Rice will avoid Arab capitals

[Editor’s Note: how many hundreds will die “over time” to achieve Israel’s objective?]

Wall Street Journal article

July 21, 2006

In Shift, Rice Won’t Visit Arab Capitals

In a startling twist that shows how tense the atmosphere now is in the Arab world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will not be traveling next week to any Arab capitals. Instead, she will visit Israel and then loop back to Italy for a meeting with top officials from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and various European countries. Diplomats say that Egypt was too skittish to host a gathering on the Lebanon conflict in Cairo, fearing it would spark a popular backlash.

Rice had originally planned to travel first to Cairo and then to visit other Arab capitals after a stopover in Israel. Now it is thought that she will return to the region after a short visit to Malaysia at the end of the week to attend a regional summit. In that return trip, she may stop in key Arab capitals. Israeli officials say that by then, their bombing campaign may have ceased or seriously abated.

The talks in Rome will concentrate on crafting a ceasefire deal over time that would lead to the possible introduction of an international peacekeeping force and disarm Hezbollah. “The whole cornerstone is to neutralize Hezbollah,” says a senior Israeli diplomat. –Neil King Jr.

Kofi Annan calls for immediate cease fire

original AP article 

Annan Criticizes Both Sides in Conflict

By EDITH M. LEDERER
The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS —

Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Thursday for an immediate halt to the escalating conflict between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia but said there were “serious obstacles to reaching a cease-fire.”

Annan said Hezbollah’s actions in launching rockets into Israel and abducting Israeli soldiers “hold an entire nation hostage” and set back prospects for Middle East peace.

But he also condemned Israel’s “excessive use of force” and collective punishment of the Lebanese people, saying it had triggered a humanitarian crisis.

“While Hezbollah’s actions are deplorable, and Israel has a right to defend itself, the excessive use of force is to be condemned,” he told the Security Council.

Israel must make “a far greater and more credible effort … to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” he said.

Annan said the number of civilians affected by the conflict is now at 500,000, but he added that likely could increase. He based that estimate on information provided by a three-member U.N. team that visited the region and his own contacts.

Annan said mission members reported that many of the people they spoke to in the region noted that “whatever damage Israel’s operations may be doing to Hezbollah’s military capabilities, they are doing little or nothing to decrease popular support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or the region, but are doing a great deal to weaken the government of Lebanon.”

“In short, the very government which Israel wants to extend its control has itself become a hostage to the crisis and is less able than ever to deploy its forces” to southern Lebanon, which is controlled by Hezbollah, he said.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman told reporters immediately after Annan’s speech that there would be no cease-fire.

“We will do whatever is necessary,” he said. “We have no timeline.”

Gillerman said he was “disturbed” that Annan’s report never mentioned the word “terror” or referred to Syria and Iran, which Israel accuses of being Hezbollah’s sponsors.

“The first thing that must be addressed is cessation of terror before we even talk about cessation of hostilities,” Gillerman said.

“When you operate on a cancerous growth you do not stop in the middle, sew the patient up and tell him keep living with that growth until it kills you. You make sure it is totally removed.”

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said it was time for the Security Council to start considering a response.

“As we’ve said repeatedly, what we seek is a long-term cessation of hostilities that’s part of a comprehensive change in the region and part of a real foundation for peace, but still no one has explained how you conduct a cease-fire with a group of terrorists,” he said.

 

© 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Traprock makes this available pursuant to fair use law.

Israel Hints at a Full-Scale Invasion

Traprock homepageGuardian original

Israel Hints at a Full-Scale Invasion

Thursday July 20, 2006 4:46 PM

By HUSSEIN DAKROUB Associated Press Writer

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Israeli troops met fierce resistance from Hezbollah guerrillas Thursday as they crossed into Lebanon to seek tunnels and weapons for a second straight day, and Israel hinted at a full-scale invasion. Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council that “hostilities must stop” between Israel and Hezbollah.

Israeli warplanes also launched new airstrikes on Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, shortly after daybreak, followed by strikes in the guerrillas’ heartland in the south and eastern Bekaa Valley.

The strikes followed bombings Wednesday that killed as many as 70 people, according to Lebanese television, making it the deadliest day since the fighting began July 12.

Annan also condemned Israel’s “excessive use of force” against Lebanon.

“There are serious obstacles to reaching a cease-fire or even to diminishing the violence quickly,” Annan said.

He added that the fighting had triggered a humanitarian crisis.

