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.