war crime to deliberately target civilians. Article 51 of the Geneva Convention says that “The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack” – in which case, is the question mark on the front page of the Independent really necessary?