Barrister Osama Daneshyar overviews the atrocities of the 1996 war on Lebanon.

Lebanon is a country whose beauty is unmatched throughout the Middle East. An area of outstanding beauty is the south of the country with its flowing mountain streams and large numbers of orange groves. This breathtaking scenery has not however been enjoyed by many Lebanese because, since 1978, Israel has occupied an area of Lebanon, south of the Litani river which makes up at least 30% of the south of the country and 10% of the total land area of Lebanon. This section of Lebanon has remained under Israeli occupation despite the Israeli army retreat from the rest of the country in 1985, and UN resolution #425 ordering Israeli forces to withdraw from Lebanon. In this context many argue that the people of Lebanon and Israel have been in a perpetual state of war, since the occupation. Certainly Israeli rhetoric and military aggression perpetuate this contention.

The roots of Islamic resistance.
The history of confrontation between Israel and the people of Lebanon stems from the Israeli invasions in 1978 and 1982. In March 1978, Israel launched what it called the Litani Operation referred to above. It resulted in the killing of over a thousand civilians. The United Nations’ Security Council reacted by issuing two resolutions #425 and #426. The first called for Israel to leave all Lebanese territory – something it has not done until today. The second established UNIFIL, to oversee this process. UNIFIL are still stationed in Lebanon today.

In June 1982, in Operation Galilee, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon in order to crush the PLO presence there, and force it to remove itself from Lebanon. Further to that, the invasion of Lebanon should have been nothing more than the routine annexation of another part of the locality, just like the Golan Heights and the West Bank . The Zionist vision of Greater Israel extending from the Nile in the West to Medina in the East would be one small but significant step, closer. During this operation, 18,000 civilians were killed and over 30,000 reported injured.

The invasions of Lebanon were a spur which shaped the history of the Middle East in a manner few expected. Israeli hegemony in the region was always a foregone conclusion, backed by an enormous and regionally most technically advanced military machine, and supported by the most prominent players in the international community. Instead, what began was a resistance movement different to the secular army resistance of states like Egypt, and organisations like the PLO. Born in 1982 out of a deeply secularised society a group of local fighters began the Islamic resistance movement which eventually developed as the most potent fighting force in the region, that is Hizbollah – in English, ‘the Party of Allah.’ The Islamic Resistance Movement has since Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 killed more Israeli soldiers than any Arab army. This statistic is even more impressive when one takes into account the fact that, unlike the failed Arab armies who performed so badly in four wars against the Zionist State, Hizbollah have neither the tanks nor the artillery. Their only weapons are AK47 machine guns, hand held tank rocket launchers and most important of all their faith in Allah (SWT) and the knowledge that they are in the right.

These Lions of the Desert yearn for martyrdom and in seeking their goal have consistently killed over 20 Israeli soldiers per annum. This has so demoralised the Israeli Army that its soldiers no longer have the desire to serve in South Lebanon and many have been driven into a state of mental disorder. Several Israeli governments have attempted to combat this hegemony by various methods.

The iron fist of Israel
In 1985-1986 they thought of an iron fist policy. This policy was basically that of going into Lebanese villages and massacring the inhabitants. Zrehria and Ma’arakeh bear witness to Israel’s war crimes against the people of South Lebanon. In 1993 the administration of that great “Lover of Peace” Yitzak Rabin thought of ‘Operation Accountability’, also known as the Seven Day War. This policy was planned to force Hizbollah out of South Lebanon by bombarding the area north of Israel’s zone of occupation and hoping that people who lose their homes would turn against the resistance movement. The operation was only successful in achieving what Israelis do best, killing innocent civilians. While Western Countries and the Zionist controlled media applauded the behaviour of their “champions of freedom and democracy” in a barbaric Arab world as they had a right to protect themselves from “terrorist” attacks the reality was that it was the Israeli army that was launching acts of terror against the local civilian population. While the Israeli army was shelling civilian areas indeterminately, targeting ambulances, destroying life and property. It was Hizbollah that was treating the sick and looking after the refugees flocking to Beirut, feeding them and giving them shelter. After seven days of bombardment the standing of Hizbollah amongst the population of the South Lebanese villages increased contrary to the objectives of the Israeli government. Therefore they were forced to retreat once more and agree to a cease-fire, the terms of which were as follows: 1. Hizbollah fighters were free to continue to launch attacks against Israeli troops in South Lebanon. 2. Neither the Israeli army nor the Islamic Resistance were to launch any attacks on civilian targets.

The agreement of August 1993 showed the futility of the Seven Day War that Israel had launched and rather than relieving the pressure on its soldiers it allowed the resistance of the Islamic Movement to continue with greater vigour which was shown by an operation carried out by Hizbollah on 13th August 1993, near Shabeen, which resulted in the hunting down of thirteen of the Zionist troops occupying South Lebanon.

