Amnesty International Details
Israeli War Crimes In Lebanon

By Peter Symonds

25 August 2006
World Socialist Web

An Amnesty International (AI) report published on Tuesday provides a chilling 
account of the death and destruction inflicted on the civilian population of 
Lebanon by the Israeli military during its month-long, US-backed offensive. 
Entitled “Deliberate destruction or ‘collateral damage’? Israeli attacks on 
civilian infrastructure”, the document demonstrates that the Israeli government 
is directly responsible for numerous war crimes against the Lebanese people.

AI executive deputy secretary general Kate Gilmore dismissed as “manifestly 
wrong” Israel’s claims that its attacks were legitimate and legal. “Many of the 
violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate 
and disproportionate attacks. The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive 
destruction of power and water plants, as well as the transport infrastructure 
vital for food and other humanitarian relief, was deliberate and an integral 
part of a military strategy,” she told the press.

Gilmore also took issue with Israeli assertions that it had simply targetted 
Hezbollah positions and support facilities, blaming civilian deaths on 
Hezbollah’s use of civilians as a “human shield”. “The pattern, scope and scale 
of the attacks makes Israel’s claim that this was ‘collateral damage’, simply 
not credible,” she said.

The report was based on first-hand information gathered by a field mission to 
Lebanon, interviews with dozens of victims and discussions with UN, Lebanese 
and Israeli officials and non-government organisations, as well as official 
statements and media accounts.

Between July 12 and August 14, the Israeli air force conducted more than 7,000 
air attacks in Lebanon, supplemented by 2,500 naval bombardments and an unknown 
number of artillery barrages. An estimated 1,183 people were killed, about one 
third of whom were children, 4,054 were injured and 970,000 people, or 25 
percent of the total population, were displaced. Half a million people sought 
shelter in Beirut, many in parks and public spaces without basic facilities.

“The Lebanese government estimates that 31 ‘vital points’ (such as airports, 
ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities) have been 
completely or partially destroyed, as have around 80 bridges and 94 roads. More 
than 25 fuel stations and around 900 commercial enterprises were hit. The 
number of residential properties, offices and shops completely destroyed 
exceeds 30,000. Two government hospitals—in Bint Jbeil and in Meis 
al-Jebel—were completely destroyed in Israeli attacks and three others were 
seriously damaged,” the report stated.

The head of Lebanon’s Council for Development and Reconstruction, Fadl Shalak, 
estimated on August 16 that the damage amounted to at least $US3.5 billion—$US2 
billion for buildings and $US1.5 billion for infrastructure such as bridges, 
roads and power plants. Other government surveys indicate that the extent and 
cost of the destruction could be higher.

The AI cited the comments of senior Israeli military officers, demonstrating 
that civilians and civilian infrastructure were deliberately targetted as 
collective punishment for the entire Lebanese people. Israeli Defence Forces 
(IDF) Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz told the New York Times that 
the Lebanese government was responsible for Hezbollah’s actions. He branded 
Hezbollah as “a cancer” that Lebanon must get rid of, “because if they don’t 
their country will pay a very heavy price.”

The report pointed out that international law governing the conduct of war 
prohibits any direct attack on civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate 
attacks that fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets. It also 
disputed Israeli claims that civilian facilities were legitimate military 
targets, because of their potential use by Hezbollah. AI pointed out that 
international law also bans disproportionate attacks—that is, those in which 
the “collateral damage” is excessive compared to direct military advantage to 
be gained.

The destruction of infrastructure was a deliberate policy designed to drive 
hundreds of thousands of civilians out of the south of the country and 
terrorise the Lebanese population as a whole. The aim was to make the entire 
southern region uninhabitable. The AI report explained: “With the electricity 
cut off and food and other supplies not coming into the villages, the 
destruction of supermarkets and petrol stations played a crucial role in 
forcing local residents to leave. The lack of fuel also stopped residents from 
getting water, as water pumps require electricity or fuel-fed generators,” the 
report stated.

The Israeli sea and air blockade, along with the extensive destruction of roads 
and bridges, compounded the humanitarian disaster by obstructing relief 
efforts. Ships carrying vital emergency supplies were held up for days, seeking 
guarantees of safe passage from the Israeli navy. On August 4, the Israeli air 
force severed the last significant road link to Syria, blocking an aid convoy 
bringing in 150 tonnes of relief supplies. The Lebanese health ministry 
estimated that 60 percent of the country’s hospitals had ceased to function by 
August 12 due to fuel shortages.

