(photo credit: AP)
Although the world has condemned Israel for causing the deaths of "57 to 60 people" in the building it bombed in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kana earlier this week, there is much confusion about how many actually died there.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch announced that it could confirm only 28 deaths, including 16 children.
Paul Conneally, the Irish national who is deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Israel and the Palestinian Authority and is the person assigned to deal with Lebanese matters, said he could not say exactly how many bodies were taken out and how many died there.
"I'm the person dealing with it, but for me, it's not the priority at the moment. We have far more urgent things operationally to do," he told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "We're trying to verify. The number of people the ICRC was told by the eight or 10 survivors had been living in the house was given at 53 to 57, but not all were found. The heavy machinery was not up to the job, and it's very dangerous just being there. The teams are returning tomorrow."
Conneally said that the Lebanese press gave the names of 32 people who had died in the building, which collapsed seven hours after the Israel Air Force bombed the building after observing Katyusha rocket launchers on the roof. "The Lebanese Red Cross said 22 bodies of children had been taken out. But it is confused and complicated. The controversy over figures can be dealt with later. I can only presume that families who identified their loved ones among the dead took the bodies and buried them,'" the ICRC official based in Tel Aviv said. "Local people, civil defense and others were helping in the evacuation. The truth wonâ€št be known until the evacuation is finished."
Although the ICRC spokeswoman, Bana Sayeh, said Tuesday that the ICRC headquarters in Geneva is preparing a report on Kana, Conneally said he was unaware of this.
There have been claims on an anti-Syrian Lebanese Web site and various weblogs that Hizbullah "staged" the tragedy, bringing in dead bodies or live disabled children who would be killed in an Israeli bombing after seeing the rocket launchers.
Conneally had no information about whether anyone had autopsied the bodies to determine the causes of death.