Grapes of Wrath Operation

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On 11 April 1996, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres gave the green light to the "Grapes of Wrath" operation. Its goal was to neutralize the Lebanese Hizbullah so as to oblige them to cease their rocket-propelled grenade attacks against populated areas in northern Israel. This operation was launched in the middle of the Israeli election campaign, at the time when the Israelis were preparing for the first time to elect their prime minister by direct ballot, separate from their members of the Knesset. Between 11 and 17 April, there was significant fighting in Lebanon, particularly in the south of the country, which was evacuated by most of the population. Israeli air and naval forces' targets included roads and an electricity station north of Beirut, while the Hizbullah continued daily Katyusha rocket attacks.

On 18 April, Israeli artillery shelled the village of Qana, placed under the protection of United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, causing the death of 102 civilians and provoking great outrage. On 20 April, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher went to Damascus to talk with the Syrian leaders and the Russian, French, and Italian foreign ministers who had been sent there. On 23 April, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1052, demanding an immediate halt to hostilities. Four days later a ceasefire was declared between Israel and the Hizbullah, putting an end to the Grapes of Wrath operation. A group comprised of representatives of the United States, France, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel was put in charge of surveillance of the observance of this accord. On 7 May 1996, a report to the Security Council assigned Israel responsibility for the massacre at Qana, provoking objections in Washington and Tel Aviv.

SEE ALSO Christopher, Warren;Hizbullah;Peres, Shimon;Resolution 1052;United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon.