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Are the Combatants in the War between Israel and Hezbollah Targeting Civilians? 

Don't Panic ... Your War Questions Answered

Yes.

Between July 12, when the current war started, and Aug. 11, Hezbollah fired approximately 3,500 rockets at Israel.

Hezbollah's rocket arsenal is overwhelmingly composed of unguided Katyusha rockets. Katyushas are point-and-shoot weapons with no on-board guidance system. They are essentially self-propelled artillery shells. The reason they have a Russian name is that they're based on the widely-copied World War II-era Soviet design.

The Soviets used Katyushas in bulk, firing hundreds at a time at Nazi tank and infantry concentrations. Katyushas are imprecise. They aren't aimed at such individual targets as tanks or cars. They are instead pointed in the general direction of such targets and fired in bulk. Kinda like carpet-bombing with artillery.

Though the Hezbos claim that some of the rockets they fire at Israel are aimed at military targets, that claim is complete and utter Hezbollshit. When Hezbos fire Katyushas, they point them at northern Israeli towns from launchers positioned six to 15 miles away in Lebanon. The Hezbos who launch them can't see the towns at which they're aiming the rockets. Even if they could see the towns, the Hezbos could not effectively adjust their aim. As I said, these weapons aren't aimed, they're pointed.

Therefore, a Katyusha pointed anywhere near civilians is a Katyusha pointed at civilians. Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel have hit people walking down the street. They've hit homes, schools and hospitals. According to an Aug. 10 report by Human Rights Watch, Hezbollah has launched several rockets armed with flesh-shredding shrapnel warheads at densely populated Israeli cities.

The purpose of the Katyusha is to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible and terrorize the rest; 38 Israeli civilians have been killed by Hezbollah rockets.

Israel has also targeted civilians.

More than 1,000 Lebanese civilians have been killed by Israeli attacks so far. Israel claims that it never deliberately targets civilians, but that Hezbollah puts Lebanese civilians in harm's way by operating near them.

Human Rights Watch, among others, asserts otherwise. In the same Aug. 10 report that damns Hezbollah for terrorizing Israeli civilians, HRW damns Israel for "consistently failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians" during dozens of attacks between July 12 and July 27 on areas with "no apparent military target."

The most well-known such incident was the July 30 air attack on a house in the Lebanese village of Qana that killed at least 28 people, 16 of whom were children.

At first, Israel claimed Hezbollah had been launching rockets from near the house. HRW interviewed civilian witnesses -- as well aid and rescue workers -- none of whom saw or found any evidence of Hezbollah rocket activity. On Aug. 2, an Israeli military spokesman recanted the claim that rockets were launched nearby.

The deadliest attack of the war on civilians was on the evening of Aug. 7, when Israeli jets hit some apartment buildings in Beirut. A six-story apartment building was flattened in the attack, and 40 people were killed.

Prior to the attack, and prior to several other attacks that targeted civilian areas, Israeli planes dropped leaflets warning the residents of the neighborhoods that they should flee before they were bombed. Fleeing is more easily said than done. Lebanon is not the US. It doesn't have more cars than people. Besides, among the first things Israel bombed when this war started were the key roads and bridges via which people could flee. Israel has also blockaded Lebanese ports, making vehicle fuel rare and expensive.

Fleeing has been no guarantee of safety, either. Several cars filled with fleeing families have been hit by Israeli aircraft. Last Friday night, a convoy of cars -- escorted by the Lebanese military and the Red Cross -- was hit by Israeli aircraft. Six people were killed and 30 wounded. Israel acknowledged that the convoy requested safe passage, but said permission was denied.

The UN's human rights commissioner has warned Israel and Hezbollah that they can be prosecuted for war crimes. Yeah, right.

E-mail Andisheh at andisheh@creativeloafing.com.

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