RAISING THE STAKES
APRIL 18, 1996
More than 75 people were killed in an Israeli attack on a UN facility in Lebanon. NewsHour coverage begins with two reports by Independent Television News on the attack and its aftermath.
TERRY LLOYD, ITN: Just three days ago, the families had fled the fighting in Southern Lebanon and moved from their homes and inside the United Nations compound. There they thought they were safe, surrounded by Fujian UN soldiers. The refugees had huddled together inside shipping containers as much from morale as necessity. Wrongly they assumed the UN flag would give them protection. This afternoon, almost a dozen Israeli shells ripped into the heart of the camp. One metal container packed with refugee families took a direct hit. Many of the 500 homeless people, children, women, and men had been slaughtered. The carnage was too much for members of the UN and war correspondents alike to bear. We were visiting the injured from previous Israeli attacks when the latest casualties arrived at Nadim Hospital in Tyre, close to where the shells had struck. Its doctors, surgeons, and nurses were neither ready nor able to cope with the shocking number of casualties or grotesque injuries. Within minutes, the treatment rooms were in chaos. Some had been treated for war wounds at the same hospital just days ago. Every available soldier was mobilized. The Lebanese army joined forces with the UN to help carry the injured and to offer what help they could. "My father, my father," wept this man, who could only wait in pain himself for news from inside the operating theater. More grief and frustration for another family man, and an appeal from one hysterical woman, "Let all the world what Israel is doing!" she screamed. "We were sitting together inside the containers," sobbed this man. "Twenty-three families lived there. They started shelling the edges and then hit the middle." Outside, grief turned to anger as people yelled out, "We are not members of Hezbollah. We are refugees!".
UNIDENTIFIED MAN ON STREET: --is attacking the children and the grown people, not somebody, this is not a mystery--is, is UN base where children and old people come to save themselves there.
TERRY LLOYD: Within an hour, the hospital could cope no more. Radio and television appeals had been made for more blood, but the staff were overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead, late-arriving victims were waved on to medical centers further afield. People were dying and begging for help, but the hospital could offer no more.
GABY RADO, ITN: In recognition of the scale of the tragedy in Lebanon, Israel played a part in the emergency operation which followed. Casualties from the UN camp were air-lifted to an Israeli hospital in Haifa, the injured victims finding themselves attended by doctors from the nation whose weapons caused such terrible bloodshed. The story emerging tonight was that Israel's gunners, who have been targeting Lebanon for a week, broke their own rules of engagement. They blasted off the five fatal shells in response to a katyusha rocket attack launched by Hezbollah 300 meters from the camp. The rules say artillery was not fire at targets within 500 meters of UN installations.
EHUD BARAK, Foreign Minister, Israel: It's an unfortunate mishap. We do really regret it. The circumstances are under investigation. Our forces have a clear-cut order just to shoot fire and reply to fire that is shot at them, and I don't know as of now what's really happened.
SHIMON PERES, Prime Minister, Israel: We didn't fire at a UN base. They fired something like 350 meters from it, and apparently there was a barrack or another building that was crowded with people that run away from other parts of Lebanon. That's it. We didn't fire on the uniformed forces. Clearly, we wouldn't like to see any child, any women, any person, either in Lebanon or elsewhere, losing their wife--their life, but Lebanon is a victim of the Hezbollah. It's a terrible organization, and since Shamashek, they decided to launch an attack against Israel and against the civilian life, hiding themselves behind the back of the civilian life in Lebanon, for the clear purpose to break the bonds of the peace and to stop the peace process.
GABY RADO: Earlier today, Israel sent tanks into a security zone in Southern Lebanon, the occupation of which is given by Hezbollah as the reason for its rocket attacks.