Mideast mourns Qana massacre victims
Beirut holds a day of official mourning. Israel announces a 48-hour cease-fire. Patriarch Sfeir condemns the incident. Arab press expresses pessimism and fears an escalation in violence.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – "Barbaric", "massacre", "carnage" screamed two-inch headlines across the Middle East as editorialists appeared to be stuck for a stronger word that would convey the rage caused yesterday by Israel's air strike on the southern Lebanese village of Qana that killed 52 people, including 30 children. According to the Israeli government, the buildings hit were used by Hezbollah to launch rockets against Israel.

The outrage felt around the world over the incident has led Israel to proclaim a unilateral 48-hour cease-fire, which the international community had been demanding for weeks in vain.

Even US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on her flight home from Jerusalem, said that a within a week a cease-fire and an enduring solution in Lebanon might be reached.

In Beirut the Lebanese government announced a day of official mourning for today to honour the victims of the Qana massacre. Banks, public offices and stores were closed and flags flew at half mast.

From his summer resident in Dimane (northern Lebanon) Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir once again expressed his distress over the world's silence towards a country that John Paul II described as the 'Lebanon-message' to highlight the unique coexistence of Christians and Muslims.

The Patriarch urged world leaders, especially the United Nations, to multiply their efforts to reach a cease-fire. He also deplored the fact that Israel violated its own 48-hour truce to let humanitarian aid in by striking Tyre, Bint Jbeil, Marjayoun and some sites in the Bekaa Valley.

Although some sections of Lebanon's press view Israel's unilateral cease-fire as a chance to silence arms in the Israel-Hezbollah, Beirut's French daily L'Orient-le Jour was pessimistic: "The butchery committed Sunday is an Israeli invitation . . . for an escalation of violence and for missile fire that could reach Tel-Aviv."

Hezbollah has in fact threatened the use of longer-range missiles against civilian targets in Israel in response to the deaths in Qana. A Hamas lawmaker has also said that he expects more suicide bombings in Israel.

In Amman, the Jordan Times pointed out that "the only thing Israel has achieved is to create more enemies in the region and a sense of revulsion in the wider global community."

In Syria, which Israel accuses with Iran of arming Hezbollah, the press has called for retaliation against Israel. State-owned daily Tishrin warned that Sunday's killing would not go unpunished. "The punishment," it said, "will come from the guns of the resistance. (YH)