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IDF Begins to Question Cause of Explosion in Kfar Kana

by Hana Levi Julian Arutz Sheva July 31, 2006

An initial IDF inquiry has revealed that Israel may not have been to blame for the explosion that killed more than 50 civilians in the southern Lebanese village of Kafr Kana on Sunday.

Most of the world’s nations were in an uproar over an early Sunday attack on a cluster of buildings in Kafr Kana that reportedly killed 57 civilians, half of whom were children.

The condemnations came despite the fact that the IDF dropped leaflets into the village over the previous days, warning the residents to leave the war zone.

Israel initially took responsibility for the attack, since it was indeed carrying out strikes in the area where Hizbullah terrorists often store weapons caches in residential buildings. The terrorists also set up their rocket launchers between the buildings in areas with concentrated civilian populations.

Senior IDF officers told reporters at a news conference Sunday evening, however, that there is a contradiction between the time of the bombing and reports of the explosion. Israel Air Force Gen. Amir Eshel left open the possibility that Hizbullah terrorists blew up the building themselves, or that an unknown cause set off explosives which were stored in the structure.

Eshel explained that recorded information shows that Israeli Air Force planes bombed the building between midnight and 1:00 a.m., and that the next attack was at 7:30 a.m. and was up to 500 yards away. Eshel said reports of the explosion that caused the civilian deaths came around 8:00 a.m. “It is not clear what happened” between 1:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., he said.

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz told the Israeli daily Ma’ariv after a meeting with President Moshe Katzav that the military did not know that civilians remained in the village. Halutz explained that IDF intelligence equipment can detect missile launchers but not civilians, who apparently were inside buildings where aerial surveillance could not detect them.

“Had we known there were that many civilians inside, especially women and children, we certainly would not have attacked it,” a senior air force commander told Reuters.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday after the incident that Kafr Kana and environs are a “center for Katyusha firing on Kiryat Shmona and Afula… Dozens of Katyushas have been fired from there, and the terrorists hide there after firing the rockets.” Olmert emphasized that the residents had often been warned that they must leave the area.

“Israel does not have a policy of killing innocent people,” the Prime Minister added.
Brig.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan pointed out that Hizbullah terrorists have fired more than 150 rockets from the village since the beginning of the war.

Kafr Kana was the scene of a similar tragedy ten years ago in which 100 civilians were killed during Israel’s “Operation Grapes of Wrath,” also aimed at ending Katyusha attacks on northern Israeli communities.

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