The cease-fire terms were proposed by Israel and forced through by the USA. Despite this fact the Israelis failed to adhere to their own cease-fire terms and continued to shell civilian areas of South Lebanon. A typical example was when, in retaliation to an attack on one of their army patrols in South Lebanon in October 1994, the Zionists retaliated in the only way they know how, shelling Southern villages using bombs packed with nails. These bombs are designed to shower nails through a wide area killing as many people as possible. This type of weapon was regarded by the United Nations as so abhorrent that they banned it under the Geneva Convention which regulates the behaviour of armies while at war. However, such details have never stood in the way of Israeli war criminals who have shown no respect to the rule of international law, or morality for over forty years. Whilst the UN has condemned Israel by a multitude of resolutions, it has in fact supported Israel by failing to carry out either any punitive or pre-emptory measures to stop its abuses of international law.

Operation Grapes of Wrath
The situation in South Lebanon remained unchanged for two years with Israel’s continued occupation of South Lebanon in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution #425 However Israel’s reply to this operation was again against civilian targets. This remained the norm until April 1996, when Hizbollah were forced to abandon their policy of not shelling villages in Northern Israel.

On 4th April 1996, the Zionist army launched another terrorist attack on Southern Lebanon killing two Lebanese civil defence workers, who were repairing the water supply, in addition to two children. Again the Zionists tried to excuse this latest act of terror by saying it was an accident. However, the excuse of accidents was a lame one, since this was the latest of many “accidents” that have taken place since the August 1993 cease-fire. In retaliation the Islamic Resistance Movement launched a rocket attack on Northern Israel.

This was the excuse that the Israeli government had needed to put into action the plan agreed with the US and UK governments at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit which was rubber stamped by the Arab governments. On 12th April Shimon Peres, the Israeli Prime Minister and incidentally the brother-in-law of Boutros Boutros Ghali (the UN Secretary General) decided to launch Operation Grapes of Wrath. The official reason given was to protect Northern Israel from rocket attacks from Hizbollah “Terrorists” . How far from the truth that was. Israel, the US and the UK had other objectives, ones which were laid down by Sharm el-Sheikh, the terms of which can be summarised as follows:

  1. Israel’s Security had to be reinforced by eliminating all those who oppose it including Hizbollah. It was in this context that the issue of using pre-emptive strikes was raised by the countries at the conference, against rogue states and elements. 2. Lebanon and Syria had to be forced to sign a surrender document as the PLO and Jordan had done, to legitimise the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon and the Golan Heights.

The plan of action to be followed in achieving these objectives was as follows:

  1. Destroy South Lebanon, making the support of the Southern Lebanese for Hizbollah an expensive one and hope that they will turn away from the resistance. 2. Drive a wedge between the Lebanese government and the Islamic Resistance by destroying Lebanon’s newly rebuilt infrastructure, an example of which was the attack on Beirut power stations. when? 3. Once the Lebanese government is forced to abandon the resistance movement and Resolution #425, force it to sign a surrender treaty to the exclusion of Syria. 4. Once Syria is left in isolation, force it to accept that the Golan Heights, captured in 1967 and annexed in the 1980’s, will never be surrendered by Greater Israel. The choice would be simple part of Syria peacefully by signing a deed of transfer rather than be bombed into submission. 5. Once Syria has signed the Surrender and abandoned its demand for the upholding of UN Resolutions, which the US and UK had allowed to be passed through the Security Council; the rest of the Arab world which has hitherto behaved as shy prostitutes can also become part of The Greater Israel. -To the lay observer this may sound conspiratorial but there are strong facts in support of the contentions.

* If Israel’s only aim was to stop Hizbollah rocket attacks on Northern Galilee then why did Israeli aircraft launch air raids on Palestinian Refugee Camps, whose occupants are opposed to Arafat’s surrender, in Sidon 10km away from the Israeli border and Tripoli 300km north of Galilee? * Israeli aircraft attacked power stations which had recently been repaired in Christian areas, whose inhabitants welcomed the Israeli soldiers in 1982 with rice and flowers. Since the likelihood of finding a Hizbollah fighter in such an area is smaller than catching a fish in the Dead Sea, the only other explanation for such an attack was the destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure to force the government to move against the Islamic Resistance. * The US and UK governments’ outspoken support for Israel’s actions, despite the deliberate attack on civilian targets. On the 14th April 1996, Israeli helicopters rocketed an ambulance killing women and children, yet despite such appalling civilian losses, Defence Secretary , Michael Portillo, visiting Israeli Gunners in Northern Galilee, justified the attacks on the basis that Israel was trying to protect its Northern border. “My view is that we look to Israel always to take measures which are considered and which are proportionate.” Earlier that day, Israeli helicopters had fired rockets into Beirut’s southern suburbs, into purely civilian areas. Further Nabatiyeh and Tyre were relentlessly targeted with missiles. Portillo failed to mention the fact that it was Israel that was occupying Lebanese territory and not the other way round. Portillo’s enthusiasm for the frenzied acts of destruction was greater than the terrorists carrying out the attacks So much so he was prepared to risk business contracts that UK companies had in Lebanon including the repair of the power station whose destruction he supported. Despite the events of the next few days, Portillo never took back his support for Israel’s “considered” and “proportionate” actions.

