April 18, 1996
Israeli artillery fire strikes a U.N. compound where at least 800 Lebanese civilians are sheltering in the village of Qana in southern Lebanon. At least 13 shells hit the compound, killing 106 civilians and wounding more than 100 other people, including four Fijian U.N. peacekeepers.
The artillery attack comes during Operation Grapes of Wrath, an Israeli response to the collapse of a cease-fire with Hezbollah that had lasted nearly three years. The Israel Defense Forces issued a warning April 11 for civilians to evacuate from towns and villages to avoid the fighting. As a result, the roads are crowded with refugees fleeing northward, and civilians crowd into the U.N. compound in Qana.
Hezbollah uses several positions within 700 yards of the U.N. base to launch mortar and rocket attacks on IDF positions and northern Israel on the afternoon of April 18. An IDF commando unit commanded by Naftali Bennett calls in an artillery strike on one Hezbollah mortar unit firing from a cemetery less than 200 yards from the U.N. base, but none of the 36 shells fired by a four-gun battery of 155mm howitzers hits the mortar site. Instead, carnage within the U.N. compound results.
Israel apologizes for what it says are the accidental civilian deaths and blames Hezbollah for violating international law by using the U.N. compound as civilian shielding for its forces. A U.N. investigation finds that the Israeli attack on the base likely was likely not an accident, and a separate Amnesty International investigation concludes that what comes to be called the “Qana Massacre” was intentional. Israel rejects those reports, which it says are biased.