Monday, July 17, 2006

Lebanese Remain Defiant Despite Israeli Attacks

Israeli strikes kill more Lebanese

Monday 17 July 2006 4:55 PM GMT

Israeli aircraft have bombed Hezbollah positions in Lebanon for a sixth successive day; but the attacks have not stopped the Shia fighters from firing over 50 rockets at Israeli towns and cities.

In Lebanon, anger was also rising as the Israeli attacks killed at least 40 more civilians, taking the toll to over 200 by Monday evening.

The deadliest attacks came when Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a minibus in the town of Rmeileh, between Beirut and Saida. Twelve civilians were killed.

Reuters news agency reported that the vehicle was taking civilians away from the fighting and towards Beirut when the missile struck.

In Saida, Red Cross rescue workers also discovered on Monday the bodies of nine other civilians who were in a building stuck by bombs on Sunday.

The international community have appealed for calm amid growing calls to deploy a multinational military force to monitor and, if necessary, impose a ceasefire along the border.

Israel has said that it will continue to attack Hezbollah until the group stops firing missiles from Lebanon and releases two Israeli soldiers that it captured last Wednesday.

Israeli air attacks have been concentrated on the border region and areas surrounding the two port cities of Saida and Tyre.

Most strikes have been directed against Hezbollah military strongholds and weapons storage facilities.

On Sunday Israel warned all Lebanese civilians to leave their homes in southern Lebanon ahead of the coming offensive.

Many have complied and have travelled north to seek relative safety in the capital Beirut and other major cities.

Israel’s Army Radio quoted Israel's chief of staff as saying that Israel planned to enforce a 1km (0.5 mile) "security zone" inside Lebanon to keep Hizbollah away from the border.

Hezbollah attacks

After killing eight Israeli civilians on Sunday, Hezbollah renewed its rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities on Monday.

In Haifa, Israel’s third largest town where twenty rockets hit yesterday, five civilians were wounded when rockets badly damaged a residential building.

Short-range Katyusha rockets also wounded six people in the Galilee region of Western Israel. Others landed harmlessly in and around several towns in northern Israel including Acre and Tiberias.

Hezbollah attacks have killed 24 Israelis so far, including 12 civilians killed by rockets.


A United Nations team has also begun trying to broker a ceasefire as the world’s most powerful industrial nations called for an end to the fighting from the Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg.

The French prime minister, Dominic de Villepin called for “an immediate, humanitarian truce”.

Vijay Nambiar, who is leading a UN team to organise a ceasefire said there had been "some promising first efforts on the way forward” but added that “much diplomatic work needs to be done."

Nambiar will hold talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Tuesday.

Tony Blair, the British prime minister called for an international military force to separate the warring sides.

"The blunt reality is that this violence is not going to stop unless we create the conditions for the cessation of violence," said Blair, speaking at the G8 summit.

"The only way is if we have a deployment of international forces that can stop bombardment coming into Israel,” he said.

Officials from Iran, the main military and financial backer of Hezbollah, said that a cease-fire and a prisoner swap would be "an acceptable and fair" deal to resolve the conflict.

"In fact, there can be a cease-fire followed by a prisoner swap," said Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister after talks with Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa in Damascus.

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Israel Takes a Stupid Pill

By Larry C. Johnson, Booman Tribune

Apparently not content to let the US do a self-immolation act in the Middle East by itself, Israel decided to set itself on fire by invading Lebanon. Burn baby burn? Like George Bush, Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, never served in a combat unit and launched military operations without thinking the matter through. In fact, Olmert reportedly never even served in the military. I raise this because there is one simple question Israel cannot answer about the current operations-what is their strategic military objective. Olmert has somehow persuaded the Israeli military to ignore strategy, think tactically, and in the process become really stupid. The events in the next several weeks will expose as myth the canard that you can secure a nation by killing terrorists. No you can't.

Killing "terrorists" has a place in policy but it is not a strategic military obective. It is a tactical objective and may serve political purposes, but achieves little in terms of securing Israel. Israel is attacking targets in Lebanon like a drunken sailor in a bar fight. Flailing about, causing significant damage, hitting innocent bystanders, and generally making a mess of things. This is not the Israeli military that pulled off the brilliant and daring raid at Entebbe.

What about Hamas and Hezbollah?

They are not terrorists. They carry out terrorist attacks, but they are not terrorists. They are something far more dangerous. They are a fully functioning political, social, religious, and military organizations that use terrorism tactics, but they are far more formidible than terrorist groups like Al Qaeda or the Basque Terrorist Organization. They do have the resources and the personnel to project force, sustain operations, and cannot be easily defeated. Unlike the Egyptian and Syrian armies in 1973, Hamas and Hezbollah will not easily fold and cannot be defeated in a seven day war. If that is the assumption among some Israeli military planners it is a crazy fantasy.

