Professor Heller’s remarks

by Avi Bell

Professor Heller insists that it is “excruciatingly clear” that the NYT sentence that reads “Mr. Kamaleldin, the Sreifa official, estimated that up to two-thirds of the town’s homes and buildings were demolished, leaving more than 43 people buried in the rubble” refers to casualties from the August 13 attack alone.

Perhaps it is clear to Professor Heller.

For the rest of us, since the two-thirds of the buildings were destroyed during the entire war, I would say that it should be plain that the remainder of the sentence also refers to casualties of the entire war.

In addition, this August 20 piece, which I mentioned earlier sums up the ENTIRE WAR’S DAMAGE in Srifa as 70 percent of the buildings and an estimated 45 dead (although it adds that total will probably be upped as new dead were discovered on August 18). This makes plain once again to all persons other than Professor Heller that the NYT totals of August 16 refer to then-estimates for the entire war.

Professor Heller accuses me of selective quoting by not completing the HRW sentence: “[t]he researchers saw no signs of Hezbollah military activity in the village, such as weapons, military equipment, or trenches” because “[t]hat statement is in no way inconsistent with the presence of Hezbollah fighters in Sreifa on July 31.”

If Professor Heller believes that HRW is capable of having seen plausible signs of Hezbollah presence in Sreifa on July 31, but decided not to mention it, but instead imply that Hezbollah was absent on the basis of HRW not seeing “weapons, military equipment, or trenches,” I must say that I sadly agree. Similarly, if Professor Heller says that when the report claims that HRW claims that “[a]t the sites visited by Human Rights Watch—Qana, Srifa, Tyre, and the southern suburbs of Beirut—on-site investigations did not identify any signs of military activity in the area attacked, such as trenches, destroyed rocket launchers, other military equipment, or dead or wounded fighters,” HRW was deliberately omitting the possibility that HRW saw unknown dead fighters and live known fighters, I sadly agree as well.

Most people would consider this deliberately misleading and inconsistent with HRW’s claim of Israeli attacks in violation of the rule of distinction (i.e., aimed at suspected civilians as such).

However, I take Professor Heller’s correction. It is possible that HRW’s report should be read not as making the plainly false claim of no live Hezbollah presence on July 31. It is possible the report should be read as making the statement that HRW investigators saw no “weapons, military equipment, or trenches,” and that the HRW investigators actually did see persons it believed or suspected were Hezbollah fighters and that it deliberately omitted this fact in its report, and instead attempted to mislead readers into believing that because they saw no “weapons, military equipment, or trenches,” there was no Hezbollah presence.

2 Responses

  1. Since Professor Bell now purports to speak for everyone — “the rest of us” — perhaps our readers would care to give their interpretation of the disputed sentence.

  2. I will not proffer an intepretation but rather ask readers to look at my comment under Professor Bell’s post, ‘NGOs and the south Lebanon Conflict’ (no. 3 above).

    Rather, I’m concerned about the proverbial ‘forests for the trees’ problem. As an antidote, I quote from portions of Amnesty International’s recent report (notes have been omitted):

    [….] Deliberate destruction or ‘collateral damage’?

    During more than four weeks of ground and aerial bombardment of Lebanon by the Israeli armed forces, the country’s infrastructure suffered destruction on a catastrophic scale. Israeli forces pounded buildings into the ground, reducing entire neighbourhoods to rubble and turning villages and towns into ghost towns, as their inhabitants fled the bombardments. Main roads, bridges and petrol stations were blown to bits. Entire families were killed in air strikes on their homes or in their vehicles while fleeing the aerial assaults on their villages. Scores lay buried beneath the rubble of their houses for weeks, as the Red Cross and other rescue workers were prevented from accessing the areas by continuing Israeli strikes. The hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who fled the bombardment now face the danger of unexploded munitions as they head home.