Russia sharply criticized Israel over its onslaught against Lebanon, now in its ninth day, sparked when Hezbollah militants captured two Israeli soldiers. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Israel’s actions have gone “far beyond the boundaries of an anti-terrorist operation” and repeating calls for an immediate cease-fire.

At least 306 people have been killed in Lebanon since the Israeli campaign began, according to the security forces control room that collates casualties. In Israel, 29 people have been killed, including 14 soldiers. The U.N. has said at least a half- million people have been displaced in Lebanon.

About 40 U.S. Marines landed in Beirut to help Americans onto the USS Nashville, which will carry 1,200 evacuees bound for Cyprus in the second mass U.S. exodus from Lebanon. Thousands of Europeans also fled on ships – continuing one of the largest evacuation operations since World War II. An estimated 13,000 foreign nationals have been evacuated.

Israel’s series of small ground forays across the border have aimed to push back Hezbollah guerrillas who have continued firing rockets into northern Israel despite more than a week of massive bombardment – raising the question of whether air power alone can suppress them. Guerrillas fired 25 rockets into Israel on Thursday, which caused no casualties.

But the guerrillas have been fighting back hard on the ground, wounding three Israeli soldiers Thursday, a day after killing two. An Israeli unit sent in to ambush Hezbollah guerrillas also had a fierce gunbattle with a cell of militants.

In another clash, just across the border from the Israeli town of Avivim, guerrillas fired a missile at an Israeli tank, seriously wounding one soldier. Hezbollah said its guerrillas destroyed two tanks trying to enter the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras, across from Avivim.

Israel has mainly limited itself to attacks from the air and sea, reluctant to send in ground troops on terrain dominated by Hezbollah.

But an Israeli army spokesman refused to rule out the possibility of a full-scale invasion. Israel broadcast warnings Wednesday into south Lebanon, telling civilians to leave the region – a possible prelude to a larger Israeli ground operation.

“There is a possibility – all our options are open. At the moment, it’s a very limited, specific incursion but all options remain open,” Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Leaflets dropped Wednesday night warned the population that any trucks traveling in Lebanese towns south of the Litani River would be suspected of carrying weapons and rockets and could be targeted by Israeli forces.

The Lebanese government is under international pressure to deploy troops in the south to rein in Hezbollah guerrillas – but even before the fighting, many considered it too weak to do so without deeply fracturing the country.

An Italian newspaper quoted Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora on Thursday as making his strongest statement yet against the Shiite militant group. But Saniora’s office quickly said he was misquoted.

The Milan-based Corriere della Sera quoted him as saying in an interview that Hezbollah has created a “state within a state,” adding: “The entire world must help us disarm Hezbollah. But first we need to reach a cease-fire.”

Saniora later issued a statement denying the remarks. He said he told the paper the international community must help press Israel from Chebaa Farms, a small border area that Lebanon claims and Hezbollah points to as proof of the continued need for armed resistance.

Saniora told the paper that “the continued presence of Israeli occupation of Lebanese lands in the Chebaa Farms region is what contributes to the presence of Hezbollah weapons. The international community must help us in (getting) an Israeli withdrawal from Chebaa Farms so we can solve the problem of Hezbollah’s arms,” the statement said. There was no immediate comment from the newspaper.

On Wednesday, Saniora appealed for a cease-fire, saying Lebanon “has been torn to shreds.” Warplanes pounded southern areas where Hezbollah operates, but civilian residential neighborhoods bore the brunt, with dozens of houses destroyed.

Dallal said Israel had hit “1,000 targets in the last eight days – 20 percent were missile-launching sites and the rest were control and command centers, missiles and so forth.”

Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan insisted the Israeli army never targets civilians but has no way of knowing whether they are in an area it is striking. “Civilians might be in the area because Hezbollah is operating from civilian territory,” Nehushtan said.

He said that Hezbollah has fired more than 1,100 rockets at civilian areas in Israel since the fighting began and that 12 percent – or about 750,000 people – of Israel’s population lives in areas that can be targeted by the guerrillas.

Israel said its airstrikes so far have destroyed about half of Hezbollah’s arsenal – and it has been trying to take out its top leaders.

The Israeli military said aircraft dropped 23 tons of explosives on what it believed was a bunker for senior Hezbollah leaders in the Bourj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Hezbollah said none of its members was hurt and denied a leadership bunker was in the area, saying a mosque under construction was hit. It has a headquarters compound in Bourj al-Barajneh that is off limits to Lebanese police and army, so security officials could not confirm the strike.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman told CNN his country would not comment about the attack until it is sure of all the facts. But he added, “I can assure you that we know exactly what we hit. … This was no religious site. This was indeed the headquarters of the Hezbollah leadership.”

