PM Olmert: Kana is a Katyusha-Firing Center

The responsibility for today's IDF attack on Kana lies with Hizbullah & Lebanon, Israel says, as the citizens were repeatedly warned to leave. Hundreds of Katyushas were fired from Kana at Israel.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 11:54 AM

The IDF Spokesman's office says that Hizbullah uses the civilians as "human shields," and many reports have been received attesting to the fact that Hizbullah does not allow the citizens to leave - despite many IDF warnings to do so.

Israel also blames the Lebanese Government for not preventing the above situation.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says that Kafr Kana and environs are a "center for Katyusha firing on Kiryat Shmonah and Afula... Dozens of Katyushas have been fired from there, and the terrorists hide there after firing the rockets." Olmert emphasized that the residents had often been warned that they must leave the area.

"Israel does not have a policy of killing innocent people," Olmert said, in an obvious contrast with Hizbullah and Hamas.

A senior IDF officer told Voice of Israel Radio, "Hizbullah fires rockets at Kiryat Shmonah and Afula from within Kafr Kana and then runs to hide inside the buildings."

Israeli spokesmen later took a more conciliatory tone, expressing "deep sorrow" for the "tragic mistake" and promising an investigation.

Earlier, Olmert had said that Israel would not be rushing to a ceasefire before its main objectives are attained.

A minister in the Olmert cabinet, Education Minister Yuli Tamir of Labor, estimated that this morning's incident in Kafr Kana would not lead to a quick end to the warfare.

The three-story building in Kafr Kana was hit directly by an IAF bomb at 7:30 AM, collapsing atop the shelter in which many people were sleeping. Neighboring buildings were also heavily damaged. Foreign news crews are on hand, sending scenes of the destruction across the globe.

Close to 1,800 Hizbullah rockets have been fired at Israel in the past 19 days, killing 19 Israeli citizens. The rockets have also sent tens of thousands into shelters for days at a time, as well as tens of thousands of others to find refuge with relatives, friends, hotels or dormitories in central and southern Israel.

A senior IDF officer said the IDF "has been bombing Kafr Kana for three days already... Most civilians have left already, and most of those who remain are Hizbullah rocket launching cells. We have bombed ten launchers in the city, and dozens more in the vicinity. Today, we attacked a building towards which the terrorists ran; we would not have done so had we seen civilians there."

Another official said, "The IDF warned the civilians to leave, and it was serious about it. I don't like to see innocent people killed, but if there have to be innocent civilians killed, I would rather they be in southern Lebanon than in Haifa."

The Lebanese Government has informed U.S. Secretary of State Condolleeza Rice that it is not interested in meeting with her for further diplomatic talks, and that it demands an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

Arab affairs expert Dr. Guy Bechor of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya told Israel Radio that Hizbullah leader Sheikh Nasrallah, despite the bravado he displays in his speeches, is not in good shape.

"Nasrallah has agreed to the deployment of Lebanese forces in southern Lebanon and to a ceasefire as well," Bechor said, "and what is more, he has betrayed the Palestinians - because he no longer mentions his demand that Israel release thousands of Palestinian prisoners, but talks only of having the two or three Lebanese prisoners freed. He knows that time is now working against him."