Until now, I have been hesitant about casting doubt on reported death tolls of Lebanese civilians. As I mentioned in a previous post on the Qana numbers, there is something very unpleasant about such debates. Earlier today, Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora announced that 40 civilians had been killed in IAF bombing of Houla. His tear-filled opening address at a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers received a great deal of coverage. It turns out that only one person died in the bombing, as Siniora, to his credit, admitted a few hours later upon receiving further information. But, as the New York Times reports, Siniora felt compelled, in the same breath, to accuse Israel of deliberately targeting civilians:
Speaking to Arab diplomats who had gathered here in a show of support, Mr. Siniora said that the earlier reports he had cited about the attack in Houla, of 40 deaths, were incorrect. "It turns out there was one person killed," he said. "Thank God they have been saved. But those who shoot to kill innocent people proved they have the intention to kill."After these episodes, I find it hard to give the benefit of the doubt to those reporting Lebanese civilian casualties.