An early survey of the destruction in Lebanon shows that Israel deliberately attempted to destroy the Lebanese economy during the month-long war – targeting farms, hospitals and generators.
The Samidoun solidarity network, which was set up during the war to care for refugees, has been detailing the extent of the destruction in the south.
They discovered that the Israeli assault was directed mainly at local communities. This was confirmed in an extensive tour of the south carried out by journalists.
The network found that 25 hospitals and clinics were destroyed or badly damaged across the south, as were hundreds of small workshops, shops, water pumping stations and generators.
The pattern of destruction is inconsistent with Israeli claims that they were targeting Hizbollah missile sites and infrastructure in the war.
In a tour of villages along the Israeli border we found many telltale signs of Hizbollah’s rocket launch sites. In all but one case the sites were hundreds of metres from homes, usually in fields at the bottom of valleys.
Yet in no instance did we find evidence of any airstrikes on the launch sites. Instead the homes, shops and businesses in the surrounding villages were demolished.
For the Israelis to target civilian areas confirms what many locals told us – that the Israelis wanted to destroy their homes and ruin the local economy as punishment for supporting the resistance.
This policy was used to devastating effect in the northern agricultural region of the Hermel. Warplanes destroyed the agricultural college, which contained important farming records. They also bombed key irrigation canals, fish farms, dairies, farm equipment and storage buildings.
The southern village of Srifa is typical of the range and scale of destruction. Before the war over 4,500 people lived in the village. Now with 75 percent of the village in ruins, only 1,500 refugees have been able to return to their homes.
In Aita al-Shaab, the scene of a ferocious Israeli ground offensive, only one in ten homes is habitable. The local clinic was levelled, as were the shops including the pharmacy. The annual tobacco crop is ruined – costing £3 million in lost earnings.
In nearby Shehabieh, refugees returned to discover that 250 cows, donkeys and sheep were killed in the bombardment. The animals’ corpses lie rotting in the fields, but fears over cluster bombs and other unexploded shells have hampered efforts to clear them away.
The targeting of the Jiyeh power station south of Beirut also illustrated the pattern of destruction. The oil storage containers behind the power station were hit by missiles spilling tens of thousands of tonnes of oil into the sea.
Before puncturing the containers Israeli gunners destroyed the containment wall – making sure that the oil reached the sea.
This spill has ruined the fishing industry. Environmental pressure group Greenline estimates that 30,000 families will lose their income because of the pollution (see below).
The group said that they have been unable to conduct an aerial or sea survey of the spill because of the continuing siege. Now they warn that the currents will change, dragging the oil back to the south. Over 75 percent of the coast has been affected by the pollution.
The most cynical act, however, remains the bombing of medical facilities. In Bint Jbail we were shown a 500lb bomb that failed to explode. The bomb, which landed 20 metres from the hospital wards, would have levelled the hospital.
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