    The Israeli Air Force launched more than 7,000 air attacks on about 7,000 targets in Lebanon between 12 July and 14 August, while the Navy conducted an additional 2,500 bombardments.(1) The attacks, though widespread, particularly concentrated on certain areas. In addition to the human toll — an estimated 1,183 fatalities, about one third of whom have been children(2), 4,054 people injured and 970,000Lebanese people displaced(3) — the civilian infrastructure was severely damaged. The Lebanese government estimates that 31 “vital points” (such as airports, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities) have been completely or partially destroyed, as have around 80 bridges and 94 roads.(4) More than 25 fuel stations(5) and around 900 commercial enterprises were hit. The number of residential properties, offices and shops completely destroyed exceeds 30,000.(6) Two government hospitals — in Bint Jbeil and in Meis al-Jebel — were completely destroyed in Israeli attacks and three others were seriously damaged.(7)

    In a country of fewer than four million inhabitants, more than 25 per cent of them took to the roads as displaced persons. An estimated 500,000 people sought shelter in Beirut alone, many of them in parks and public spaces, without water or washing facilities.

    Amnesty International delegates in south Lebanon reported that in village after village the pattern was similar: the streets, especially main streets, were scarred with artillery craters along their length. In some cases cluster bomb impacts were identified. Houses were singled out for precision-guided missile attack and were destroyed, totally or partially, as a result. Business premises such as supermarkets or food stores and auto service stations and petrol stations were targeted, often with precision-guided munitions and artillery that started fires and destroyed their contents. With the electricity cut off and food and other supplies not coming into the villages, the destruction of supermarkets and petrol stations played a crucial role in forcing local residents to leave. The lack of fuel also stopped residents from getting water, as water pumps require electricity or fuel-fed generators.

    Israeli government spokespeople have insisted that they were targeting Hizbullah positions and support facilities, and that damage to civilian infrastructure was incidental or resulted from Hizbullah using the civilian population as a “human shield”. However, the pattern and scope of the attacks, as well as the number of civilian casualties and the amount of damage sustained, makes the justification ring hollow. The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of public works, power systems, civilian homes and industry was deliberate and an integral part of the military strategy, rather than “collateral damage” — incidental damage to civilians or civilian property resulting from targeting military objectives.

    Statements by Israeli military officials seem to confirm that the destruction of the infrastructure was indeed a goal of the military campaign. On 13 July, shortly after the air strikes began, the Israel Defence Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Dan Halutz noted that all Beirut could be included among the targets if Hizbullah rockets continued to hit northern Israel: “Nothing is safe [in Lebanon], as simple as that,”(8) he said. Three days later, according to the Jerusalem Post newspaper, a high ranking IDF officer threatened that Israel would destroy Lebanese power plants if Hizbullah fired long-range missiles at strategic installations in northern Israel.(9) On 24 July, at a briefing by a high-ranking Israeli Air Force officer, reporters were told that the IDF Chief of Staff had ordered the military to destroy 10 buildings in Beirut for every Katyusha rocket strike on Haifa.(10) His comments were later condemned by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.(11) According to the New York Times, the IDF Chief of Staff said the air strikes were aimed at keeping pressure on Lebanese officials, and delivering a message to the Lebanese government that they must take responsibility for Hizbullah’s actions. He called Hizbullah “a cancer” that Lebanon must get rid of, “because if they don’t their country will pay a very high price.” (12)

    The widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports, in addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population in an effort to get them to turn against Hizbullah. Israeli attacks did not diminish, nor did their pattern appear to change, even when it became clear that the victims of the bombardment were predominantly civilians, which was the case from the first days of the conflict.

    [….] Overbroad interpretations of what constitutes a military objective or military advantage are often used to justify attacks aimed at harming the economy of a state or demoralizing the civilian population. Such interpretations undermine civilian immunity. A legitimate military advantage cannot be one that is merely “a potential or indeterminate advantage”. If weakening the enemy population’s resolve to fight were considered a legitimate objective of armed forces, there would be no limit to war.

    Israel has launched widespread attacks against public civilian infrastructure, including power plants, bridges, main roads, seaports and Beirut’s international airport. Such objects are presumed to be civilian. Israeli officials told Amnesty International that the potential military use of certain items, such as electricity and fuel, renders them legitimate military targets. However, even if it could be argued that some of these objects could qualify as military objectives (because they serve a dual purpose), Israel is obligated to ensure that attacking these objects would not violate the principle of proportionality. For example, a road that can be used for military transport is still primarily civilian in nature. The military advantage anticipated from destroying the road must be measured against the likely effect on civilians, especially the most vulnerable, such as those requiring urgent medical attention. The same considerations apply to electricity and fuel, among other items.

