Lebanon is marking a national day of mourning following Sunday’s Israeli air strike in the town of Qana that killed about 57 civilians, mostly children. Israel has announced it will temporarily halt air strikes in southern Lebanon but its ground troops continue to fight in the south. The Lebanese government says the killings in Qana bring the death toll in Lebanon to about 750 since the war began 20 days ago. Israeli warplanes bombed the village of Qana at around 1 a.m. on Sunday. A missile hit a three-story building where relatives from two extended families were seeking refuge. As many as 57 died including 37 children. There were only eight survivors. The youngest of the dead was 10 months old. The oldest was 95. One person was in a wheelchair. Survivors said the family didn’t have enough money to evacuate to a safer area. Rescue workers were unable to reach the site for hours because Israeli warplanes continued to attack the area. No weapons were found in the building that was hit.
One of the survivors, Mohamad Shelhoub, spoke to reporters from his hospital bed in Tyre.
For Qana, history has repeated itself. In 1996, more than 106 villagers died after Israel bombed the UN compound where they were seeking refuge. Sunday’s attack was met by outcry from the around the world.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora accused Israel of committing war crimes and called for a ceasefire.
Hezbollah spokesperson Ibrahim Mosawi vowed revenge.
On Sunday the United States announced Israel would suspend air attacks for 48 hours in order to investigate the killings. But Israel is reserving the right to carry out attacks from the ground and to strike at suspected militants preparing to launch rockets. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman accused Hezbollah of possibly being responsible for the civilian deaths.
The Israeli military said that Qana had been targeted because Hizbullah had been using the village as a base from which to launch rockets. Two days before the Qana bombing Israel’s Justice Minister Haim Ramon said “All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah.” The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, also blamed Hezbollah.
At the United Nations, the UN Security Council passed a resolution expressing extreme shock and distress over the Qana bombing. The United States forced the council to water down its statement so that Israel was not openly criticized. Earlier today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States will seek a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire this week.
Secretary of State Rice was visiting Israel at the time of the bombing of Qana. She was scheduled to travel to Beirut but Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora warned her not to come until a cease-fire is in place.
In Beirut, over 5,000 Lebanese protesters stormed the United Nations compound in protest. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail was there.
Meanwhile in Iraq, the country’s top Shiite cleric — Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. has warned “If an immediate cease-fire in this Israeli aggression is not imposed, dire consequences will befall the region.’’
The Lebanese government says at least 750 people have died since the war began 20 days ago. Most of the dead have been civilians. Meanwhile 19 Israeli civilians as well as 33 soldiers have died. On Sunday, Hezbollah fired 140 rockets into northern Israel. Eight people were wounded including a correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Meanwhile an Israeli soldier named Amir Fester has been sentenced to 28 days in a military prison after he refused to fight in Lebanon.
International aid groups are continuing to try to reach trapped civilians. On Saturday, Israel rejected a plea from the United Nations for a 72-hour ceasefire to allow aid to be distributed. The UN food agency was then forced to cancel an aid convoy carrying medicines, flour, canned meat and vegetable oil to southern Lebanon because it did not have Israeli authorization. Mercycorps spokesperson Cassandra Nelson warned Southern Lebanon could face a public health epidemic.
As many as 2 million people rallied in Mexico City on Sunday to call for a full recount in the country’s disputed presidential election. Presidential runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged his supporters to camp out in the city’s streets until a recount occurs.
Within hours of the protest, people began setting up tents across the capital. Sunday’s rally was the third and largest protest organized by supporters of Lopez Obrador since the July 2nd election which he lost by about half of a percentage point.
In Iraq, the number of U.S. troops has increased to 127,000. The Financial Times reports the US administration has quietly reversed its goal of whittling down troop numbers in Iraq before the mid-term congressional elections in November. Earlier today an armed group wearing Iraqi national police uniforms kidnapped 25 workers at the offices of the “US-Iraqi Chamber of Trade” in central Baghdad.
Votes are being counted in the Democratic Republic of Congo a day after the country held its first multi-party elections in over 45 years. Final election results are not expected for several weeks.
Concern is growing within the White House that top members of the administration could be tried under the 1996 War Crimes Act. The law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment. The Washington Post is reporting that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need to protect administration officials and soldiers from being tried for war crimes.
The Bush administration is proposing a new law that could allow the government to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens and bar them from access to civilian courts. The draft legislation is intended to authorize the Pentagon to try detainees by military tribunal. But some legal experts are warning that the bill would also allow the military to indefinitely detain so-called enemy combatants. The bill defines enemy combatants as anyone “engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners who has committed an act that violates the law of war and this statute.” According to the Associated Press, the administration’s proposal would toss out several legal rights common in civilian and military courts, including barring hearsay evidence, guaranteeing “speedy trials” and granting a defendant access to evidence. The proposal also would allow defendants to be barred from their own trial and likely allow the submission of coerced testimony.
In Oakland, newly released documents show that the city’s police infiltrated the group Direct Action to Stop the War three years ago. Two undercover Oakland police officers managed to get themselves elected to leadership positions in an effort to influence a May 2003 anti-war protest. The undercover officers ended up spying on the protest organizers and even helped plan the route of the march.
In Seattle, police have arrested a man in connection with a fatal shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. The shooting left one person dead and five injured. Naveed Afzal Haq has been charged with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. During the shooting Haq reportedly shouted about his anger about Israel, the war in Lebanon and Iraq. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles condemned the shooting.