CAIRO, Egypt – Arab media gave little credence Thursday to to U.S. military claims that a devastating air strike near the border with Syria — in which more than 40 people were reported killed — targeted a safehouse for foreign fighters.
The newspapers instead cast the attack as another example of an American campaign against Arabs and universally backed Iraqi claims that a helicopter had attacked a wedding party.
Al-Arabiya (search), a popular Arabic satellite station, quoted witnesses as saying 40 Iraqis were killed "in shelling that hit a wedding party."
"At 3 a.m. yesterday, they dropped more than 100 bombs," an unnamed man identified as a witness told Al-Arabiya. He was shown standing with a crowd of other villagers.
"A whole house, the man and all his guests, 41 or more, children, most of them are children and women" were killed, the man said.
Associated Press Television News footage from the area near the Syrian border showed a truck containing bloodied bodies, many wrapped in blankets, piled one atop the other. Several were children, one of whom was decapitated. The body of a girl who appeared to be less than 5 years of age lay in a white sheet, her legs riddled with wounds and her dress soaked in blood.
The area, a desolate region populated only by shepherds, is popular with smugglers, including weapons smugglers, and the U.S. military suspects militants use it as a route to slip in from Syria to fight the Americans. It is under constant surveillance by American forces.
Al-Arabiya and its rival Al-Jazeera (search) showed video of funerals of the victims.
Al-Messa, an Egyptian daily close to the government, declared "a new American massacre against the Iraqis" and quoted unnamed news agencies as saying 60 people, "mostly children and women," were killed.
Al-Wafd, an opposition daily in Egypt, said 42 Iraqis were killed "in a savage American attack on a wedding."
In Lebanon, As-Safir newspaper's front-page headline read: "The [U.S.] occupation turns an Iraqi wedding party into a funeral: 45 martyrs, including children and women."
All Lebanese papers drew parallels between the helicopter strike in Iraq and violence Wednesday in the Gaza Strip, with one, An-Nahar, lamenting in banner headline: "a long bloody day from Gaza to Iraq."
In Gaza, eight Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank fire as they demonstrated against the Israel military operation in the Rafah refugee camp (search) near the Egyptian border.
Arabs often draw parallels between Israeli attacks on Arabs — seen as supported by the United States — and U.S. actions in Iraq.
While the TV stations Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera reported the Iraq strike, their newscasts Thursday were dominated by strong U.N. criticism of the Israeli operation in Gaza.