They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Friday, July 21, 2006

Britain and US defy demand for Lebanon ceasefire


Israeli warplanes continued their bombardment of Lebanon yesterday, defying a demand by Kofi Annan for an immediate end to fighting on the ninth day of a war that has led to the "collective punishment of the Lebanese people" .

Two countries, the US and Britain, defiantly refused to back the international clamour for an immediate ceasfire between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas. Their ambivalence about civilian deaths in Lebanon has given Israel a powerful signal that it can continue its attacks with impunity.

However, Israel's ground offensive against Hizbollah was blunted when four of its soldiers were reported killed in clashes in south Lebanon. Across the country clouds of smoke appeared as the aerial bombardment continued and the evacuation of foreign nationals, including Americans, was stepped up. Israel said it would allow humanitarian aid to flow into Lebanon as international outrage grew over civilian casualties which are now above 300.

Mr Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations, used his emotive statement to the Security Council to reflect the deep-seated international unease about the human cost of Israel's response to the onslaught of rockets from Hizbollah guerrillas backed by Syria and Iran. "What is most urgently needed is an immediate cessation of hostilities," he said. However, he added that there were "serious obstacles to reaching a ceasefire, or even to diminishing the violence quickly."

An official close to the secretary general said he had taken soundings with "everyone" before making the statement. Mr Annan was also due to brief the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, last night on the findings of a UN mission which concluded there should be a temporary cessation of hostilities.

The statement was sharply criticised by Israel and the United States. In London, the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, told the Cabinet that those calling for a halt to hostilities, including the French government, were in effect demanding a one-sided ceasefire "with rockets still going into Israel". Read more