    Similarly critical is the obligation that Israel take “constant care to spare civilians, the civilian population, civilian objects, from attack”. This requirement to take precautionary measures in launching attacks includes choosing only means and methods of attack “with a view to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects”.

    It is also forbidden to use starvation as a method of warfare, or to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. Some of the targets chosen — water pumping stations and supermarkets, for example — raise the possibility that Israel may have violated the prohibition against targeting objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.

    Israel has asserted that Hizbullah fighters have enmeshed themselves in the civilian population for the purpose of creating “human shields”. While the use of civilians to shield a combatant from attack is a war crime, under international humanitarian law such use does not release the opposing party from its obligations towards the protection of the civilian population.

    Many of the violations examined in this report are war crimes that give rise to individual criminal responsibility. They include directly attacking civilian objects and carrying out indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks. People against whom there is prima facie evidence of responsibility for the commission of these crimes are subject to criminal accountability anywhere in the world through the exercise of universal jurisdiction.

    [….] Amnesty International delegates visiting towns and villages in south Lebanon found that in village after village houses had been subject to heavy artillery shelling as well as having been destroyed by precision-guided, air-delivered munitions. The accuracy of these munitions and their trajectory were such that they struck one or more of the main support systems causing the building to collapse or partially collapse under its own weight. In Beirut a vast area of densely populated high-rise buildings, which were home to tens of thousands of people most of whom left apparently encouraged by Hizbullah for their own safety, was reduced to rubble by repeated air strikes.

    According to the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL), on 15 August, 80 per cent of the civilian houses had been destroyed in the village of Tayyabah, 50 per cent in the villages of Markaba and Qantarah, 30 per cent in Mais al-Jebel, 20 per cent in Hula, and 15 per cent in Talusha.(18) The following day, UNIFIL reported that in the village of Ghanduriyah 80 per cent of the civilian houses had been destroyed, 60 per cent in the village of Zibqin, 50 per cent in Jabal al-Butm and Bayyadah, 30 per cent in Bayt Leif, and 25 per cent in Kafra.(19)

    When Amnesty International delegates visited the town of Bint Jbeil, in the far south of the country, the centre of the city, where there had been a market and busy commercial streets leading from it, was devastated. Every building on the streets was destroyed, extensively damaged or beyond repair. The streets were strewn with the rubble and in that rubble was clear evidence of the cause of the damage, unexploded munitions, shrapnel and craters. The Israeli army seemed to have used every type of munition in its arsenal, with air-delivered munitions, artillery shelling and cluster bomb damage in evidence.

    [….] Wells, water mains, storage tanks, pumping stations and water treatment works have been destroyed throughout south Lebanon. The water service in the entire country has also been disrupted, as water pipes running beneath roads have been extensively damaged when the roads above have been bombed. The cost of the damage to water facilities was estimated by the Lebanese government to be more than US $70 million, as of 8 August.

    The damaged and destroyed water facilities include four wells at Fakr al-Din, as well as the pipes between the Fakr al-Din station and Wadi al-Rashid. Storage tanks in Sidon district, Bint Jbeil and al-Wazani were damaged or destroyed. Two pumping stations were destroyed in the Baalbak-al-Asseera region, as well as the water line between Sebaat and al-Dulbi. In the al-Litani area, the al-Qasimiyya channel, Channel 900 and the line from Joun to al-Awwali were hit.

    Such extensive damage to water facilities carries a grave risk of disease. Daniel Toole of the United Nations Children’s Fund, noted that the lack of clean water was becoming life-threatening in south Lebanon during the fighting, where Israel’s bombardment of roads and bridges has also cut off outside water supplies. “Sanitation is a big issue,” he said. “Without proper sanitation children will get diarrhoea, they will get sick and they will die.”

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also noted that lack of access to villages in the south meant remaining inhabitants had been largely without clean water. Some who had fled the border village of Rmeish told ICRC delegates that local people were drinking foul water from an irrigation ditch.