Israeli Justice Minister Haim Raimon notoriously declared: “All those now in 
south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah.” On 
August 7, Israeli warplanes dropped a leaflet banning the movement of any 
vehicle south of the Litani River, turning the entire region into a free-fire 
zone. Yet, as the AI report explained: “[A]round 100,000 civilians were trapped 
in southern Lebanon, afraid to flee... Some were unable to move because of 
their age or disability, or simply because they had no access to transport. 
Residents were rapidly running out of food, water and medicines, and the ICRC 
[International Committee of the Red Cross] reported that those who had managed 
to escape the region were arriving at aid stations in increasingly desperate 

Civilian homes

According to a UN fact sheet issued on August 16, at least 15,000 civilian 
homes—houses and apartments—have been destroyed. AI noted that this figure was 
almost certainly an underestimate. The extent of the damage was graphically 
described by AI personnel in Lebanon:

“Amnesty International delegates visiting towns and villages in south Lebanon 
found that in village after village houses had been subject to heavy artillery 
shelling as well as having been destroyed by precision-guided, air-delivered 
munitions. The accuracy of these munitions and their trajectory were such that 
they struck one or more of the main support systems causing the building to 
collapse or partially collapse under its own weight. In Beirut a vast area of 
densely populated high-rise buildings, which were home to tens of thousands of 
people most of whom left apparently encouraged by Hezbollah for their own 
safety, was reduced to rubble by repeated air strikes.

“According to the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL), on 15 
August, 80 percent of the civilian houses had been destroyed in the village of 
Tayyabah, 50 percent in the villages of Markaba and Qantarah, 30 percent in 
Mais al-Jebel, 20 percent in Hula, and 15 percent in Talusha. The following 
day, UNIFIL reported that in the village of Ghanduriyah 80 percent of the 
civilian houses had been destroyed, 60 percent in the village of Zibqin, 50 
percent in Jabal al-Butm and Bayyadah, 30 percent in Bayt Leif, and 25 percent 
in Kafra.

“When Amnesty International delegates visited the town of Bint Jbeil, in the 
far south of the country, the centre of the city, where there had been a market 
and busy commercial streets leading from it, was devastated. Every building on 
the streets was destroyed, extensively damaged or beyond repair. The streets 
were strewn with the rubble and in that rubble was clear evidence of the cause 
of the damage, unexploded munitions, shrapnel and craters. The Israeli army 
seemed to have used every type of munition in its arsenal, with air-delivered 
munitions, artillery shelling and cluster bomb damage in evidence.”


Roads, bridges, water and electricity supplies, sewerage plants and 
infrastructure, port facilities and the Beirut international airports have been 
damaged or destroyed.

Throughout southern Lebanon, wells, water mains, storage tanks, pumping 
stations and water treatment works have been destroyed. Elsewhere in the 
country, water supplies have been severely disrupted as the bombing of roads 
has ruptured pipes. The report concluded that many of the attacks had been 
deliberate and served no obvious military purpose.

At least 25 fuel depots were destroyed and 25 petrol stations destroyed or 
severely damaged. By the time of the ceasefire, the south of the county had no 
electricity. The bombing of Lebanon’s largest power station at Jiyyeh not only 
cut power supplies but produced an environmental disaster when 15,000 tonnes of 
heavy fuel oil leaked into the sea creating a massive oil slick and polluting 
150 kilometres of coastline.

In many cases, the destruction was completely wanton. Israeli warplanes 
attacked facilities at all of Lebanon’s main ports—Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon. 
Beirut’s modern lighthouse was destroyed along with the old lighthouse. “It is 
difficult to see what legitimate purpose these attacks could have had, given 
that the Israeli navy was blockading the port anyway,” the report declared.

Israeli air raids struck transmission stations used by Lebanese television and 
radio stations, including those with no links to Hezbollah. The 
Hezbollah-backed al-Manar television station was hit repeatedly. As AI pointed 
out, however, the fact that al-Manar broadcast Hezbollah propaganda did not 
make it a legitimate military target under international law.

Factories and businesses

As the AI report explained, the Israeli military deliberately targetted 
businesses, including the country’s few large factories.

“Privately owned factories and businesses across the country—economic entities 
whose destruction could not be seen to offer a military advantage outweighing 
the damage to civilians—have also been subjected to a series of debilitating 
air strikes, dealing a further crippling blow to the shattered economy. The 
Lebanese government estimated that unemployment in the country has now reached 
an approximate figure of 75 percent.

“The production facilities of companies in key industrial sectors, including 
Liban Lait in Baalbek, the country’s largest dairy farm; the Maliban glass 
works in Ta’neil, Zahleh; the Sada al-Din plastics factory in Tyre; the Fine 
tissue paper mill in Kafr Jara, Sidon; the Tabara pharmaceutical plant in 
Showeifat, Aaliyah; the Transmed shipping warehouse on the outskirts of Beirut; 
and the Snow lumbermill in Showeifat, Aaliyah, have been disabled or completely 
destroyed. Industry minister Pierre Gemayel said that nearly two thirds of the 
industrial sector had been damaged, and at least 23 large factories and dozens 
of small and medium-sized factories had been bombed.”

The devastation wrought by the Israeli offensive in Lebanon is clearly a 
terrible war crime. In concluding its report, Amnesty International called for 
the formation of an international tribunal into violations of international 
humanitarian law. While AI called for the actions of Hezbollah to be 
investigated alongside those of the Zionist state, it would be far more 
appropriate to call for an inquiry into the role of the Bush administration in 
aiding and abetting Israel’s war crimes, in particular by providing and 
replenishing its weaponry, and blocking any move for an immediate ceasefire. 

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