Lebanon News

Ex-Israeli leader Peres left bloody legacy in Lebanon

FILE - In this July 15, 2014, file photo, Israel's President Shimon Peres listens during an interview with The Associated Press, at his residence in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty, File)

BEIRUT: Israel's ex-leader Shimon Peres who died from a stroke at the age of 93 Wednesday is being remembered in Lebanon for presiding over the notorious 1996 Qana Massacre.

World leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and French leader Francois Hollande are expected to attend his funeral in occupied Jerusalem Friday, with many showering Israel's ex-prime minister with praise over his role in the 1993 Oslo Accords.

But in Lebanon, Peres left a legacy of death and destruction marked by the 1996 April War which left at least 154 civilians dead, including more than 100 people taking shelter at a U.N. facility in the southern village of Qana.

More than 300 others were wounded in the 18-day war, known in Israel as "Operation Grapes of Wrath," which involved a relentless bombing campaign of villages mostly in southern Lebanon, but other parts of the country as well.

Lebanon's Health Minister Wael Abu Faour, who is from southeast Lebanon, said he believed Peres was now in hell.

"May his soul be cursed 1,000 times, even in hell. I had wished his death would befit his crimes against the Arabs and the Palestinians. Our only consolation is that the devil will be very happy, for his peer has now joined him," Abu Faour state in a statement.

On Twitter, Shimon Peres was trending in Lebanon following the announcement of his death, with users celebrating his passing, or lamenting that he never stood trial.

“Really sad to see Shimon Peres die without being tried for the Qana Massacre and executed in a Lebanese court,” user @MahmoudRamsey tweeted.

"The Qana Massacre in Lebanon alone shows he wasn't about peace," user @chehayebk remarked.

"Peres died? Good riddance, war criminal. Moving on," @psygh tweeted.

Major bridges, highways and electric power plants were destroyed in the bombing campaign, which was ordered by Peres, Israel's then-prime minister. The damage was estimated at $500 million, according to the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.

Israel had said the aim of the campaign was to pressure Lebanon to reject and dismatle Hezbollah, which was leading a resistance movement to end the occupation of the south by Israeli forces.

Peres launched the operation on April 11 by ordering Israeli air forces to drop leaflets over southern Lebanese villages calling on the population to leave.

Unpopulated areas were also bombed. About 400,000 civilians fled north or searched for shelter in refugee camps. At some point Israel began bombing the villages themselves, and extended the campaign to Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley.

The single most deadly incident during the Israeli campaign took place on April 18, 1996, when Israeli forces fired artillery shells at the U.N. compound in Qana housing hundreds of Lebanese civilians.

The attack killed 106 civilians. It was internationally condemned and widely viewed as a war crime.

British journalist Robert Fisk who reported on the massacre expressed his shock over the attack in a 1996 article for The Independent newspaper.

"Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this," the report said.

The 1982 Sabra-Shatila massacre was carried out by Kataeb militia men under Israeli cover in a southern Beirut suburb. Up to 3,000 civilians, comprised mostly of Palestinian refugees, were estimated to have been killed in that massacre.

A U.N. investigation into the Qana massacre suggested the attack was deliberate.

"While the possibility cannot be ruled out completely, it is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors," the May 1996 U.N. report had stated.

Israel dismissed the report as "one-sided" and "inaccurate," while Peres would later say he was "at peace" over his decision to launch the war, and that "everything was done according to clear logic and in a responsible way."

Peres, born in Belarus in 1923, is best known for his role as foreign minister during the secret Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords in 1993.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his work on the agreement along with slain-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and late-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Peres has also been described as an architect of Israel's nuclear weapons program. Israel is estimated to have about 200 nuclear bombs in its arsenal, and is the Middle East's sole nuclear power.

He had allegedly offered to sell nuclear weapons to the South African apartheid regime in 1975, according to secret South African documents revealed in 2010.

 

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