    As noted above, international humanitarian law seeks to protect objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. While water pipes might sustain collateral damage, it appears that storage tanks, pumping stations and water treatment plants have been directly targeted by Israeli forces, and it is difficult to understand how they could have been regarded as military objectives. Moreover, even if some objective were military, there is little evidence to suggest that Israel exercised the requisite level of precaution to take constant care to avoid the loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.

    [….] The attack on Lebanon’s largest power station at Jiyyeh had both an immediate adverse impact on the population, and long-term implications for the environment and the economy. Israeli forces bombed the Jiyyeh power station, about 25km south of Beirut, and its fuel tanks on 13 July and again on 15 July. The resulting fire, which burned for three weeks, coated the surrounding areas with a fine white dust of pulverized concrete and filled the air with black soot. In addition, that attack caused 15,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil to leak into the sea. The oil slick has contaminated more than 150km of the Lebanese coastline, and has spread north into Syrian waters. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has characterized it as one of the worst environmental disasters seen in the region. The cost of a comprehensive clean-up was estimated to be US $150 million, with work taking up to a year.

    “The recent oil spill off the coast of Lebanon is an environmental disaster, and may affect the livelihood, health and future prospect of Lebanon and the surrounding countries,” said Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner in charge of efforts to contain the damage.(22)

    According to the Lebanese environmental NGO Greenline: “The fuel tanks released a cloud of polyaromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and particulate matter, and all of these could cause cancer, respiratory problems and hormonal problems.”

    Achim Steiner, Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNEP said: “It is … a sad fact that the environment – so vividly underlined by the oil slick and the blackened, damaged coastline – is also a victim with all the repercussions for livelihoods, human health, economic development, ecosystems, fisheries, tourism and rare and endangered wildlife.”(23) The damage to two of the emerging sectors of the Lebanese economy — tourism, which was projected before the conflict to generate 12 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product this year, and commercial fishing — has not yet been assessed.

    The bombing of electricity transformers such as the one that was hit in Sidon on 12 August released polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the atmosphere. Lebanon still uses transformers that contain parts that were made with PCBs, despite an international ban on the substance. Greenpeace has warned that PCBs “are chemicals that are bio-accumulative and persistent so when you inhale them they stay in your body, and they cause cancer”.

    The bombing of factories that made products such as glass, foodstuffs and plastics also released these chemicals and chlorine into the atmosphere in central areas of Lebanon, potentially affecting up to two million people.(24)

    Under international humanitarian law, care must be taken to protect the environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage. Methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage are forbidden.

    [….] Roads and bridges, despite their use primarily by civilians, have been declared a target by the Israeli military. The extensive damage to the land transportation network during the first three weeks of bombing alone has been estimated by the Lebanese government at more than US $300 million. The Israeli government stated on 14 July that: “The roads in Lebanon are used to transport terrorists and weapons to the terror organizations operating from Lebanese territory against civilians in Israel.”(25) The Lebanese government’s list of roads damaged to 31 July indicates that repeated Israeli shelling had put nearly 100 roads largely out of commission, with some 200,000 square metres of road completely destroyed.

    Amnesty International’s delegates in Lebanon saw many roads hit by precision-guided munitions whose warheads created craters 4m — 5m deep and about 7m wide. This cratering has generally been justified as necessary to impede the movement of Hizbullah fighters, but more often than not the craters did not close the road, as they were to the side rather than in the middle of the road. Travel by car remained possible by simply driving around the craters, although it impeded trucks carrying supplies and aid.

    The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization warned that damage to roads and bridges interrupted the food supply chain in Lebanon, providing the recipe for “a major food crisis”. When the Israeli air force severed Lebanon’s last significant road link to Syria on 4 August, it stopped a convoy carrying 150 tonnes of relief and cut what the UN called its “umbilical cord” for aid supplies. Israel said it had destroyed the bridges along Lebanon’s main north-south coastal road to prevent Syria from rearming Hizbullah.

    The number of bridges destroyed has been put at about 80 by the Lebanese government, and 120 by the Council for Development and Reconstruction. Some bridges were repaired, only to be bombed again. On 7 August OCHA reported that Israeli forces had again bombed a temporary bridge over the Litani River, cutting off road access between Tyre, Sidon and Beirut. The original bridge had already been destroyed by Israeli strikes. As a result, Tyre, Lebanon’s fourth largest city with a population of more than 100,000 and sheltering additional tens of thousands more displaced people, was cut off from relief supplies.

