The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday evening published its formal investigation regarding the aerial strike on Qana, in which 27 Lebanese civilians were killed. IDF sources state that their work assumption was that the building was emptied of civilians and was being used as a cover for terrorists.
"Had we known the building was occupied by civilians, we would not have attacked it," they said.
On Sunday, a building in Qana was bombed by the IDF and later collapsed. According to Lebanese claims, the building was being used as a shelter for south Lebanon refugees. The area incurred vast damages and rescue operations lasted for hours.
Pursuant to this, Defense Minister Amir Peretz instructed the IDF to conduct an immediate investigation of circumstances surrounding the incident. In the mean time, the IDF announced a 48 hour cessation of aerial attacks.
Findings confirm initial statements
The investigation reveals that, prior to the attack on the building housing the civilians, several other structures were attacked in the same area, because they served as terrorist infrastructure. Findings, which were presented to the Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz authenticated previous IDF statements regarding the attack: the building was struck at 00:25 Sunday by two bombs launched by the IAF. One of the bombs exploded and the other was apparently a dud.
IDF sources reported that the attack on the building was undertaken in accordance to the General Staff policy regarding buildings in those villages that serve as a source of rocket fire and whose residents have been warned to leave. "The policy was formed based on observation and study of terrorist behavior and the understanding that terrorists use civilian structures to store weapons and launch missiles," said a statement from the IDF spokesperson's office.
An IDF examination revealed that since the onset of the fighting, some 150 rockets had been launched from Qana and the surrounding areas. The investigation confirmed that residents of the village had received several warnings to evacuate the area, via both pamphlets and radio.
With the conclusion of the investigation, Lt. Gen. Halutz expressed, once again, his sorrow that civilians had been killed, among them children. He stated that "the war on terror makes cynical use of civilians as human shields and operates deliberately out of civilian infrastructures and communities, making it many times harder to conduct regular military operations and creating an operational and moral challenge."
The general emphasized that "Hizbullah places Lebanese civilians as a barrier between us and them, while the IDF places itself as a barrier between Israeli civilians and the terror of Hizbullah. This is the chief difference between us and Hizbullah."
Halutz instructed subordinates to examine and update IDF policy of opening fire on targets suspected of links to terror, so that this policy corresponds to the changing needs, criteria, and information in the field of operations.