On Thursday, Israeli jets struck houses believed used by Hezbollah officials in the town of Hermel in the western Bekaa Valley, wounding at least three.

Israeli warplanes also destroyed a five-story residential and commercial building that reportedly once held a Hezbollah office in the Bekaa Valley city of Baalbek, a Hezbollah stronghold, witnesses said. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Two civilians were killed late Wednesday in strikes on bridges in Lebanon’s far north, near Tripoli, the National News Agency said.

Israeli jets also raided a detention center in the southern town of Khiam Thursday, witnesses and local TV said. The notorious Khiam prison, formerly run by Israel’s Lebanese militia allies during its occupation, was destroyed in four bombing runs, they said.

International pressure mounted on Israel and the United States to agree to a cease-fire. The destruction and rising death toll deepened a rift between the U.S. and Europe.

The Bush administration is giving Israel a tacit green light to take the time it needs to neutralize Hezbollah, but the Europeans fear mounting civilian casualties will play into the hands of militants and weaken Lebanon’s democratically elected government.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour criticized the rising toll, saying the shelling was invariably killing innocent civilians.

“International law demands accountability,” she said in Geneva. “The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control.”

Associated Press reporters Joe Panossian in Beirut and Maria Sanminiatelli in Larnaca, Cyprus, contributed to this report.

Is Israel committing war crime against Lebanon?

original Mirror.co.uk article

20 July 2006

IT GETS WORSE

MAYHEM IN MIDDLE EAST

Israelis kill 58 civilians as toll rises Hizbollah strike back at Nazareth

 Jon Clements In Beirut

BLITZED Lebanon counted the deadliest toll of its eight-day war last night after Israeli air strikes killed 58 civilians and one Hizbollah fighter.

Amid reports of 10 members of one family dying in a single raid, a UN human rights chief said the continuing slaughter of innocents could amount to a war crime.

Israel paid with its own suffering when two boys, aged three and nine, died in a Hizbollah rocket attack in peaceful Nazareth, the birthplace of Christ.

With 500,000 civilians now feared homeless, Lebanese Premier Fouad Siniora called on the world to pressure Israel to end its onslaught on Hizbollah.

He begged: “I call on you to respond immediately and to send humanitarian aid. I hope you won’t let us down.”

But there was no sign of Israel heeding any plea for peace. It has privately made it clear it wants another 14 days to crush Hizbollah.

Claiming airstrikes had destroyed about 50 per cent of the enemy arsenal, senior army commander Brigadier Alon Friedman said grimly: “It will take us time to destroy what’s left.”

As the bombardment continued, more than 500 Britons evacuated from Lebanon arrived in Cyprus aboard two Navy warships. HMS Gloucester and HMS York are expected to act as a shuttle service for the next few days helping 5,000 more Brits to escape.

Israel ratcheted up its assault yet again by sending ground troops over the border into Lebanon and helicopter gunships into east Beirut.

Jets attacked industrial targets including the country’s biggest dairy farm. A drugs factory, packaging plant and paper mill were also bombed setting back for years Lebanon’s fragile economic recovery.

Further south, where fighting is fiercest, at least 12 civilians were killed and 30 wounded in heavy bombing on the the town of Srifa. Ten were members of one family. Mayor Afif Nadji said: “This was a massacre.”

Six people were killed in a raid on Nabatiyeh. More deaths were reported in Baalbeck, in the Bekaa Valley.

In total, 300 people – nearly all civilians – have been killed in the Lebanon and 1,000 wounded in the last eight days.

The war began after Hizbollah guerrillas kidnapped two Israeli soldiers.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said: “The scale of the killings, and their predictability, could engage the criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in command and control.”

The Mirror visited a truck park in the Christian area of Hadeth, east Beirut, after an Apache helicopter fired two missiles into a row of nine lorries in the early morning. Mechanic Elie Najjar, 45, said a Syrian driver was killed.

Revealing the divisions that Israel’s attacks are opening in Lebanon, Elie, a Christian, raged: “F*** Hizbollah ! I love George Bush! I love Tony Blair! I want to leave Lebanon, I want to live in US.”

The massive Libanlait milk farm and processing plant, near Hosh el Sneid, in the Bekaa Valley was struck by at least five missiles, wrecking the £8.3million plant.

Sales and marketing manager Mark Waked, a British passport holder, said: “We were hit at exactly 3 am. The plant was completely destroyed.

