(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)
This morning, July 30, 2006, the IAF attacked missile launch sites in the area of the village of Qana, an area from which hundreds of missiles were launched towards the city of Nahariya and the communities in the western Galilee.
The IDF will defend the citizens of Israel from attacks by the Hizbullah and the responsibility for any civilian casualties rests with the Hizbullah who have turned the suburbs of Lebanon into a war front by firing missiles from within civilian areas.
Residents in this region and specifically the residents of Qana were warned several days in advance to leave the village. Eighteen Israeli civilians have been killed and over 400 have been wounded by these rocket attacks which have disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of Israeli citizens.
The IDF regrets any harm to uninvolved civilians, but this is the result of Hizbullah terrorist organization's contemptible use of Lebanese civilians as human shields.
IDF press conference following the Kafr Qana incident (July 30)
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IDF warns Lebanese civilians to evacuate villages (July 25):
"To all citizens south of the Litani River
Due to the terror activities being carried out against the State of Israel from within your villages and homes, the IDF is forced to respond immediately against these activities, even within your villages. For your safety! We call upon you to evacuate your villages and move north of the Litani River."
The State of Israel
"He who says he is protecting you,
is really robbing you."
Background of events
Qana has long been a hot-bed for Hizbullah activities against Israel. Since the beginning of the present conflict, the village has served as a shelter for escaping terrorists and a center of rocket attacks against Israel. Over 130 rockets have been launched from the vicinity of the village towards northern Israel. More than 50 rockets were launched from within the village itself.
Launchers are routinely situated in close proximity to residential buildings while carrying out their attacks against Israel. A regional HQ of Hizbullah was also located in the village, from which many terrorist activities were planned and carried out. Furthermore, weapons depots and logistics sites were located in the village itself, used as supply sources for Hizbullah.
In order to spare unnecessary injury of innocent civilians in the village, the IDF has taken a number of precautions aimed at protecting these civilians, including the aerial dispersal of fliers calling for their temporary relocation outside of the area. Thus, the civilian population in the village was warned and was requested to temporarily vacate the village.
The IDF does not target civilians. The IDF is carrying out a determined campaign to thwart Hizbullah terrorist attacks against Israel, in any and all forms, as well as destroy Hizbullah infrastructure that would otherwise allow it to continue these terrorist attacks the day after a cease-fire is reached.
The presence of civilians was not known to the IDF in light of the repeated warnings given to the village residents. The IDF would not have attacked this target, despite its value as a terrorist asset, had it known that the residents remained in the building. This, of course, is in direct contradiction to Hizbullah policy which purposely places its ammunition depots in residential buildings and hides its launchers in these same structures, using the civilian residents as unwilling human shields.
The death of civilians in Qana is a tragedy regardless of the specific circumstances of their death. The State of Israel and the IDF have expressed their deep and genuine sorrow over the loss of life of innocent civilians amidst the ongoing confrontation with the Hizbullah.
The IDF is still conducting an inquiry into the events in order to understand what exactly happened. Within this context, for instance, is the issue of the 7 hour gap between the bombing of the building and the time when the evacuation of the injured began.
While nothing can reasonably justify the death of civilians, it is nevertheless imperative to be reminded of the larger context in which this tragic event took place - the context of war. The IDF did not choose to begin this conflict. Hizbullah launched an unprovoked cross-border attack into Israeli territory, killing three IDF soldiers and taking two others hostage, followed by a constant barrage of rocket fire (close to 2,000) aimed intentionally against Israeli civilian population centers, in contradiction to every basic principle of civilized behavior.
As a result of this tragic event, the IDF has temporarily enacted self-imposed restrictions with regard to the targeting of structures in Lebanon. These operational limitations should not, however, be misinterpreted as a cease-fire. The IDF is still determined to achieve the military goals that are essential for bringing about the security to the residents of Israel’s northern border.