    On 6 August, officials of UNIFIL again attempted to secure a go-ahead from the Israeli authorities to build a new temporary bridge over the Litani river to facilitate the transport of vital humanitarian supplies to the beleaguered residents of the south. Israel denied permission, warning that any new bridge would also be blown up. According to UN officials, the Israeli military said that UNIFIL engineers would themselves become a target if they attempted any repairs to the bridge. The Israeli military also warned that any movement south of the Litani River would be prohibited, with the exception of UNIFIL and Red Cross vehicles, and that any other moving object would be attacked. A Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) convoy transporting emergency medical supplies and fuel was stuck north of the Litani on 7 August, and had to pass four tonnes of supplies via a human chain over a distance of 500m. A tree trunk was used as a makeshift bridge.

    All of Lebanon’s airports have been attacked, some repeatedly, including Beirut’s international airport. The Beirut airport was one of the first targets to be struck; a first aerial attack turned the airport’s fuel tanks into fireballs, while a second wave left craters in the three main runways. While the central facilities, including the control tower, were spared, the airport was rendered inoperative. Two days later, according to CNN: “In an unusual deal that the United States helped broker, a runway at the Beirut airport was repaired long enough to enable six planes — one carrying former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati — to take off. Israeli forces soon after bombed the runway again.” The damage as of 31 July was estimated at US $55 million by the Lebanese government.

    An IDF statement issued on 14 July noted that the airport and its fuel tanks had been targeted because it “is used as a central hub for the transfer of weapons and supplies to Hizbullah”. However, the statement suggested that the attacks were also intended as part of the policy of making the Lebanese government “pay a high price” for hosting Hizbullah: “The Lebanese government is blatantly violating the resolution of the UN Security Council which calls, among other things, for the removal of the Hizbullah terrorist organization from the Lebanese border, and is therefore fully responsible for the current situation.

    [….] Hospitals in many parts of the country have sustained shelling damage, particularly in the south, but the main threat to their continued operation came from fuel shortages, road destruction and the ongoing blockade. Two government hospitals — in Bint Jbeil and in Meis al-Jebel — were completely destroyed in Israeli attacks and three others were seriously damaged.(26)

    The Lebanese Ministry of Public Health estimated that around 60 per cent of the country’s hospitals had ceased to function as of 12 August due to fuel shortages. Eight hospitals, including three in the southern suburbs of Beirut, were forced to close because bombs were falling around them daily.(27)

    One hospital, alleged by Israel to be a Hizbullah headquarters, was directly attacked. On 2 August, Israeli commandos in helicopters, supported by fighter planes and drones, raided al-Hikmah hospital in Baalbak in the eastern Bekaa valley. The Israeli army said they captured five Hizbullah members there. However, according to local residents, the five were not captured at the hospital but in the home of one of them.(28) They added that one of those seized local merchant Hassan Nasrallah, had been confused with the Hizbullah leader who has the same name. Reuters reported that the supporting air strikes killed 19 people, including four children. A statement from the IDF said that “Hezbollah weapons, computers, computer storage media, and a large amount of vital intelligence materials were seized. Ten terrorists were killed during the operation and five others were captured by Israeli forces. There were no IDF or civilian casualties.”

    There were reports that al-Hikmah hospital was subsequently razed in an air strike, but journalists who visited five days later found the building still standing, although they noted that “there is no question there was a fight. The rear of the hospital showed heavy damage, and much of it is pockmarked with bullets and small mortars. There are burned-out cars in the hospital parking lot, and a field just beyond is burned down to scorched grasses.”.(29)

    The hospital was reportedly financed by an Iranian charity with links to Hizbullah. A Hizbullah official in Beirut was cited as saying the hospital had been evacuated several days earlier as a precaution after Israeli forces attempted an earlier, similar operation.

    In the village of Tebnine, in South Lebanon, only hours before the ceasefire came into effect on 14 August, Israeli forces fired cluster bombs all around the government hospital, where hundreds of civilians were sheltering, damaging its outer walls. Residents of nearby villages, including elderly and disabled people who had not been able to reach the next main town of Tyre, had sought shelter there. The Israeli army had been shelling the surrounding of the hospital since the end of July and those sheltering in the hospital were afraid to leave.