“We distribute milk to the whole of the region. We’ve no idea why we were targeted. But I’m not leaving. Our duty is to stay here and rebuild.” Wajid al-Bisri, vice-president of the Lebanese Association of Industrialists, said: “I think the picture will be much worse than we can possibly imagine when all this ends. It will take years to recover.”

Israeli planes also hit a Christian district of Beirut for the first time.

The target was a truck-mounted machine used to drill for water. It is believed to have been mistaken for a missile launcher. Beirut airport runway was also bombed.

The death of the two young boys in Nazareth raised to 15 the number of civilians killed in Israel in the last week.

Nazareth, 20 miles within the Israeli border, is where Jews and Arabs have happily co-existed for 2,000 years.

Two Hizbollah rocket strikes ended that. One hit a building, injuring 18 people. The second killed the Israeli- Arab boys. Elsewhere, Israeli tanks entered the Mughazi refugee camp in Gaza under heavy fire and killed six. Three Palestinians were shot dead in the town of Nablus.

Navy destroyer HMS Gloucester arrived in Cyprus early yesterday, carrying around 180 evacuees, mainly women and children. Many were due to fly back to the UK last night.

A second destroyer, HMS York, brought around 330 evacuees into Limassol, in south Cyprus.

Lt Commander Simon Day carried two-year-old Ayah Jawhar aboard. Her mother Abir Walid Alwan and four-yearold sibling Noor were also on board.

The aircraft carrier Illustrious is also preparing to take part in the sea evacuation. Last night, the Foreign Office told Brits wanting to flee Lebanon to gather at the Beirut Forum today.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was holding talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

The US has refused to press Israel to end the offensive, blaming neighbouring Syria for fomenting trouble.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected in the region tomorrow to drum up support for a ceasefire of “lasting value.”

That would have the Lebanese army take over the south of the country.

j.clements@mirror.co.uk

 

Israeli air raid kills 64

 http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=2213454

Jul 19, 2006 — By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Israeli air strikes on Lebanon killed 63 civilians and a Hizbollah fighter on Wednesday, the deadliest toll of the eight-day-old war, as thousands of villagers fled north and more foreigners were evacuated.

Hizbollah rockets killed two children in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth, medics said. More Hizbollah rockets fell on the city of Haifa and one hit an empty seafront restaurant.

Israeli aircraft bombed a bunker in southern Beirut where the army said it suspected senior Hizbollah members were holed up. The NRG Maariv news Web site quoted a senior military source as saying information obtained by security forces had shown Hizbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was there.

Hizbollah denied any of its leaders or personnel were killed in the raid and said it targeted a mosque under construction in the area of Burj al-Barajneh in the southern suburbs.

Israeli troops also crossed the border to raid Hizbollah posts and the Israeli army said two of its soldiers were killed and nine injured in fighting with Hizbollah guerrillas.

Despite international concern, there was no sign Israel or its Lebanese Shi’ite foes were ready to heed the Beirut government’s pleas for an immediate halt to a war that has killed at least 299 people in Lebanon and 29 in Israel.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said more than 500,000 people had been displaced and appealed for international help.

“I call on you to respond immediately and without reservation to our call for a ceasefire and to provide urgent international humanitarian aid,” he said in a televised address.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the bombardment would last “as long as necessary” to free two soldiers captured by Hizbollah on July 12 and ensure its militants are disarmed.

Hizbollah, backed by Syria and Iran, wants to swap the two Israeli soldiers for Lebanese and Palestinians in Israeli jails.

At least 17 Lebanese, including several children, were killed and 30 wounded in an Israeli air strike that destroyed houses in the southern village of Srifa, residents said.

“There was a massacre in Srifa,” the village’s mayor, Afif Najdi, told Reuters. Rescuers were still looking for bodies.

At least 46 other civilians were killed in air strikes that hammered other parts of south and east Lebanon, security sources said. Hizbollah said one of its fighters was killed.

Israel also bombed the runway at Beirut international airport, which has been closed since Thursday. The runway and fuel tanks have been hit several times.

POSSIBLE WAR CRIMES

United Nations human rights chief Louise Arbour said the scale and predictability of the killing in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories could involve war crimes.

Indiscriminate shelling of cities and the bombing of sites where civilians would inevitably suffer were unacceptable, and those in command could bear criminal responsibility, Arbour said without pointing a specific finger of blame.

Many villagers in southern Lebanon said food, water and medical supplies were dwindling after roads and bridges were cut in the south, restricting movement of aid.

Displaced families packed into pick-up trucks and cars, many flying white flags, drove from border areas toward Sidon, the main city in the south, to try to escape the violence.

