Lebanese hospital: Number of casualties from Qana air strike is 28, not 52
IDF report: Hezbollah used civilians as human shields in Qana; strike would have been called off if we knew civilians were in building.
A Tyre hospital on Thursday revised the number of casualties resulting from Israel's air strike on the south Lebanese village of Qana from 52 down to 28.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch questioned the death toll in the Qana attack. The international group listed the names of 28 known dead from the attack and said that 13 others were missing and might still be buried under the rubble. The discrepancy was attributed to an assumption that only nine of the people who took shelter in the basement of the building survived, but it emerged that at least 22 escaped, the group said.
An Israel Defense Forces' inquiry on the bombing of a building in Qana that killed the 28 civilians admits a mistake but charges that Hezbollah guerrillas used civilians as shields for their rocket attacks, according to a statement released early Thursday.
Israel Air Force planes attacked an apartment house in Qana in the early hours of Sunday. The house collapsed, and rescue workers pulled the bodies of civilians, most of them women and children, out of the rubble. An international outcry led Israel to call a halt to its airstrikes in Lebanon for 48 hours and increased pressure on Israel to agree to a cease-fire in its three-week offensive against Hezbollah.
In a statement summarizing the inquiry report, the Israeli military said Israel did not know there were civilians in the building. "Had the information indicated that civilians were present ... the attack would not have been carried out," the statement said.
The bombing followed guidelines regarding attacking "suspicious structures" in villages where civilians have been warned to evacuate, the statement said, adding that Hezbollah forces "use civilian structures inside villages to store weaponry and hide in after launching rocket attacks." The statement said more than 150 rockets have been launched from Qana and the area around it since July 12, when the current conflict erupted.
As a result of the incident, the statement said, the guidelines would be evaluated and updated.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz apologized for the loss of civilian life but charged that Hezbollah "uses civilians as human shields and intentionally operates from within civilian villages and infrastructure."
Human Rights Watch called for an impartial international investigation of the incident.
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