VIDEO - In a first reference to the Israel Air Force strike
in the southern Lebanese village of Qana, which killed at least 55 people, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his ministers during Sunday's cabinet meeting that
"from reports I have received, the village of Qana was used as a center for launching rockets at Kiryat Shmona and Afula."
"Hundreds of rockets have been fired from the village's surroundings and dozens have been fired from inside the village," he added.
Olmert was briefed on the serious incident by his military secretary Gad Shmani. He added that "Hizbullah is using civilians as a human shield."
"All the residents were warned and called to leave. There are hiding places for rockets inside the village, and the village itself constitutes a shelter for rocket launchers," the prime minister revealed.
He added that "no one gave an instruction to fire on civilians, and this doesn’t mean that any of us gave an order to fire at civilians. We have no policy of killing innocent civilians. For 18 days hundreds and thousands of missiles have been fired, aimed at murdering innocent civilians in the north."
|Injured evacuated (Video: Reuters)|
IDF officials said in response to the strike that "the incident in the village of Qana is the result of the criminal use made by Hizbullah of villages in Lebanon as a human shield."
A senior source added that "since the fighting in the north began we have identified many cases in which Hizbullah is preventing residents from leaving villages. It confronts them and the UN workers who are seeking to interfere. This is a clear trend, a cynical and inappropriate way, which unfortunately leads to grave results."
According to the source, also in the current incident in the village of Qana, like in previous incidents, the terrorists intentionally make their way to areas where civilians are residing in order to prevent the IDF from attacking them.
Sources in the IDF reported that alongside the serious incident and the investigation into the affair, the Air Force continues to carry out strikes at targets across Lebanon, including covering for the ground forces operating in the area of Tayyibah.
Injured evacuated (Photo: Reuters)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said during the government meeting that "the IDF's operation activity against the rocket alignment has accomplishments. The firing targets are becoming problematic for Hizbullah. The rocket launching map is changing. The more they advance, the more IDF units are improving their achievements."
Peretz told the ministers that the morale among the commanders and soldiers in Lebanon remained high. According to Peretz, the gear which the fighting in Lebanon had reached was the right gear.
"Therefore, in the current point in time it is important to continue operating," Peretz said.
He added that it is important to continue to let the fighting forces operate inside Lebanon.
"The IDF can take over any area, if and when needed. The intelligence collected by IDF soldiers during the operation activity contributed to making the operation more purposeful and efficient," he said.
Livni: Effective international force needed
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni briefed the ministers on the diplomatic layout to stop the fighting. According to Livni, the basis for the talks is the UN Security Council's Resolution 1559. Such a decision maintains that the Lebanese army will deploy on all the state's sovereign territory and military militias, including Hizbullah, will be disarmed.
The foreign minister told the ministers that there is currently a full understanding in the international community that the Lebanese government cannot fully realize Resolution 1559, and this is the Lebanese government's weakness.
This understanding is also accepted by the United States and European states. Therefore, the foreign minister said, the suggested solution depends on establishing an effective multinational force with enforcement authorities.
Livni quoted the remarks made by US President George W. Bush during a press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday. Bush had referred to the establishment of a multinational force according to clause seven of the UN Convention, which refers to an armed force with enforcement abilities.
Sources at the Foreign Ministry noted that the possibility of handing the Shebaa farms to Lebanon was not discussed in her briefing to the ministers.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report