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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Israeli military kills 'top' Hizbullah leader

Angry Arab [As'ad AbuKhalil]

Today, the Israeli military claimed victory. They said that they managed to kill a top Hizbullah leader. His name is Jihad 'Awdah. Jihad who? Jihad 'Awdah. Who is that? I don't know, and I am supposed to be an expert. Yesterday, Israeli military claimed that they killed another top Hizbullah leader: Billy Bob 'Awdah. Link

Moqtada al-Sadr accuses Arab states of failing Lebanon


Iraq's radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr accused Arab states on Monday of failing to stand behind Lebanon in its crisis with Israel and said they had done the same with Iraq in its time of need.

"We are used to being disappointed by them. They were just silent over Iraq or interfered in a negative way," he told a news conference.

"When it served their interests they ran to help the (Saddam Hussein's) Baath Party but they have failed to support unity now.

"They are doing the same in Lebanon. They talk but only about rubbish."

Sadr is part of Iraq's ruling Shi'ite Alliance and also commands a large, powerful militia.

An Israeli air strike on Sunday which killed at least 54 civilians, including 37 children, in the Lebanese village of Qana has inflamed Arab passions.

Sadr accused the United Nations of being subservient to the United States and said it should work for an immediate ceasefire between Israeli forces and Shi'ite Hizbollah militants in Lebanon.

"United Nations organisations are obedient to the American government. If the American government condemns these acts, they condemn these acts. Their attitude is negative. They have to play their role to get a ceasefire." Link

UN Meeting delayed - "the fighting continues"


Israel rejected mounting international pressure on Monday to end its war against Hizbollah and launched a new incursion into Lebanon despite halting most air raids for 48 hours.

With world powers still at odds over a ceasefire, a U.N. official said a meeting scheduled for Monday on a new peacekeeping force for Lebanon had been delayed "until there is more political clarity" on the path ahead in the 20-day-old war.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday there would be no ceasefire in the war in the coming days.

"The fighting continues. There is no ceasefire and there will not be any ceasefire in the coming days," Olmert told local officials, drawing sustained applause. Read more

"If You Haven't Left, You're Hezbollah"


Dahr Jamail

The Israeli attack on Qana has taken the biggest toll of the war, but it is only one of countless lethal attacks on civilians in Lebanon.

Large numbers fled the south after Israelis dropped leaflets warning of attacks. Others have been unable to leave, often because they have not found the means. The Israelis have taken that to mean that they are therefore Hezbollah.

Israeli justice minister Haim Ramon announced on Israeli army radio Thursday that "all those in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah."

Justifying the collective punishment of people in southern Lebanon, Ramon added, "In order to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers battling Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, villages should be flattened by the Israeli air force before ground troops move in."

This policy explains the large number of wounded in the hospitals of Sidon in the south..

Wounded people from southern Lebanon narrate countless instances of indiscriminate attacks by the Israeli military.

Thirty-six-year-old Khuder Gazali, an ambulance driver whose arm was blown off by an Israeli rocket, told IPS that his ambulance was hit while trying to rescue civilians whose home had just been bombed.

"Last Sunday people came to us and asked us to go help some people after their home was bombed by the Israelis," he said from his bed in Hamoudi Hospital in Sidon, the largest in southern Lebanon. "We found one of them, without his legs, lying in a garden, so we tried to take him to the nearest hospital."

On way to the hospital an Israeli Apache helicopter hit his ambulance with a rocket, severely injuring him and the four people in the back of the vehicle, he said.

"So then another ambulance tried to reach us to rescue us, but it too was bombed by an Apache, killing everyone inside it," he said. "Then it was a third ambulance which finally managed to rescue us."

Khuder, who had shrapnel wounds all over his body, said "this is a crime, and I want people in the west to know the Israelis do not differentiate between innocent people and fighters. They are committing acts of evil.. They are attacking civilians, and they are criminals." Read more

Lebanon: History Will Judge Us All On Our Actions

General Michel Aoun (born in 1935 in Beirut) is a Lebanese military commander and politician. From September 22, 1988 to October 13, 1990, he served as Prime Minister of the transition government appointed at the end of the mandate of President Amine Gemayel. He was elected to the Lebanese parliament in 2005 when he returned to Lebanon on May 7 of that year from exile in France,eleven days after the Syrian troops' withdrawal that ended 29 years of occupation.

Known as "The General," Aoun currently leads the "Free Patriotic Movement" party and the "Change and Reform" parliamentary block. - Wiki

Wall Street Journal

While aircraft, sea-craft, and artillery pound our beloved Lebanon, we Lebanese are left, as usual, to watch helplessly and pay a heavy price for a war foisted upon us due to circumstances beyond our control.

Considering that this crisis could have been avoided, and considering that there is -- and has been -- a solution almost begging to be made, one cannot but conclude that all of this death, destruction and human agony will, in retrospect, be adjudged as having been in vain.

