Tuesday, July 25, 2006
US/Israeli War On Lebanon Sparks International Condemnation
Monday 24 July 2006 3:54 AM GMT
Nasrallah said the priority was to end Israeli attacks on Lebanon
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has said that an Israeli ground invasion would not prevent Hezbollah from firing rockets into northern Israel.
"Any Israeli incursion will have no political results if it does not achieve its declared goals, primarily an end to the rocketing of Zionist settlements in northern occupied Palestine," Nasrallah said in remarks published on Monday.
"I assure you that this goal will not be achieved, God willing, by an Israeli incursion," he told As-Safir newspaper.
His remarks came after Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets at Israel on Sunday.
Responding to reports about diplomatic efforts to end the fighting, Nasrallah said the priority was to end Israeli attacks on Lebanon, but added he was open to discussing initiatives.
Nasrallah, whose whereabouts are unknown, also said Hizbollah would not object if the Lebanese government were to negotiate a prisoner swap, under which Hizbollah freed the two Israeli soldiers it captured on July 12 in return for Lebanese and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails.
Nasrallah would not take a stand on proposals to send an international force to southern Lebanon to keep the peace, but said it was "very noteworthy" that Israel first rejected and then accepted the idea of a NATO-led force.
In a shift of Israel's position, Amir Peretz, the Israeli defence minister, said on Sunday his country could accept an international force, preferably NATO, on its border to ensure the peace in southern Lebanon.
"This shift in Israel's position must be studied and considered well before taking a positive or negative stand on this idea," he said.
Nasrallah downplayed Hezbollah's loss of the strategic border village of Maroun al-Ras, saying Israeli media have hyped up the first major ground operation of the 13-day-old confrontation "as if it's the conquest of Stalingrad".
He said Israel's losses in the fighting for Maroun al-Ras showed the weakness of the Israeli army. Israel has said five soldiers were killed in the fighting there.
"The enemy is seeking a military achievement in order to exaggerate it, and use it in the media and in politics," Nasrallah said.
He also indicated that his group was still interested in a trade of two Israeli soldiers that Hezbollah captured in a brazen cross-border raid on July 12, sparking the current crisis, for Arab prisoners held by Israel.
An envoy from Germany's Foreign Ministry visited Beirut on Sunday while the German foreign minister was in Israel, leading to speculation that the European nation may embark on a mission to negotiate the prisoner swap.
Nasrallah said that Hezbollah has not been in contact with Germany but that the "German channel is still valid." He said he wouldn't object to other channels that the parties agree to.
In 2004, Germany negotiated a previous prisoner exchange between Hezbollah and Israel.
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Hezbollah proves its mettle
by Christian Henderson in Beirut
Monday 24 July 2006 9:43 PM GMT
Nasarallah: When the Israelis enter, they must pay dearly
Hezbollah’s war with Israel, so far, has been a rare military accomplishment in the history of the Middle East conflict, analysts say. But they doubt whether the Islamist militia can endure sustained and intensive warfare.
Although Lebanon has paid the price with mounting civilian casualties and a devastated infrastructure, Hezbollah has largely remained intact, and despite the 12-day pounding of the militia's positions it is still able to fire rockets into Israel.
The Israeli military, which prides itself on a history of brilliant victories over the Arabs, was caught unawares when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed four sailors in an attack on an Israeli navy boat.
An Iranian-made radar-guided anti-ship missile was used in the attack, the Israeli military has said, and Tel Aviv is admitting that it was caught off-guard, a second time.
"We were not aware that Hezbollah possessed this kind of missile," Rear Admiral Noam Faig, Israel Navy (IN) head of operations, told Jane's Defence Weekly last week. "We are familiar with that missile from other areas, but assumed that the threat was not present in Lebanon."
Prepared for showdown
In relative terms, the militia has had more success in fighting Israel than many Arab states and analysts say the group was well prepared for the showdown.