Panicked foreigners flooded out of the country.

“It’s very bad, very sad, I can’t believe what’s happening,” said a tearful Lubna Jaber, an Australian who had come to visit relatives in Lebanon. She was waiting in central Beirut with about 350 compatriots to board buses and then a ferry to Turkey.

About 1,100 American evacuees left Lebanon by sea and air bound for Cyprus on Wednesday, the largest group of U.S. citizens to have been rescued from the country in a single day.

France said about 8,000 of its 17,000 citizens resident in Lebanon had asked to be evacuated. Germany sent at least 500 citizens by bus to Syria.

Israel’s offensive in Lebanon has coincided with a three-week-old push into the Gaza Strip to retrieve another soldier, seized by Palestinian militants on June 25.

Israeli troops killed 10 Palestinians in clashes in Gaza — five militants and five civilians — and another five were killed in the occupied West Bank.

About 60 Palestinians, including 10 children, were also wounded in the clashes in densely populated central Gaza on Wednesday, medics said.

(Additional reporting by Nadim Ladki, Alaa Shahine, Laila Bassam, Alistair Lyon and Lin Noueihed in Beirut, Jerusalem bureau, Michele Kambas in Limassol, Yara Bayoumy in Dubai)

 

Copyright 2006 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Traprock Peace Center makes this available under fair use laws.

Lebanon condemns Israel ‘madness’

original BBC article

Lebanon condemns Israel ‘madness’Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora says Israel is “opening the gates of hell and madness” on his country.

In a BBC interview, he urged Hezbollah to release two captured Israeli soldiers but said Israel’s response to the crisis had been disproportionate.

The UN is evacuating all non-essential staff, joining tens of thousands of foreigners fleeing the crisis.

Fresh Israeli strikes have killed 11 Lebanese soldiers, while Hezbollah rockets killed an Israeli in Nahariya.

Israel launched its assault and blockade last Wednesday after Hezbollah fighters captured two of its soldiers.  

About 230 Lebanese people have been killed since then – the vast majority of them civilians, but including about 30 soldiers. The number of Hezbollah fighters killed is not known. 

Twenty-five Israelis have died – 13 civilians and 12 members of the military.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has reiterated his government’s demands for the captured soldiers to be freed without condition and for Hezbollah to be disarmed.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held talks on Tuesday with a UN team trying to negotiate a ceasefire, but said the soldiers’ release and the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south would have to precede a ceasefire.

(FOREIGNERS IN LEBANON Canada: 40,000 Philippines: 30,000 Australia: 25,000 US: 25,000 UK: 22,000 (inc. 10,000 with dual nationality) France: 20,000) Her comments came as tens of thousands more foreigners were set to leave Lebanon by land, sea, and air. 

A British warship docked in Beirut at the start of a mission to transport up to 12,000 Britons and a further 10,000 people with dual British-Lebanese nationality to Cyprus.

The US, Canada and other governments were also organising evacuations by land, air or sea.

In other developments:

 

  • UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he expected European nations to contribute troops to a proposed stabilisation force to end the fighting 
  • The UN has warned of a humanitarian disaster as Lebanese flee their homes, with air strikes on roads and bridges hampering efforts to help them 
  • Lebanon’s pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud has vowed to stand by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah 
  • Shlomo Goldwasser, the father of one of the missing Israeli soldiers, said he hoped all means – legal or illegal – would be used to get his son Ehud back

As Israel launched fresh cross-border attacks on Tuesday, six bodies were pulled from the rubble of a home in the Lebanese border village of Aitaroun, and another family was killed in the coastal city of Tyre.

The 11 Lebanese soldiers were killed at a barracks east of Beirut.

The Lebanese army has been ordered not to respond to the Israeli attacks. But Lebanese soldiers have now died in several strikes, including one on the port of Abdeh on Monday in which nine died.

In Tuesday’s attacks by Hezbollah, rockets hit the northern city of Haifa, as well as Safed, Acre, Kiryat Shemona, and Gush Halav region near Safed, Israeli officials told AP news agency.  

“I was near the bomb shelter, there was a humongous boom, and I saw it was two meters (yards) next to my house, really two meters,” Eli Dayari, a resident in Nahariya, told Israel’s Channel 10 television.

“People are panicking and the house was on fire, really big flames, the firefighters are here.”

Israeli military officials say more than 700 Hezbollah rockets have landed in Israel since the crisis began.

