Atul Aneja

Deliberate bombing, says Lebanon's Premier Fuad Saniora

  • Second atrocity in Lebanon
  • Ferocious battles at many locations

    DUBAI: Within days of killing scores of civilians in Qana, Israel has been accused of carrying out its second atrocity in Lebanon in the border village of Houla.

    Addressing Arab Foreign Ministers in Beirut on Monday morning, Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said an Israeli attack had killed 40 persons in Houla. "An hour ago, there was a horrific massacre in the village of Houla in which more than 40 martyrs were victims of deliberate bombing," he said.

    Interrupting his remarks several times to fight back tears and to wipe his eyes, Mr. Saniora accused Israel of indulging in "State terrorism". "If these horrific actions are not State terrorism then what is State terrorism?" He said Israeli strikes had taken "our country back decades. We are still in the middle of the shock."

    Corroborating Mr. Saniora's assertion, local Lebanese television stations had reported that about 40 persons had been buried under the rubble of houses that had collapsed on being hit during Israeli air strikes. The Israel army said it was investigating the allegation, but added that it had warned residents in Lebanon's southern villages to leave.

    During pre-dawn air strikes on Monday that killed civilians, Israeli warplanes flattened a house in the village of Kfar Tebnit, east of Sidon, killing four persons. Seconds before, seven persons died and five were wounded when Israeli jets bombed a three-storey house in Ghassaniyeh south of Sidon, security officials said.

    Houla has been the scene of heavy ground fighting recently. Hizbollah fighters have claimed to have killed four Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of the hamlet.

    Intense fighting

    Israeli soldiers and the Hizbollah were fighting ferocious battles at many locations close to the border. Milos Strugar, spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon that is deployed in south Lebanon, has said, "There has been no change in terms of territory. But there has been an intensification of exchanges of fire on the ground in different areas all along the border." He added that fighting had been intense around the badly hit village of Bint Jbeil and Taibe in the east. On Sunday, Hizbollah fighters fired a barrage of rockets that killed 15 Israelis, including 12 soldiers the largest numbers to be killed in Israel during a single day in the nearly month long conflict. Israel has been focusing on an area around the southern cities of Tyre and Sidon.

    U.N. differences

    On the diplomatic front, sharp differences persisted on the draft U.N. resolution proposed by France and the United States to bring fighting to a halt. Lebanon has already rejected the draft that calls for a "full cessation" of fighting, but not for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the country. Syria and Iran have dismissed the text, and the Arab League Foreign Ministers were likely to endorse the Lebanese position.