Amal Saad-Ghoreyeb, author of "Hezbollah: Politics and Religion" told Aljazeera.net: "A lot of commentators say the group must have miscalculated. But Hezbollah’s ability to provide a military deterrent must be indicative of the fact that the movement was prepared for such an Israeli onslaught."
Twenty Israeli soldiers have been killed and several tanks destroyed by Hezbollah, who has confirmed that 13 of its fighters have also been killed.
Israel says Hezbollah’s losses are as high as 100.
Hezbollah’s tactics are becoming clearer as the conflict continues. The group has a military force as large as 5000 that is divided into decentralised divisions, and since the Israeli withdrawal from the south in 2000, the group has been preparing underground tunnels across south Lebanon and building sophisticated armoury.
Vietnam style warfare
Military analysts have drawn comparisons between the Hezbollah and Vietnamese fighters and other guerrilla forces in their tactics.
"They are well armed, well motivated combat veterans from the 1990s. It's the old Mao Tsetung guerrilla strategy of retreating when the enemy advances and advancing when the enemy retreats," Nicholas Blandford, the Jane's Defence Weekly analyst in Lebanon, told Aljazeera.net.
Unlike many Arab militaries that are under tight, centralised control, Hezbollah works in small decentralised groups that are able to respond quickly without permission from senior ranks.
"They always operate in small isolated cells. One cell does not know what the other cell is doing. I am sure Hassan Nasrallah does not know what the military wing is doing sometimes. This decentralised structure is part of the group's military potency," Saad-Ghoreyeb said.
The last war Israel fought in Lebanon was against the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in 1982; but the Palestinian resistance to the Israeli invasion was mostly unsuccessful as it was infiltrated with informers and applied tactics similar to a regular army.
This time Israel faces a far more formidable force made up of dedicated and secretive members who have years of experience in fighting a guerrilla war in south Lebanon.
Reports from Israeli soldiers returning from raids in Lebanon say that they have fought fierce battles with a formidable foe.
"They're not normal soldiers, you know," one was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "They're guerrillas. They're very smart."
But although Hezbollah have fared well up until now, it remains to be seen how long they can sustain the fierce Israeli assault.
Supply lines within Lebanon have been cut and the group will also have difficulties importing weapons from outside the country. However, according to Israeli reports they have enough rockets to last them for a month.
"The rate of rocket fire has dwindled since last Wednesday. Whether this is a tactical move or because they are running low on supplies is impossible to say," Blanford said.
What is likely is that Hezbollah are waiting for a full-scale invasion so they can engage Israel on the ground and fight a guerrilla war in the wadis and mountains of south Lebanon.
"As for us, our equation and principles are the following: When the Israelis enter, they must pay dearly in terms of their tanks, officers, soldiers. This is what we pledge to do and we will honour our pledge, God willing," Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah secretary general, said in an interview with Aljazeera on Thursday.
Tel Aviv ended its 18-year-long occupation of the border area in 2000 and is unlikely to re-engage in a conflict that was sometimes referred to as "Israel's Vietnam".
Alon Ben-David, a Jane's Defence Weekly correspondent wrote in last week’s issue that the Israeli military has suffered “considerable” casualties in its push north in Lebanon.
"The Israeli forces have discovered that Hezbollah has established a Viet Cong-style network of tunnels and trenches close to the Israeli border, providing shelter for its operatives and their weapons," he said.
By Christian Henderson in Beirut
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Israel used cluster grenades on civilians
Tuesday 25 July 2006 12:03 AM GMT
Cluster grenades should not be used around civilian areas
A US-based human rights group has accused Israel of using artillery-fired cluster grenades against a Lebanese village last week during its assault against Hezbollah.
Human Rights Watch said on Monday that it had taken photos of cluster grenades stored by Israeli artillery teams on the Israel-Lebanon border.
It also said that a cluster grenade attack on Wednesday killed one and wounded at least 12 civilians in the village of Blida.
"Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when used around civilians," Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director, said in a statement.
"They should never be used in populated areas."