No matter how much longer this fight goes on, the truth of the matter is that political negotiations will be the endgame. The solution that will present itself a week, a month or a year from now will be, in essence, the same solution as the one available today, and which, tragically, was available before a single shot was fired or a single child killed. Given this reality, a more concerted effort is required sooner rather than later to stop the death and destruction on both sides of the border.

From the outset, this dispute has been viewed through the differing prisms of differing worldviews. As one who led my people during a time when they defended themselves against aggression, I recognize, personally, that other countries have the right to defend themselves, just as Lebanon does; this is an inalienable right possessed by all countries and peoples.

For some, analysis as to this conflict's sources and resolutions begins and ends with the right to self-defense; for others, Israel's claimed self-defensive actions are perceived as barbaric and offensive acts aimed at destroying a country and liquidating a people. Likewise, some view Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers as fair military game to pressure Israel to return Lebanese prisoners; yet others perceive it as a terrorist act aimed at undermining Israel's sovereignty and security.

These divergences, and the world's failure to adopt different paradigms by which Middle East problems can be fairly analyzed and solved, have produced, and will continue to produce, a vicious cycle of continuing conflict. If the approach remains the same in the current conflict, I anticipate that the result will be the same. This, therefore, is a mandate to change the basis upon which problems are judged and measured from the present dead-end cycle to one which is based on universal, unarguable principles and which has at least a fighting chance to produce a lasting positive result.

My own personal belief is that all human life is equal and priceless -- I look upon Israeli life as the same as Lebanese life. This belief stems not from my Catholic religion, but rather, from basic human values which have their historic home in Lebanon. It is no coincidence that a leading figure in the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was Charles Malek, a Lebanese citizen.

I ask, will other Arab countries and leaders have the courage to acknowledge that Israeli life is equal to Arab life? Will Israel have the courage as well to acknowledge that Lebanese life is equal to Israeli life, and that all life is priceless? I believe that most Israeli and Arab citizens would answer in the affirmative. Can we get their governments and their leaders to do the same?

Acknowledgement of equality between the value of the Lebanese and the Israeli people can be a starting point and a catalyst. The universal, unarguable concept of the equality of peoples and of human life should be the basis upon which we measure and judge events, and should provide the common human prism through which the current conflict, and old seemingly everlasting conflicts, are viewed and resolved. This is the only way to peace, prosperity and security, which is, after all, what all human beings desire, regardless of their origin.

The ideological, political and religious differences between the party that I lead, the Free Patriotic Movement, and Hezbollah, could have been addressed either through confrontation, or through internal dialogue. Recognizing the value of human life, the obvious choice was the second option. We sat down with Hezbollah to discuss our differences.

After many months of extensive negotiations, we came up with an understanding that included 10 key items which laid down a roadmap to resolve 10 of the most contentious points of disagreement. For example, Hezbollah agreed for the first time that Lebanese who collaborated with Israel during Israel's occupation of south Lebanon should return peacefully to Lebanon without fear of retribution. We also agreed to work together to achieve a civil society to replace the present confessional system which distributes power on the basis of religious affiliation. Additionally, Hezbollah, which is accused of being staunchly pro-Syrian, agreed for the first time that the border between Lebanon and Syria should be finally delineated, and that diplomatic relations between the two countries should be established.

We also agreed that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon should be disarmed, that security and political decision-making should be centralized with the Lebanese government, and that all Lebanese political groups should disengage themselves from regional conflicts and influences.

Last but not least, our extensive negotiations with Hezbollah resulted in an articulation of the three main roadblocks regarding resolution of the Hezbollah arms issue: First, the return of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli prisons. Second, the return of the Shebaa farms, a tiny piece of Lebanese territory still occupied by Israel. And third, the formulation of a comprehensive strategy to provide for Lebanon's defense, centered upon a strong national army and central state decision-making authority in which all political groups are assured a fair opportunity to participate.

This structure, if joined together with international guarantees which forbid the nationalization of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and which protect Lebanon from Israeli incursions, and if tied on the internal level to a new, fair and uniform electoral law, is the best hope for peacefully resolving the Hezbollah weapons issue.

This is the essence of the comprehensive solution we seek. Because it embodies a shift from a policy based on military force to one founded upon human values and reconciling the rights of parties, it would stand the test of time. If rights are respected, and if parties are treated with the deference that they implicitly deserve as human beings, then the long-term result will be not only physical disarmament, but also a disarmament of minds on both sides.

Our party presented this solution internally to all Lebanese political groups, the Lebanese government, and the international community -- including the U.S. administration -- repeatedly, for an entire year before this crisis began.

Rather than help us to resolve the weapons issue peacefully and avoid the current agony our country is now enduring, the international community and Lebanese government flatly ignored the proposed solution. Many of Lebanon's main political players cast us aside as "pro-Syrian" "allies" of Hezbollah. No matter. These are the same individuals who -- only a year before -- branded me a "Zionist agent" and brought treason charges against me when I dared to testify before a Congressional subcommittee that Syria should end its occupation of my country.

