Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Leader of Hezbollah Resistance Movement
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Staff and agencies
Monday August 14, 2006
The leader of Hizbullah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, tonight claimed a "strategic and historic victory" over Israel as the first day of a ceasefire in the Middle East crisis brought a seemingly fragile calm following a month of fighting.
"We came out victorious in a war in which big Arab armies were defeated [before]," the cleric said.
Sheik Nasrallah insisted now was not the time to debate the disarmament of his guerrilla fighters, a key Israeli requirement of a sustainable ceasefire.
"This is immoral, incorrect and inappropriate," he said. "It is wrong timing on the psychological and moral level particularly before the ceasefire," he said in reference to calls from critics for the guerrillas to disarm.
"We are today before a strategic, historic victory, without
exaggeration," he said in a taped speech on Hizbullah's al-Manar TV.
In a defiant message, Sheik Nasrallah gave the strong impression that he had no intention of ordering his troops to withdraw and declared that the Lebanese army and international troops were "incapable of protecting Lebanon".
He promised the militant Shia organisation would help the Lebanese people rebuild, and estimated some 15,000 housing units had been completely destroyed.
He made his comments as thousands of refugees were returning to their homes in southern Lebanon.
The guns fell silent after a major Israeli push in the closing hours before the ceasefire deadline at 8am local time (0600 BST).
However, the truce's fragile nature was underlined when the Israeli military reported shooting a man they described as a Hizbullah guerrilla in the town of Hadatha, around a mile north of the Israeli border, today.
They said the man had been part of a group approaching an Israeli outpost "in a threatening way", and was only a few metres away when troops opened fire.
"The unit was under threat, so they fired in self-defence," an army statement said. "But the armed men didn't open fire first."
In northern Israel, families were beginning to emerge from the bunkers in which they had been sheltering from Hizbullah rocket fire for much of the past month.
Despite the late military push and political pressure within Israel for it to take control of all Lebanese territory south of the Litani river, 18 miles north of the border, Israeli troops stopped around six miles south of the river.
Nevertheless, refugees streamed back to their homes, crowding roads in spite of Israel's insistence that a ban on road traffic south of the Litani would be enforced regardless of the ceasefire.
Reuters reported that thousands of cars were queuing on a bomb-damaged road leading south from the port city of Sidon. Drivers hooted their horns, gave victory salutes and showed pictures of Sheik Nasrallah.
"Since day one, the resistance [Hizbillah] told us that it will get us back our homes, and now it has delivered on its promise," one woman told Reuters. "Thank you, Hassan Nasrallah."
"I'm going to make sure my house is okay," Adel Abbas, from a village near Tyre, told Reuters. "If Israel sticks to its word and continues to stick to the ceasefire, I'll take my family back home later today."
However, Lebanese government officials warned people against returning to their homes until army engineers had swept the area for unexploded weapons.
Officials said at least one child and 15 adults had been killed by artillery or bombs that went off as they began returning home.
In southern Beirut, air strikes continued until 15 minutes before the deadline, with warplanes destroying an antenna belonging to al-Manar.
Half an hour after the deadline, reports said Israeli warplanes had disappeared from the Lebanese skies, where they have been a regular sight for weeks. Traffic in Beirut and other cities appeared busier than in previous days.
In a statement, the Israeli army said the military had been told not to initiate any action after the UN deadline, but added that "forces will do everything to prevent being hit".
Israel is also maintaining its air and sea blockade of Lebanon to prevent arms from reaching Hizbullah guerrillas, army officials said.
Throughout the night, Israeli artillery pounded targets across the border, and at least 23 Lebanese civilians and five Israeli soldiers were killed in yesterday's hostilities.
Yesterday, Hizbullah fired more than 250 rockets on northern Israel, the highest number since the fighting began. One man was killed and 53 people injured, while huge fires were started in the port city of Haifa.
Isaac Herzog, a senior minister in the Israeli cabinet, today said it was unlikely all fighting would be stopped immediately. "Experience teaches us that after that a process begins of phased relaxation [in the fighting]," he said.
The Israeli deputy prime minister, Shimon Peres, said Israel was uncertain whether the truce would hold. "I believe that it has a chance. I can't say for certain," Mr Peres said, speaking moments before it came into force.
Israel's cabinet accepted the ceasefire deal yesterday, with the Lebanese cabinet having accepted it the day before.
But Lebanon's cabinet prompted fears the deal was unravelling when it yesterday indefinitely postponed a crucial meeting dealing with plans to send its army into Hizbullah's southern Lebanese stronghold.
Lebanese media reported that the cabinet was sharply divided over demands for Hizbullah to surrender its weapons in the area.
A 2,000-strong UN force in southern Lebanon is due to be boosted to 15,000 soldiers. Together with a 15,000-man Lebanese army contingent, it is gradually to take control of the border area.
