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Israel intended to hit civilian targets

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, September 7, 2006

In a Letter to the Editor (“Roads in Lebanon, Sept.5), Professor Gellman insists that criticism of Israeli attacks on Lebanon “should be made on factual grounds and on solid evidence of policies, not on factual errors.”

I entirely agree.

Dismissing the suggestion that Israel bombed roads needed by escaping civilians, Professor Gellman writes, “Israel bombed only roads leading east and northeast from Lebanon in the direction of Syria. Roads leading North and Northwest were left open during the entire duration of the war.” The evidence which he cites is CNN footage of returning refugees, but that is surely insufficient proof.

The maps of UNIFIL and other agencies show where they have made fords and new roads, to avoid bombed roads. A CNN report of Aug. 15 described returning refugees driving through bomb craters and using a newly repaired bridge over the River Litani, north of Tyre.

International relief agencies on the ground report the cutting of 94 roads and the destruction of 80 bridges, scattered all over the country. Furthermore, 25 fuel stations in the South were targeted. Civilian transportation was clearly a target.

So too were electricity stations, irrigation canals, water pumping stations, and supermarkets. As early as July 20, the Catholic charity Caritas Lebanon said, “The Israeli Army is making the situation even worse for Lebanese civilians by targeting warehouses and factories.”

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the campaign as a whole, or of any particular tactics, it is surely disingenuous to insist that any suffering inflicted on the civilian population was collateral damage. The Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Force, Lt. Gen Dan Halutz, repeatedly stated that anything in Lebanon was a legitimate target.

“Nothing is safe [in Lebanon], as simple as that,” he said on July 13. Bombing was intended to effect political change, not just to hit Hezbollah directly.

David Harley

visiting professor of history

Sept. 5