Israelis See One Side of War as Lebanese Civilian Casualties Mount, Media Coverage May Change

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A GULF-war-style media campaign by the Israeli military in its offensive against Hizbullah guerrillas in Lebanon has provided Prime Minister Shimon Peres with a much-needed image makeover before May 29 elections here.

But the Israeli public - largely supportive of Israel's nine-day campaign to force a Hizbullah cease-fire - is beginning to question the increasing number of Lebanese civilian casualties.

Yesterday, Israeli forces attacked the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), killing about 70 Lebanese refugees and wounding more than 120 others, a UN spokesman said. Earlier, Israeli planes rocketed a house near Nabatiyeh, killing 11 people including a woman, her four-day-old daughter, and six other children. Just prior to the Israeli attacks, Hizbullah guerrillas had launched rockets at Israel from about 400 yards away from the UN headquarters, a UN spokesman said. Israel's deputy defense minister, Ori Orr, said details were sketchy, but said, "if innocent people were killed, we are very sorry, and it is a very grave error." Like American coverage of the Gulf war, the omnipresent coverage here of Israel's military offensive on the two main state-owned television channels has juxtaposed military target maps with video replays of Israeli planes and artillery precision in hitting their targets. "This is the Gulf war, plus five years of technology," says Alon Liel, a senior aide in Peres's office. "The combination of unbelievable intelligence and pinpoint high-tech accuracy has enabled the Israeli military to destroy one floor of a 10-story building and then it is backed up with a film showing the hit." The media have stressed that the artillery fire and bombing is not directed at Lebanese civilians and that they have been repeatedly warned to leave the south. But Israeli viewers have seen little coverage of the hundreds of thousands of fleeing Lebanese civilians. Amnon Barkai, a producer at Israel's Channel 1 television - one of the two state-owned channels - says the network had received agency coverage of the attack on Nabatiyeh and would be using it in its news broadcast last night. But Mr. Barkai's channel did not use graphic coverage shown internationally last week of Israeli planes rocketing an ambulance carrying women and children in southern Lebanon. Just like 'Desert Storm' "We didn't show it because we don't put such awful things on television in Israel," Barkai says. But the station frequently shows gruesome details of Israeli victims of Islamic suicide bombings. …