A group of Lebanese civilians attempting to follow the Israeli instructions to evacuate southern Lebanon had formed a convoy of 600 civilian vehicles, accompanied by 350 Lebanese soldiers and police. The convoy was attempting to make its way north from the Christian city of Marjayoun Friday night when an Israeli war plane dropped a missile on the group.
This is not the first time that Israeli forces have struck a convoy heading north for safety – practically every convoy has taken casualties — leading many of the estimated 80,000 Lebanese civilians remaining in southern Lebanon to decide they’d rather not risk it.
An Associated Press photographer, Lutfallah Daher, was with the convoy when it was hit near the Bekaa Valley town of Chtaura, about 30 miles north of the Litani River.
According to Daher, two armored U.N. peacekeeping vehicles were supposed to have accompanied the convoy, Daher said, but were not present when Israeli forces in Marjayoun gave the convoy permission to head north, so the convoy went ahead without them.
Israeli tanks and infantry took control of Marjayoun on Thursday, in the process, killing at least thirteen civilians who were attending a funeral of fifteen killed the day before.
The Israeli military spokesman inside Israel said that "no convoys had been approved", but added that the military is investigating the incident.
Security officials in the Bekaa said at least nine rockets had been fired on the convoy. Hospital officials in the town of Job Jannine said they had received 25 casualties from the attack, although it was not immediately clear how many were fatalities.
Lutfallah Daher, the Associated Press photographer who was travelling with the convoy, said that there was a second attack on Red Cross and civil defense vehicles rushing the aid of the stricken convoy. It was not known, he said, if any rescuers were hurt.
Eleven Lebanese people were killed earlier in northern Israel in an airstrike on the Abboudiyeh bridge in northern Israel. The bridge was destroyed, thus closing the final exit into Syria that had been available for the Lebanese people, and essentially, sealing them inside Lebanon as Israeli officials promise to step up their attacks. Lebanese officials report that over 1,200 Lebanese people have been killed by Israeli forces since July 13th, one-third of them children. Although the Israeli government claims that 200 of those killed were fighters with Hezbollah, the Lebanese government claims the number of fighters killed is lower than 200. What is agreed upon is that at least 1,000 civilians have been killed. In Israel, 33 civilians have been killed in the same time period, and over 80 soldiers.