Vigil Calls for End to Civilian Deaths in Lebanon

By Martin Weil and Robert E. Pierre
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

About 450 people, most of them women in somber black, circled silently in front of the White House last night in a solemn vigil and protest to call for an end to death and destruction in Lebanon.

The group, one of the largest to speak publicly here on behalf of Lebanese women and children, included a large number of women of Lebanese descent, as well as members of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

"Babies cannot be terrorists," said protester Hala Adra, who decried the air attack on the Lebanese village of Qana, which has been termed the bloodiest single incident in the past 20 days of warfare between Israel and Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Lebanese militia. Three dozen children have been listed among the dead in Qana.

Israel has attacked targets in Lebanon in response to Hezbollah strikes in southern Lebanon and northern Israel and to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.

"We are wondering where is [America's] so-called democracy and justice and humanity," said another protester.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has expressed concerns about civilian deaths as a result of the hostilities and has urged restraint on Israel's part. She said it was time for a cease-fire. But the administration has also expressed opposition to a halt in hostilities that would allow Hezbollah to regroup.

"We need to stop the killing of innocent people," protester Danielle Faddoul said.

"It's a moral issue," said Stuart Strange, who came to support Rola Abimourched, a friend of Lebanese background.

Abimourched asked how the administration could achieve its stated goal of a sustainable peace when it was tolerating "so much suffering."

"It doesn't make sense," she said.

During another protest yesterday, four people were arrested at the State Department in a peaceful demonstration against civilian deaths in Lebanon.

Nearly 40 protesters chanted and held signs, accusing the United States of ignoring the toll of civilian casualties.

Noura Erakat, a national organizer for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, accused Israel of conducting "a campaign to terrorize Lebanese civilians."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company