Ahmadinejad honours Lebanese victims of Israeli shelling

Ahmadinejad honours Lebanese victims of Israeli shelling

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concluded on Thursday his visit to southern Lebanon by visiting the graves of Lebanese who died in Israeli shelling in 1996 and 2006, dpa reported.

Israel has frequently battled with armed militias who use Lebanon as its base, in an effort to clear away potential attackers. But many in the region see the Israeli attacks as incursions into a sovereign country and have decried them for not making enough effort to differentiate between combatant and civilian targets.

Ahmadinjead's tribute took him to the southern Lebanon village of Qana, where some 105 Lebanese civilians died in 1996 in Israeli shelling during a military operation dubbed "Grapes of Wrath."

The civilians were killed and more than 100 injured when Israeli artillery shelled a UN compound where the civilians had taken shelter.

Israel claimed the deaths were an accident, but this was disputed by UN investigators.

During the July 2006 war, Israeli jets bombed another building in Qana, killing around 24 civilians, most of them children.

"I came to Qana holding Iran's greetings to Lebanon," Ahmadinejad said.

The Iranian leader arrived to a rally, near the graves in Qana, where he vowed to continue his country's support to Lebanon and its resistance against Israel.

Ahamdinejad, surrounded by bodguards, thanked the Lebanese armed forces for seeking "to foster safety and stability for the Lebanese people."

Earlier, Ahamdinejad attended a massive rally in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, which is only four kilometers from the Israeli border.

"Bint Jbeil is the fortress of the resistance and victory," he told a rally organized by the militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah.

Around 200,000 Hezbollah supporters, carrying Iranian and Hezbollah flags, had gathered at a stadium in Bint Jbeil to listen to Ahmadinejad speak. The village, four kilometres from the Israeli border, was destroyed during the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

"Let the world know that the Zionists planned to attack this city because they thought they could dictate boundaries to the Lebanese people," Ahmadinejad said.

"Let the world know that the oppressors will be defeated and Palestine will be liberated," Ahmadinejad told his audience, who arrived on board a helicopter amid tight security.

While Ahamdinejad was delivering his speech in Bint Jbeil Israelis from the other side of the border released balloons with their national colors during a protest in Avivim against Ahmadinejad's visit.

Ahmadinejad's visit has caused a controversy both inside Lebanon and at international level.

Washington and Israel called the visit a provocation, while Lebanese officials who oppose Iran's policy in the region have called on the Iranian leader to stop meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs.

On the first day of his visit Wednesday, Ahmadinejad praised his allies in the region, threatened Israel and the United States, and called on some Arab countries to grant freedom for people to protest against Western nations.

The Iranian leader is due to end his two-day visit to Lebanon later Thursday. During his talks with Lebanese leaders, the hardline figure stressed unity among the Lebanese.

He also signed 13 bilateral agreements in various economic fields.

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