Published: 2006/07/18 16:19:48 GMT

Echoes of past in Lebanon’s present

original BBC article

Published: 2006/07/18 12:57:51 GMT

Echoes of past in Lebanon’s presentBy Jeremy Bowen
BBC Middle East editor

Once again, foreigners are turning their backs on Lebanon.
Britain started what could become a big exodus, flying out the most urgent cases first.

Ships from the Royal Navy are steaming this way across the Mediterranean to take the rest.

Now Beirut is left behind, its sun struggling through a shroud of smoke from the fires started by Israeli strikes. Less than a week ago Lebanon was basking in its summer, proud that foreigners wanted to come here again.

Hezbollah’s triumphalist videos pump out from their TV station, promoting their fighters as national heroes.

That might have been true in 2000, when they forced Israel out of south Lebanon. But outside their heartland in the southern suburbs of Beirut and in the Shia Muslim south, many Lebanese don’t feel that way any more.

Although Hezbollah claims that a small section of border land is still occupied by Israel, the United Nations has declared the Israeli occupation over.

So it is harder for many Lebanese to accept the costs of Hezbollah’s actions.

Heartbroken

In the southern suburbs, rubble covers the streets. Bridges and flyovers are broken-backed and crumpled and Hezbollah’s headquarters are flattened.

Often, after air strikes, heavily armed black-shirted fighters from Hezbollah turn up, in four-wheel-drive vehicles with blacked out windows, to inspect the damage.

 

Others patrol the streets, stopping and searching strangers. They are the only power that matters in Beirut’s southern suburbs and in the bottom third of the country that is closest to Israel.

Since it all started, there has been a lot of damage, and death. The Lebanese who thought that their country was, at last, building a better future for itself are heartbroken about what is happening.

Nayla Mouawad, Lebanese minister for social affairs, is disgusted by what she called the brutal, disproportionate and murderous activities of the Israelis – but she is also appalled that Hezbollah’s decision to capture Israeli soldiers has pushed Lebanon into a war for which its people never asked.

“We were not aware of this operation,” she says.

“We did not approve and we did not adopt this operation.”

‘Capitulation’

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has been meeting representatives of the European Union and the United Nations. At least some sort of diplomatic process has started.

But there is great disappointment here that the world’s leading industrial nations at the G8 summit failed to call for a ceasefire. Many see it as a capitulation to the agenda of Israel and the United States.

Since Syria was forced to pull its troops out of Lebanon last year after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the self-made multi-billionaire who had masterminded the reconstruction of Lebanon after 15 years of civil war, the government has been trying to absorb Hezbollah into the political process.

It has also been mandated under the terms of UN resolution 1559 to extend its control of the country to Hezbollah’s heartland in the south.

It decided early on that it was inconceivable to risk an armed confrontation with Hezbollah. To begin with, its army would probably have broken up on confessional lines if it had tried.

Israel says it is acting against Hezbollah’s Shia fighters because the Lebanese army wouldn’t, or couldn’t.

“The army is a reflection of our society,” says former Lebanese army General Elias Hanna.

“In this army you have Muslims and among those Muslims about 60% to 70% are Shia. How can a Shia soldier go and disarm another Shia who he believes has the right to resist Israel?”

Bystanders

Now that Israel is on the attack, the government’s army is under orders to be neutral.

I saw a unit of armoured personnel carriers close to the southern suburbs start its engines, rumble out of its base and disperse to the surrounding streets no more than a minute after a big Israeli air strike close by, wallflowers at Hezbollah and Israel’s dance of death. They seemed concerned that they might be Israel’s next target.

Hezbollah has taken some heavy blows this week. Its headquarters was demolished.

But with support from Iran and Syria, criticism in Lebanon isn’t much of a problem. Plenty of Lebanese think this is not their war and that their country is being used, once again, as somebody else’s battlefield.

Hezbollah just seems to accept that. It’s a strong, well-disciplined organisation which is why it has inflicted so much pain on Israel in the past.

And Hezbollah still seems confident that, whatever Israel throws at it, it can answer in kind.

Lebanon death toll passes 230

Aljazeera original article/

Lebanon death toll passes 230

At least 29 people have been killed in the latest air strikes by Israeli warplanes in Lebanon, raising the toll there to more than 230. 

A truck carrying medical supplies donated by the United Arab Emirates was hit on the Beirut-Damascus highway and its driver was killed, the Lebanese health ministry said.

Hezbollah also announced that one of its fighters was killed in fighting with Israeli forces near the border.

Diplomatic efforts

Diplomatic efforts have brought no signs of an end to the week-old assault that began after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers.