An Israeli army statement said: "The use of cluster munitions is legal under international law and the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] uses such munitions in accordance with international standards. We are checking the specific details of the incident mentioned in the report."
Violating a ban?
Human Rights Watch said it had photographed M483A1 artillery shells stored on the Israeli side of the border, which deliver 88 cluster sub-munitions per shell and have a failure rate of 14 per cent, often leaving behind dangerous unexploded shells.
It said it believed the use of cluster grenades in populated areas could violate a ban on indiscriminate attacks contained in international humanitarian law.
"Our research in Iraq and Kosovo shows that cluster munitions cannot be used in populated areas without huge loss of civilian life," Roth said.
"Israel must stop using cluster bombs in Lebanon at once."
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US government sued over safety
Monday 24 July 2006 10:06 PM GMT
Most US citizens have left Lebanon
A leading Arab-American advocacy group has sued the US government, claiming that it failed to protect American citizens from the fighting in Lebanon.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday on behalf of about 30 American citizens by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
It alleges that Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defence, did not take all possible steps to secure the safety and well-being of US citizens when fighting erupted between Israel and Hezbollah guerillas.
The committee is asking the district court in Detroit to order the US government to request a ceasefire and to stop shipments of weapons or any other military support to Israel during the evacuation of US citizens from Lebanon.
"We just feel the US government has put its citizens at risk by supplying missiles when many US citizens are still there," said Nabih Ayad, the lawyer for suing committee and the citizens who were all in Lebanon.
Ayad said a few included in the lawsuit are still trying to leave the country.
"We're not trying to interfere with the war, we just want to protect our US citizens and try to bring them back," Ayad said.
The US consul in Lebanon, William Gill, said most Americans who wanted to leave Lebanon had done so by Sunday and that US evacuation efforts were nearly complete.
He also urged anyone considering leaving to make up their minds quickly as fighting between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas showed no sign of waning.
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Tuesday July 25, 12:38 PM
Southeast Asia urges ceasefire in Lebanon, slams Israel
Southeast Asian nations have called for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East and condemned Israel's "excessive" military
operations in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the situation threatened international peace and security.
"The United Nations Security Council should take action to call for an immediate ceasefire, deploy a United Nations peacekeeping force to implement the ceasefire and prevent an invasion of Lebanon," Abdullah said as he opened the bloc's annual meeting of foreign ministers in Kuala Lumpur.
"We should not tolerate Israel's excessive military reprisals against Lebanon," he added.
"The collective punishment inflicted upon the Lebanese people and the destruction of towns and cities are unconscionable.
"The military incursions into Lebanese territory are (in) blatant disregard for Lebanon's sovereignty."
Abdullah -- whose government promotes a moderate brand of Islam -- said the violence had left the Middle East peace process "in tatters" and urged the international community to press for peaceful negotiations.
ASEAN countries should "make our voices heard loudly and clearly" about the plight of the Palestinian people, he added.
The Southeast Asian group's 10 members include the world's most populous Muslim nation Indonesia and mainly Muslim Malaysia.
ASEAN foreign ministers issued a statement late Monday condemning the attacks, which have killed hundreds of people.
"We call for an immediate ceasefire and urge the international community and the United Nations Security Council to get all parties in the conflicts to adhere to the ceasefire under UN supervision," the statement said.
It also hit out at the Jewish state for its "disproportionate,
indiscriminate and excessive use of force", saying such actions would threaten efforts towards reviving peace talks with the Palestinians.
The ministers urged all parties to "exercise utmost restraint" and prevent further civilian casualties, along with damage to key infrastructure installations and civilian property.
The UN has warned prolonged attacks will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe, with hundreds of thousands made homeless by Israel's offensive on Lebanon, and has issued an appeal for 150 million dollars to help them.
Urgent diplomatic efforts are under way to resolve the crisis, including a visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Middle East and a major conference to be hosted by Italy set for Wednesday.
ASEAN foreign ministers welcomed the initiatives by the international community as "encouraging steps", adding they were hopeful that such moves would help bring about an "immediate cessation of hostilities".