The deployment of the Lebanese army and UN peacekeepers is a cornerstone of the ceasefire resolution passed by the UN security council in New York on Friday.
The forces are supposed to keep Hizbullah fighters out of the 18-mile zone between the border and the Litani river.
France and Italy, along with Turkey and Malaysia, indicated willingness to contribute troops to the peacekeeping deployment.
However, consultations to decide the make-up and mandate of the force are still needed are still needed, and it is uncertain when it will reach full capacity.
Lebanon said nearly 791 people have been killed since the conflict began on July 12. It had previously given higher figures for fatalities. Israel said 116 soldiers and 39 civilians had been killed in fighting or by Hizbullah rocket attacks.
Ceasefire holds despite rockets
Tuesday 15 August 2006 1:43 AM GMT
Scores have died in the conflict which began on July 12
A dozen rockets have been fired at positions held by Israeli soldiers in south Lebanon, an Israeli army spokesman says.
The spokesman said that Israeli soldiers did not return fire.
He said the rockets, fired in the early hours of Tuesday morning, were the first since the ceasefire went into effect at 8am (0500 GMT) on Monday.
The rocket attacks caused neither casualties nor damage, the spokesman said.
Hezbollah rejected as "baseless" Israeli army claims on Monday that at least four armed Hezbollah fighters were killed following the ceasefire after trying to approach Israeli troops.
"Islamic Resistance [the armed wing of Hezbollah] has not had any martyrs since the entry into force of the ceasefire at 8am" on Monday, it said in a statement issued in Beirut on Tuesday.
Despite accepting the resolution, Hezbollah has vowed to keep on fighting until the last Israeli soldier leaves Lebanon and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, promised to hunt down the group's leaders.
Meanwhile, Olmert took full responsibility for the conduct of the battle with Hezbollah, as Israel's wartime unity collapsed and opposition politicians began criticising the month-long fight against Hezbollah.
Opposition politicians demanded a commission of inquiry into the conduct of the battle as a new poll showed support for Olmert and his centrist Kadima party had plummeted.
In a nationally televised speech to parliament hours after a ceasefire took effect in Lebanon, Olmert painted the war and the UN resolution that ended the fighting as an important victory for Israel that changed the strategic balance in the region and badly weakened Hezbollah.
Olmert said: "[Israeli] soldiers have, to an extent not yet publicly disclosed, battered this murderous organisation, its military and organisational infrastructure, its long-term capabilities, its huge arsenal, which it built over many years, and also the self-confidence of its members and leaders."
Hezbollah said 68 of its fighters were killed in battle since the fighting began on July 12, but Israel said its forces killed 530 fighters.
Donors to meet
Sweden invited 60 countries and aid agencies to a donors' conference aimed at helping Lebanon rebuild homes, roads and lives shattered by weeks of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah fighters.
Big donor nations such as the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Norway and Japan as well as the Gulf states were among those invited to the August 31 conference in Stockholm, Swedish aid minister Carin Jamtin said on Monday.
She declined to place a figure on how much aid was needed, saying that was up to Lebanon to determine.
Also on Monday, the French general who leads the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon said he wants reinforcements quickly, warning that even one "stray act" could unravel a diplomatic effort to halt the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.
Alain Pellegrini said the UN resolution could give unprecedented new strength to the 28-year-old UNIFIL force - which has often been criticised as ineffective in the past.
Pellegrini said: "They need to arrive as quickly as possible."
The UN plan calls for a joint Lebanese-international force to move south of the Litani river, about 30km from the Israeli border, and act as a buffer between Israel and Hezbollah fighters.
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Both sides claim victory
Monday 14 August 2006 9:19 AM GMT
Israel wants Lebanon to reassert its sovereignty in the south
Israel and Hezbollah both claimed victory as a UN-brokered truce to end the month-old fighting took effect.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said his guerrillas had achieved a "strategic, historic victory" against Israel.
"We came out victorious in a war in which big Arab armies were defeated [before]," he said in a pre-recorded address on Al-Manar television on Monday.
Nasrallah also said that now was not the time to debate the disarmament of Hezbollah fighters, arguing that the issue should be done in secret sessions of the government to avoid serving Israeli interests.
"This is immoral, incorrect and inappropriate," he said. "It is wrong timing on the psychological and moral level particularly before the ceasefire.
"Who will defend Lebanon in case of a new Israeli offensive? The Lebanese army and international troops are incapable of protecting Lebanon."
Moments after his speech ended, celebratory gunfire erupted across Beirut.
Earlier, posters of Nasrallah were distributed in Beirut's Shia-dominant southern suburbs with the caption: "The divine victory."
However, Israel maintained on Monday that it had won a diplomatic victory over Hezbollah because the UN resolution would put the group under international scrutiny.