Israel’s military action in Lebanon has so far killed at least 230 people, all but 26 of them civilians, and inflicted the heaviest destruction in the country for two decades, with attacks on ports, roads, bridges, factories and petrol stations.

The Israeli prime minister told United Nations envoys in Israel trying to broker a ceasefire that its offensive would continue until Hezbollah releases its two soldiers and rocket attacks end.

“Israel will continue the battle against Hezbollah and will continue to strike targets belonging to the group until it obtains the release of its captured soldiers and restores the security of Israeli citizens,” Ehud Olmert was quoted as saying in a statement following talks with the UN team.

Earlier, Israel’s deputy army chief, Major-General Moshe Kaplinsky, told Army Radio: “The fighting in Lebanon will end within a few weeks. We will not take months.

“We need more time to complete our very clear goals. When we fight terror it is a war that needs to be very accurate, very schematic and it takes time.

“Hezbollah has a very large system of different types of rockets. The [group] still has an ability to fire at the north and residents still feel this. We will do everything to shorten this suffering.”

Ground invasion

He added that a ground invasion into Lebanon had been considered.

“At this stage we do not think we have to activate massive ground forces into Lebanon but if we have to do this, we will. We are not ruling it out,” Kaplinsky said.

Israeli aircraft also struck Beirut’s southern suburbs, the northern city of Tripoli as well as two Lebanese army barracks in the Jumhur and Kafarshima areas early on Tuesday.

Television footage showed balls of fire and clouds of smoke billowing from a Lebanese army position east of Beirut. Eleven soldiers were killed and thirty were wounded, a security source said.

Lebanon’s army has so far tried to remain on the sidelines of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

Loud explosions caused by other raids on Beirut’s southern suburb were also heard across the capital.

Previous strikes on the area had destroyed Hezbollah’s headquarters.

Raids on the Christian coastal town of Byblos north of Beirut damaged two trucks without inflicting casualties, police said.

Warplanes also hit the eastern town of Baalbek.

Aljazeera’s correspondent reported that there was relative calm in south Lebanon on Tuesday morning after the overnight air raids and artillery shelling.

Hezbollah attacks

One Israeli was killed, and several others wounded, in the town of Nahariya, as Hezbollah continued to hit northern Israel with rocket attacks on Tuesday afternoon.

Rockets also hit the northern city of Haifa, where air raid sirens sounded throughout the day, and the towns of Safed, Acre and Kiryat Shemona.

Hezbollah’s attacks on Israeli forces and the firing of hundreds of rockets at northern Israel have killed 25 people so far, 13 of them civilians.

A senior Israeli officer has said that the rocket attacks had begun to ease off, but that the army needed perhaps three to four weeks to destroy the Hezbollah’s military stockpiles.
   
“We have hit a large part of their weapons arsenal, their anti-aircraft missiles and their rockets,” Udi Adam, head of Israel’s northern command, told Channel 1 Television.
   
A Hezbollah spokesman dismissed the claim, describing it as part of Israel’s psychological warfare against the group.

Fighting erupted after Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia resistance group, backed by Syria and Iran and part of Lebanon’s government, seized two Israeli soldiers and killed eight in a cross-border raid on northern Israel on July 12.

Lebanon’s government has repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire, but world powers have said any solution must include the release of the two soldiers, which Hezbollah wants to swap for prisoners in Israeli jails.

Kaplinsky said the two missing soldiers, along with a third, who was captured by Palestinian fighters on June 25, were thought to be alive and safe.

“We know that all three are alive. We know who is holding them and, as I said, we will do everything to bring them home,” he said.

By Aljazeera + Agencies

 

Canada’s shock at Lebanon deaths

original BBC article 

By Lee Carter
BBC News, Toronto

The death of eight members of a Canadian-Lebanese family in an Israeli air strike has sent shockwaves through Canada’s large Lebanese community. Ali el-Akhras, a pharmacist from Montreal, was on holiday with his wife Amira and their four children in the Lebanese village of Aitaroun, about 50 kilometres south of Beirut.

 

Amira and the children – aged one to eight – were all killed when an Israeli missile struck the house in which they were sheltering.Ali’s mother Hania and his uncle were also killed, while Ali later died of his injuries in hospital. Three other Lebanese relatives were also injured, family members in Montreal said.

An estimated 40,000 Canadians remain in Lebanon.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences to the families of the victims but he refused to criticise Israel or question its use of force.

He said it was the kidnappings of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas that started the conflict and said an escalation was “inevitable”.