As an example of a day in that fortnight of war, UN peacekeeping troops noted that Israeli jets launched 55 raids on South Lebanon on 12th April. The previous day had seen air raids, tank and artillery fire on 17 villages in South Lebanon

18th April 1996


The day of 18th April 1996, began with the murder of a family of ten, by Israeli missile fire in Nabatiyeh Fawqah. Seven children, their mother and two other relatives were killed. The father of the family was in Hajj.

The horror wreaked on Lebanon, however, would get unspeakably worse.

The bombardment of South Lebanon lasted for 14 days during which the Zionist carried out a war crime of amazing proportion. On this Thursday Zionist gunners targeted a UN base at Qana where over 800 refugees were sheltering. The Zionists claimed that it was an accident – yet again, they were aiming at Hizbollah in the area They claim the shells that landed on the base, killing over a 140 innocent civilians, overshot their target. Even if this was the case, target at which they claim they were aiming was within 300m of the UN base – the Israeli’s own rules of engagement forbid the firing at any target within a 500m radius of a UN base. The UN report that was produced by the envoy of the Secretary General, Major General Franklin van Kappen, concluded that:

  1. a) The Israeli army had not accidentally hit the base, they had clearly targeted the UN base had sent a MK pilotless reconnaissance plane to see the area they would later be shelling. b) Examination of the site, showed that the shells converged at the centre of the base. This rules out Israel’s explanation, that the shells overshot their intended target.

-c) They used shells which were designed to kill the largest possible number of people, also rebutting Israel’s denial that they were deliberately killing civilians. Their intended target was in their own admission, at the most two Israeli fighters. Yet despite this war crime, the US threatened to veto any UN Resolution to condemn Israel. Despite Israel’s attempts to destroy Lebanon and the will of its people to resist the occupation of their Country, despite the efforts of the US trying to show that Hizbollah were the people to blame for Lebanon’s suffering, Hizbollah’s popularity within Lebanon has never been so high. A measure of such popularity was the fact that the longer that Israeli campaign went on the more difficult it became for the Lebanese government to sound any criticism of Hizbollah. Hizbollah were the only patriots in Lebanon and the Arab world where every one else had bowed to Israeli fire power and western propaganda. Hizbollah stood up armed with only their faith. The heroism of these few young men was admired by all Lebanese, irrelevant of their political or religious persuasion, so much so that after Qana a fund-raising event was held in Christian East Beirut under the banner, “Sponsor a Katyusha”.



War Crimes Committed during Operation Grapes of Wrath

13 April 1996 – Attack on Ambulance carrying civilians. Two women and four young girls killed. The vehicle was carrying 13 civilians fleeing Al-Mansuri village. Two IDF helicopters hovered over it, one fired a laser-guided “Hellfire” air to surface missile The attack happened south of Tyre, near Fijibatt UN Checkpoint 1-23.

Those killed were the wife of the driver (Abbas Ali Jiha) Muna Habib Shuwayh 28 years old, three of their children Zeinab aged 10, Hanan aged 5 and Mariam aged 2 and a half months. Also killed were the driver’s neighbour Nawkha Ahmed al – ‘Uqla, aged 50 and her grand-daughter Hudu’ Fadi Khalid, aged 11. The IDF have confirmed that they deliberately targeted the ambulance.

18 April 1996. Attack on house in Upper Nabatiyeh. Israeli war planes totally destroyed a two storey house, in which eleven people had taken refuge. Those killed were Fawzia Khawaja Abed, aged 40, and seven of her children. Lulu aged 12, Huda aged 7, Nada aged 4, Murtada aged 3, Nura who was a few days old, Muhamed aged 11 and Ali aged 8. Also killed was their cousin Ahmad Ali Basal aged 17.

18 April 1996 The Attack on Qana. As detailed above, 102 civilians killed, and hundreds injured. The UN report found that proximity fuses were deliberately aimed at the centre of the compound.

According to UNIFIL there were 270 occasions when UN positions, including convoys and vehicles came under close fire from the IDF. Apart from being against international laws of war, and the IDF’s own code of conduct, these incidents are all the more horrific when it is considered that the IDF knew that across the region 6000 – 7000 Lebanese had sought shelter with the UN. In total it is estimated by the Lebanese military that 154 civilians were killed during Operation Grapes of Wrath, and 351 civilians were injured. According to the IDF, it fired 25,132 artillery rounds and carried out 2,350 sorties over Lebanon.


Who’s Who in Lebanon.

SLA – the South Lebanese Army. This is a local militia of about 3000 men of Christian extraction. It is trained, financed and completely controlled by Israel. Its area of operation is the occupied area of Lebanon.

UNIFIL – United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, created by UN Security Council Resolution 426. The Interim has now lasted 14 years.

IDF – The Israeli Defence Force, the Israeli military machine.

Sheikh Hasan Nasrullah – Leader of Hizbullah since 1992. Sheikh Obeid – Lebanese cleric, kidnapped in July 1989 by Israeli forces, and detained until today without charge. Nabi Berry – Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament.


*This article was uploaded on 25 December 2022. The article itself was written in 1996 for War Crimes Watch, one of the projects that joined IHRC in 1997.

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