April 29, 1996 Volume 147, No. 18
QANA'S CHAMBER OF HORRORS
The Lebanese village of Qana is supposed to be the place where Christ changed water into wine. After last Thursday, however, Qana will be remembered not only for a miracle but also for a massacre. Lara Marlowe, TIME's Beirut bureau chief, was traveling in the area with a United Nations Interim Force convoy when Israeli artillery opened fire on the peacekeepers' compound at Qana. Her eyewitness report:
At 2:10 p.m. we had just left the village of Hinniyeh when we heard what sounded like outgoing Katyushas from the wadi beyond the next ridge. Minutes later we heard incoming artillery. As we continued down the road, a plea for help came over the military radio network from Qana, where the U.N.'s Fijian Battalion has its headquarters. "This is Fiji Batt," the radio crackled. "We have taken six rounds." The soldier was asking U.N. commanders to make the Israelis stop shelling.
Minutes passed, during which the air pressure fluctuated each time another shell exploded. Then the voice returned. "They have hit Fiji Batt headquarters...The rounds are coming in here now...We have been fired upon. We are being fired upon...We have casualties...One of our main buildings in Fiji Batt has been demolished." That was followed by a long silence as more minutes ticked by. Finally, the voice of a Lebanese army liaison officer came clear: "The people are dying here!" he shouted. "We hear the voice of death. Do you understand?"
We soon did, all too well. As dozens of ambulances raced past us back toward Tyre, we reached Fiji Batt's compound and saw bodies of Lebanese refugees lying in heaps two or three deep, burned hands and feet protruding from under blankets that dazed U.N. soldiers had tossed over them. Soldiers sprayed water on the smoking ruins of a conference hall where corpses were indistinguishable among the charcoal and ashes. In what was left of the officers' mess, only the lower walls and part of the roof had survived. Most of the men, women and children who had been huddled in this room did not. Their blood was everywhere. It splattered the edges of the ceiling. It dripped down the steps, gathering in puddles. It coated the boots of the peacekeepers who were attempting to sort through bodies in the hope that someone might still be alive. "Look at my shoes!" exclaimed a horrified Lebanese unifil official who was sobbing on the shoulder of a Swedish colleague. "I am standing in meat."
It was impossible to tell how many had died, though they were thought to number at least 100. Wearing rubber gloves, Fijian soldiers methodically scooped up body parts into large piles. Meanwhile, U.N. soldiers paced the parking lot collecting scraps of flesh in black plastic trash bags. In disbelief, one stunned peacekeeper hoisted the body of an infant; the child's head had been blown off. Nearby, a Lebanese woman embraced an old man whose shoulder had been almost
completely torn from his lifeless body. "My father, my father!" she wailed. At the top of his lungs, a Lebanese man cursed America for giving Israel the money and weapons to attack his country. And along the white tiles of the walkway where rescue workers were carrying out the bodies, there was a trail of scarlet footprints. A new memorial for Qana--no longer inscribed with water and wine but stained instead in blood.
Claiming its attacks were aimed at Hizballah, Israel made nearly 1,000 air raids and fired more than 15,000 artillery shells last week. So far however, the so-called surgical operation dubbed Grapes of Wrath has done little to thwart the guerillas.
Beirut Most of the 400,000 Lebanese displaced by Israel's attacks fled here; 5,000 sought refuge in U.N. compounds scattered in the south. Air strikes damaged the city's southern suburbs and two major power plants.
Sohmor, April 12 Israeli artillery bombards lower Bekaa Valley, killing nine civilians in this village, including a two-year-old girl and a 100-year-old man.
Tyre, April 13 Israeli aircraft fire on an ambulance south of the city, killing eight civilians including two women and four children.
Sidon, April 16-20 Israeli missiles strike Ein Helw Palestinian refugee camp, wounding four. Israeli gunboats bombard the coastal highway daily, shutting down traffic.
Nabatiyah, April 18 An Israeli F-16 bombs a house, killing 11 civilians, including seven children.
Qana, April 18 Responding to a Hizballah rocket and mortar attack, Israeli gunners fire artillery shells into a U.N. compound, killing more than an extimated 100 refugees sheltering there.