 

But friends and relatives of the Canadians killed in the Israeli air strike have accused the Conservative prime minister of not doing enough to protect Canadians in Lebanon.

They also accused Mr Harper of not caring about civilian lives.

Mr Akhras’s cousin, Hussein el-Akhras said that although he was devastated by what happened to his relatives, he also felt sad for all the Lebanese civilians affected by the strikes.

 

 
“The Lebanese are bombed and they can do nothing.” he said. “It’s not just our family. There are a lot of civilians killed. There are hundreds dead and injured.” I’m asking the international community to help and put pressure on Israel to stop the bombings.”

The Akhras family were among many Canadians stranded in Lebanon as the crisis worsened. It is a popular time of year for Canada’s Lebanese community to visit relatives back home.

The Canadian Foreign Affairs department said it was sending commercial ships to pick up Canadians scrambling to leave the country.

“We expect to be able to evacuate people by mid-week,” Mr Harper said. He said Canada was working closely with British and American officials on evacuation plans.

 

Critics of the government response said it was almost impossible to get through to the Canadian embassy and complained about a lack of information on the government website.Joseph Nader in Toronto is among those anxiously awaiting word on relatives stranded in Lebanon. His brother-in-law’s wife and two young daughters are close to where shelling has been taking place.

He says the response from Canadian foreign ministry officials is getting better but still wonders why it has come so late.

“It’s barely a year since the big tsunami and now the same sort of thing is happening with Lebanon,” he said. “Once again the government is reacting long after something has happened.

” I noticed the US had a toll-free number to call two days after it started happening while the Canadians didn’t have the same sort of thing set up until three or four days later.”

Mr Nader says that his relatives are going to stay where they are while they await instructions from Canadian consular officials.

He says that although communication between Canada and Lebanon is difficult, he is still managing to talk to his relatives by cell phone. Originally he was scheduled to join them on holiday. Now he cannot wait for them to leave.

Israel kills children in Gaza house bombing

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5171148.stm

Massive air strike on Gaza house

At least five people have been killed and 15 injured in a massive Israeli air strike on the Gaza City home of a prominent Hamas figure.

The Israeli military says Mohammed Deif, a Hamas bomb-maker who has topped Israel’s most wanted list for over 10 years, was injured in the attack.

Hamas have not yet confirmed that Deif was caught up in the raid, which was of sufficient force to destroy the house.

The attack happened as Israeli troops crossed the border into central Gaza.

Master bomber

The soldiers have moved a few hundred metres into farmland east of Khan Younis in an expansion of their offensive in the Palestinian territory, says the BBC’s Alan Johnston in Gaza.

The massive Israeli operation is aimed at releasing a captured soldier and halting Palestinian rocket attacks.

The Hamas official’s three storey home in Sheikh Redwan district north of Gaza City was completely destroyed in the Israeli air strike.

There was a great flash of light and then a thick cloud of jet black smoke rose into the night, our correspondent says.

Although there are frequent Israeli attacks on Hamas targets, it is nearly three years since the air force struck in Gaza with enough force to demolish a whole building in this way, our correspondent adds.

Children are reported to be among the several dead who have yet to be identified.

Israeli forces have attempted to assassinate Deif a number of times before and there have been reports of him being wounded in the past.

Jerusalem says Deif is a master bomb maker who has been behind numerous suicide bomb attacks in Israel.

Palestinian sources also reported a second Gaza air raid in which a car was targeted and three people injured.

Essentials running low

The attacks come at a time of extraordinary tension in Gaza with Israeli troops mounting a two-week offensive following the capture of Cpl Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants during a raid on an Israeli border post on 25 June.

Over 50 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed during the confrontation.

Most of the dead have been Palestinian militants, but civilians have also died under Israeli fire and air strikes.

The militants who seized Cpl Shalit, along with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, have been insisting that the soldier only be handed over in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled out any negotiations with the Hamas-led Palestinian government, calling the militant group a “terrorist bloody organisation”.

Israeli defence sources say that Mr Olmert and Defence Minister Amir Peretz gave the military a green light for “in depth” incursions into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

There are warnings that the military crisis could trigger a major humanitarian problem in Gaza, which is already having to deal with a Western aid embargo against the government led by Hamas, which is viewed as a terrorist organisation.

Reports in the Israeli media say supplies of essential goods such as flour and cooking oil are within days of running out, unless Israel reopens border crossings and allows free flow of goods.

Israel withdrew settlers and troops from Gaza last September after a 38-year presence, though it kept control of its airspace and most borders.