    Hospitals are by nature “civilian objects” and may not be attacked unless they are being used for military purposes. If Hizbullah was indeed using the al-Hikmah hospital as a headquarters or base, then they rendered it subject to attack, although Israel would still have been under an obligation to take precautions to protect civilians and avoid the loss of life or injury to civilians.

    [….] Israeli air raids on 22 July hit several transmission stations used by Lebanese television and radio stations. These included Future TV, New TV, and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBCI), none of which had any links with Hizbullah, as well as the Hizbullah-backed al-Manar TV. They were also used by mobile phone networks. One LBCI official, Suleyman Shidiac, Chief Engineer at the relay station at Fatqa in the Kesrwan mountains north-east of Beirut, was killed and two others were injured.

    Israeli forces have repeatedly targeted Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station, for example with three strikes in as many days from 14 July. The transmitters and relay stations of several other Lebanese television stations have also been attacked. According to the IDF: “Al Manar has for many years served as the main tool for propaganda and incitement by Hezbollah, and has also helped the organization recruit people into its ranks. Hezbollah operates undisturbed from within Lebanon, and constitutes a severe terrorist threat to the people of Israel and to IDF soldiers.” An IDF official told Amnesty International delegates that al-Manar was being used for military communications, but failed to provide any evidence to support this claim when questioned.

    The fact that al-Manar television broadcasts propaganda in support of Hizbullah’s attacks against Israel does not render it a legitimate military objective. Only if the television station were being used to transmit orders to Hizbullah fighters or for other clearly military purposes could it be considered to be making “an effective contribution to military action”. Even then, Israel would need to take required precautions in attacking it and choose a manner aimed to avoid harm to civilians. Amnesty International is not aware of claims by Israel that the other stations were performing military functions.

    [….] Privately owned factories and businesses across the country — economic entities whose destruction could not be seen to offer a military advantage outweighing the damage to civilians — have also been subjected to a series of debilitating air strikes, dealing a further crippling blow to the shattered economy. The Lebanese government estimated that unemployment in the country has now reached an approximate figure of 75 per cent.(30)

    The production facilities of companies in key industrial sectors, including Liban Lait in Baalbak, the country’s largest dairy farm; the Maliban glass works in Ta’neil, Zahleh; the Sada al-Din plastics factory in Tyre; the Fine tissue paper mill in Kafr Jara, Sidon; the Tabara pharmaceutical plant in Showeifat, Aaliyah; the Transmed shipping warehouse on the outskirts of Beirut; and the Snow lumbermill in Showeifat, Aaliyah, have been disabled or completely destroyed. Industry minister Pierre Gemayel said that nearly two thirds of the industrial sector had been damaged, and at least 23 large factories and dozens of small and medium-sized factories had been bombed.

    Waji al-Bisri, acting head of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, estimated that US $200 million in direct damage was inflicted on the industrial sector, with dairy, cement, glass and prefab housing factories hit hardest.(31) Nearly all shops and small businesses close to the Israeli border have reportedly received direct hits from artillery and air strikes.

    Even before the latest attack, large-scale factories were a rarity in Lebanon. Maliban, the second largest glassworks in the Middle East, was an exception, with production reaching some 200 tonnes a day for sale around the region. It was one of five Bekaa factories destroyed. A journalist who visited the ruined factory floor said: “It’s impossible to discern what this space was used for. All that’s visible is churned-up soil with twisted metal, powdered glass and wrecked machinery. It is possible to discern the cause of the disruption, though: four distinct craters have been gouged out of the factory floor.”(32)

    One of the plant managers said: “The planes came around 12:45 so most people were at lunch, fortunately. Two people were killed, both Indians, and two injured. If they had come an hour earlier or later it would have been a massacre… they even destroyed the workers’ residence.”(33)

    The Liban Lait dairy farm and plant in the Bekaa valley, the leading producer of milk and dairy products in Lebanon, was completely destroyed in an aerial attack on 17 July. According to a local dairy farmer, the dairy factory was hit at 3am by a barrage of missiles, and the plant was completely destroyed. The dairy, whose products were distributed all over the country, employed about 400 local staff. At least 1,500 Bekaa residents have reportedly lost their source of livelihood.