While most folks in the United States buy into the Hollywood storyline of poor little Israel fighting for its survival against big, bad Muslims, the reality unfolding on our TV screens shows something else. Exodus, starring Paul Newman, is ancient history. Hamas and Hezbollah attacked military targets; kidnapping soldiers on military patrols may be an act of war and a provocation, but it is not terrorism. (And yes, Hezbollah and Hamas have carried out terrorist attacks in the past against Israeli civilians. I'm not ignoring those acts, I condemn them, but we need to understand what the dynamics are right now.) Israel is not attacking the individuals who hit their soldiers. Israel is engaged in mass punishment.

How did Israel respond? They bombed civilian targets and civilian infrastructure and have killed many civilians. Let's see if I have this right.

The Arab "terrorists" attack military units, destroy at least one tank, and are therefore terrorists. Israel retaliates by launching aerial, naval, and artillery bombardments of civilian areas and they are engaging in self-defense. If we are unable to recognize the hypocrisy of this construct then we ourselves are so enveloped by propaganda and emotion that, like the Israelis, Hezbollah, and Hamas, we can't think rationally. We can only think in terms of tribalism and revenge.

Iran, meanwhile, is sitting in the catbird's seat. They have a well-trained and highly competent surrogate force in Hezbollah. Hezbollah's successful attack on Friday on an Israeli naval vessel is a reminder that Hezbollah is not a bunch of crazy kids carrying RPGs and wearing flip flops. I would be willing to wager that at least one Iranian military advisor was helping Hezbollah launch the missile that hit the Israeli ship. But Iran is doing more than simply engage in tit-for-tat. They are thinking strategically.

The events unfolding in Iraq and Lebanon are going Tehran's way. The United States is being portrayed in the world media as a government that tolerates and excuses attacks on civilian populations. The perception becomes the reality and the ability of the United States to rally support among the Russians, the Chinese, and even the French becomes more impaired. We need the international community to deal effectively with nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. Now, we will be bogged down trying to defend Israel from an angry international community.

In the past, the United States had enough credibility on both sides and kept enough of a distance during these blood fueds so that we could intervene and prevent the fighting from escalating into a gigantic war. It appears that there is no one in the Bush Administration who can step up and intervene to calm the situation. Hell, with John Bolton and Elliot Abrams leading the charge, we are Israel's enablers.

Former Senator Fred Thompson played a U.S. Navy Admiral in The Hunt for Red October. While speaking about escalating tensions as the United States and the Soviet Union chased a renegade submarine, he said: "This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it."

Those words are relevant today. Let's hope and pray they don't come to pass.

2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Israel frees Aljazeera bureau chief

Monday 17 July 2006 12:57 PM GMT

Al-Umari has been arrested twice in 24 hours

Israel's police have released Aljazeera's bureau chief in Jerusalem after several hours of questioning.

Walid al-Umari was arrested on Monday as he was reporting on the latest developments in the crisis with Lebanon from a village in northern Israel, the pan-Arab television reported.

His identification papers were confiscated.

After he was released late on Monday, al-Umari, in a live telephone interview broadcast on the satellite channel, accused Israel of "interfering with Aljazeera's work".

Aljazeera has denied showing sensitive security locations that can be used by Hezbollah to pinpoint targets for an attack.

The Lebanase group has rained rockets on Israel in a tit-for-tat cycle of violence that also saw the Jewish state bomb Lebanon's infrastructure.

Scores of civilians have been killed, mostly Lebanese since Israel responded to the kidnapping of two soldiers on Wednesday by Hezbollah with relentless air strikes.

Al-Umari and his crew were reporting from Kofor Yasif village, near the northern Israeli city of Akka on the Mediterranean coast.

He was taken to a police station while the rest of the crew was told to stay in their cars.

On Sunday morning, Israeli police briefly held Elias Karam, Aljazeera's correspondent in northern Israel,near Haifa -the city that has been repeatedly hit by Hezbollah's rockets.

Al-Umari was detained by Israeli police also on Sunday night for two hours after broadcasting from Haifa.

Micky Rosenfeldm, an Israeli police spokesman, said Al-Umari, his cameraman, and an assistant were questioned on Sunday about footage they had taken after dozens of Hezbollah rockets landed on Haifa, killing eight Israelis.

Aljazeera + Agencies
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Israeli soldier killed in West Bank

Monday 17 July 2006 5:09 AM GMT

Al-Aqsa fighters have been attending rallies in Nablus

An Israeli soldier has been killed by an explosion in Nablus in the West Bank, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

The body was lying in an alley surrounded by a group of Palestinians.

An anonymous caller told AFP that the soldier had been killed by a bomb planted by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed offshoot of the Fatah party led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

At least 86 Palestinians and an Israeli have been killed since July 5 after an increase in military attacks, which Israel says are intended to secure the release of one of its soldiers seized last month and to prevent fighters firing homemade rockets over the border.

Palestinians in Nablus have been holding rallies in the past few days to protest against Israel's attacks on Lebanon and on their countrymen in the Gaza Strip.

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