"We have the diplomatic advantage as Hezbollah is now under the microscope of the international community," Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Hezbollah and its chief, Hassan Nasrallah, "will have to respect resolution 1701", he said, which calls for an embargo on arms and training to fighters in Lebanon.
"This means that there will no longer be a state within a state along our northern border to keep provoking us," he said.
Palmor said: "Politically and militarily, Hezbollah can no longer do what it likes in Lebanon."
Shimon Peres, the deputy prime minister of Israel, said: "Hezbollah will not finish a huge hero, but with its tail between its legs."
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Full text: UN Lebanon resolution
Sunday 13 August 2006, 6:58 Makka Time, 3:58 GMT
Delegates approve the resolution at the UN
Following is the text of the operative provisions of a resolution adopted on Friday.
Determining that the situation in Lebanon constitutes a threat to international peace and security;
1. Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;
2. Upon full cessation of hostilities, calls upon the government of Lebanon and UNIFIL (The UN Interim Force in Lebanon) as authorized by paragraph 11 to deploy their forces together throughout the south and calls upon the government of Israel, as that deployment begins, to withdraw all of its forces from southern Lebanon in parallel;
3. Emphasizes the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;
4. Reiterates its strong support for full respect for the Blue Line (separating Israel and Lebanon);
5. Also reiterates its strong support, as recalled in all its previous relevant resolutions, for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders, as contemplated by the Israeli-Lebanese General Armistice Agreement of 23 March 1949;
6. Calls on the international community to take immediate steps to extend its financial and humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people, including through facilitating the safe return of displaced persons and, under the authority of the government of Lebanon, reopening airports and harbors, consistent with paragraphs 14 and 15, and calls on it also to consider further assistance in the future to contribute to the reconstruction and development of Lebanon;
7. Affirms that all parties are responsible for ensuring that no action is taken contrary to paragraph 1 that might adversely affect the search for a long-term solution, humanitarian access to civilian populations, including safe passage for humanitarian convoys, or the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons, and calls on all parties to comply with this responsibility and to cooperate with the Security Council; humanitarian convoys, or the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons, and calls on all parties to comply with this responsibility and to cooperate with the Security Council;
8. Calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:
- full respect for the Blue Line by both parties,
- security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area,
- full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state,
- no foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government,
- no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its government,
- provision to the United Nations of all remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon in Israel's possession;
9. Invites the Secretary-General (Kofi Annan) to support efforts to secure as soon as possible agreements in principle from the government of Lebanon and the government of Israel to the principles and elements for a long-term solution as set forth in paragraph 8, and expresses its intention to be actively involved;
10. Requests the secretary-general to develop, in liaison with relevant international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to implement the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), including disarmament, and for delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including by dealing with the Shebaa farms area, and to present to the Security Council those proposals within thirty days;
11. Decides, in order to supplement and enhance the force in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operations, to authorize an increase in the force strength of UNIFIL to a maximum of 15,000 troops, and that the force shall, in addition to carrying out its mandate under resolutions 425 and 426 (1978):
a. Monitor the cessation of hostilities;
b. Accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy throughout the south, including along the Blue Line, as Israel withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon as provided in paragraph 2;
c. Coordinate its activities related to paragraph 11 (b) with the government of Lebanon and the government of Israel;
d. Extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons;
e. Assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards the establishment of the area as referred to in paragraph 8;
f. Assist the government of Lebanon, at its request, to implement paragraph 14;
12. Acting in support of a request from the government of Lebanon to deploy an international force to assist it to exercise its authority throughout the territory, authorizes UNIFIL to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council, and to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel, humanitarian workers, and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the government of Lebanon, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence;
13. Requests the secretary general urgently to put in place measures to ensure UNIFIL is able to carry out the functions envisaged in this resolution, urges member states to consider making appropriate contributions to UNIFIL and to respond positively to requests for assistance from the force, and expresses its strong appreciation to those who have contributed to UNIFIL in the past;
14. Calls upon the government of Lebanon to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel and requests UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11 to assist the government of Lebanon at its request;
15. Decides further that all states shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft,
(a) the sale or supply to any entity or individual in Lebanon of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories, and
(b) the provision to any entity or individual in Lebanon of any technical training or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items listed in subparagraph (a) above, except that these prohibitions shall not apply to arms, related material, training or assistance authorized by the government of Lebanon or by UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11;
16. Decides to extend the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 August 2007, and expresses its intention to consider in a later resolution further enhancements to the mandate and other steps to contribute to the implementation of a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution;
17. Requests the secretary-general to report to the council within one week on the implementation of this resolution and subsequently on a regular basis;
18. Stresses the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions including its resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 and 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973;
19. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.