    According to the Catholic charity Caritas in Lebanon: “The Israeli Army is making the situation even worse for Lebanese civilians by targeting warehouses and factories. In fact, food storage houses in particular have become the target.”(34)

    Amnesty International’s delegates noted numerous attacks on commercial outlets such as supermarkets and automotive repair outlets. They found that supermarkets were targeted almost certainly with the same type of munition as aimed at houses, but seemingly delivered via a higher trajectory in order to inflict most damage to their interiors and to the products stored in them. In some cases, supermarkets were set on fire. There were similar attacks on automotive repair outlets, leading to fires. There was no evidence that such fires were caused by stored munitions. Shrapnel, casings and assorted debris indicated a common pattern of destruction in all the places visited. The destruction of supermarkets, often the single initial attack on a town or village, seems to have been intended to hasten the departure of the residents. The reasons behind the destruction of auto/electro/mechanic outlets remain the subject of speculation.

    [….] “Any vehicle of any kind travelling south of the Litani River will be bombarded, on suspicion of transporting rockets, military equipment and terrorists.”

    —leaflet addressed to “the Lebanese people”, signed the “State of Israel”, 7 August 2006(35)

    Israel incapacitated Beirut’s airports, bombarded most of the country’s bridges and arterial roads, and imposed a naval and air blockade. Access to the south of the country even for humanitarian agencies, was severely disrupted. With land routes cut, the naval blockade made bringing aid shipments in by sea impossible without military approval, which proved extremely difficult to secure. An ICRC ship full of supplies destined for Tyre was “red-lighted” for several days before being allowed to dock on 12 August. Israel claims that the blockade was necessary to cut off weapons and supplies to Hizbullah.

    “The time for improved access is long overdue,” insisted ICRC head Jakob Kellenberger on 11 August. “Even life-saving, emergency evacuations so desperately needed are, at best, delayed for days. We also face enormous obstacles to bringing in aid convoys loaded with essential foodstuffs, water and medicines for trapped civilians.”

    During the conflict, around 100,000 civilians were trapped in southern Lebanon, afraid to flee following Israeli threats to target all moving vehicles, and in light of Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon’s widely reported remark: “All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah.” Some were unable to move because of their age or disability, or simply because they had no access to transport. Residents were rapidly running out of food, water and medicines, and the ICRC reported that those who had managed to escape the region were arriving at aid stations in increasingly desperate conditions.

    By 13 August, according to the Associated Press: “Aid convoys were stuck in ports or at warehouses because Israel refused to guarantee their safety on the roads. Thousands of people trapped in southern villages were believed to have run out of food and medicine and were drinking unsafe water.”

    A few days earlier, the UN’s Jan Egeland had warned that fuel supplies would run out within days, paralysing hospitals and shutting down electricity across the country. “The fuel situation is the single most worrying humanitarian crisis at the moment,” he said. “If there’s one thing that will be the most critical – even more critical than food – over the next days and weeks, it’s fuel.” At the time, two tankers with 87,000 tonnes of fuel oil and diesel were docked outside of Israel’s naval blockade off Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast, but they had refused to bring the supplies in without a written guarantee of safety.

    Due to the incapacitation of electricity supply stations, hospitals and other health centres were relying on fuel to run generators. Power is essential to run operating theatres, life-saving equipment including incubators for newborns, and refrigeration for vaccines and treatments including insulin. It is also essential for safe water provision and hygiene.

    Even north of the Litani river, provision of much-needed food and medical assistance was difficult to coordinate. Damage to roads and bridges by bombardment necessitated taking lengthy detours along minor roads or dirt tracks, through which big trucks can only pass with difficulty.

    While blockades are not prohibited per se by international humanitarian law, they must not prevent foodstuffs and other essential supplies from reaching the civilian population. The parties to the conflict may not deny consent to relief operations on arbitrary grounds, and can only control the content and delivery of humanitarian aid to the extent necessary to ensure that aid convoys are not being used, for example, for military purposes. [….]

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