You see, after Lebanon was liberated from Syrian occupation, the international community (apparently enamored by the quixotic images of the Cedar Revolution) demanded that the Lebanese elections take place immediately and "on time"; it brushed off our grave concerns about the electoral law in force, which had been carefully crafted by Syria and imposed upon Lebanon in the year 2000 to ensure re-election of Syria's favorite legislators.

This flawed electoral law -- initially imposed upon us by Syria and then reimposed upon us by the international community -- has had disastrous results. It brought to power a Lebanese government with absolute two-thirds majority powers, but which was elected by only one-third of the populace. With a legislative and executive majority on one side, and a popular majority on the other side, the result was absolute gridlock. Currently in Lebanon, there is no confluence of popular will with government will, and therefore the government cannot deal effectively with this or any other problem.

History will judge us all on our actions, and especially on the unnecessary death and destruction that we leave behind. The destruction currently being wrought upon Lebanon is in no way measured or proportional -- ambulances, milk factories, power stations, television crews and stations, U.N. observers and civilian infrastructure have been destroyed.

Let us proceed from the standpoint that all human life is equal, and that if there is a chance to save lives and to achieve the same ultimate result as may be achieved without the senseless killings, then let us by all means take that chance. - Michel Aoun

Fisk: 'How can we stand by and allow this to go on?'


They wrote the names of the dead children on their plastic shrouds. "Mehdi Hashem, aged seven - Qana," was written in felt pen on the bag in which the little boy's body lay. "Hussein al-Mohamed, aged 12 - Qana", "Abbas al-Shalhoub, aged one - Qana.'' And when the Lebanese soldier went to pick up Abbas's little body, it bounced on his shoulder as the boy might have done on his father's shoulder on Saturday. In all, there were 56 corpses brought to the Tyre government hospital and other surgeries, and 34 of them were children. When they ran out of plastic bags, they wrapped the small corpses in carpets. Their hair was matted with dust, most had blood running from their noses.

You must have a heart of stone not to feel the outrage that those of us watching this experienced yesterday. This slaughter was an obscenity, an atrocity - yes, if the Israeli air force truly bombs with the "pinpoint accuracy" it claims, this was also a war crime. Israel claimed that missiles had been fired by Hizbollah gunmen from the south Lebanese town of Qana - as if that justified this massacre. Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, talked about "Muslim terror" threatening " western civilisation" as if the Hizbollah had killed all these poor people. Read more

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Israel: "When you sleep with a missile sometimes you don't wake up ..."

From Israeli statement to U.N. Security Council meeting convened on Sunday after an Israeli air strike on the Lebanese village of Qana killed more than 60 people, most of them children.


While our enemies -- who have only today launched over a hundred missiles at Israeli towns and villages -- specifically target Israeli women and children in order to kill them, we defend ourselves in this brutal war and sometimes, tragically, as happened today, women and children do get hurt because they are used as a human shield by the Hizbollah. The Hizbollah has homes in Lebanon which house a missile in which the family sleep with a missile. When you sleep with a missile, sometimes you don't wake up in the morning." Link

U.S. expected to again oppose an immediate truce

Swiss Info

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council on Sunday to condemn a deadly Israeli attack on the Lebanese village of Qana and to call for an immediate end to the violence.

"I am deeply dismayed that my earlier calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities were not heeded," Annan said. "I repeat this call once again from this chamber and I appeal to the council to do likewise."

Annan was speaking at an emergency council meeting he called after the Israeli air strike on Qana killed more than 60 civilians in the deadliest single attack of its 19-day-old war against Hizbollah militants.

The council, after an hour of consultations, adjourned until later on Sunday while the 15 members contacted their governments on a possible statement.

But U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who expected the council to express "profound regrets" over the Qana attack, made clear Washington would only back an "enduring" negotiated cease-fire, not an immediate truce. Read more

db: Clearly it appears that the US via the neocon John Bolton will again successfully block a ceasefire call - against the will of both the UN and World public opinion. Emyr Jones Parry, the British Ambassador, called on the council to call for an immediate end to fighting as well as a resolution setting out "the political basis for resolving this crisis on a longer-term basis." Parry's statements will be interesting to follow when the session resumes later - will the Brit position change, or are we going to continue subverting both the interests of the UK and Lebanon by blindly following the US - who for their own reasons, both domestic and geopolitical, require that Israel be given more time to complete what is already, essentially, a failed mission.

Blair: Articulates, Handshakes, Betrayal of Lebanon


Carnage Triggers Outrage but Ceasefire Appears Farfetched


More than 60 people were killed, many of them sleeping children, when Israeli warplanes bombed the village of Qana on Sunday, triggering global outrage and warnings of retribution for a "war crime" as a ceasefire appeared more remote than ever.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose latest Middle East mission was thrown into turmoil by the attack, said it was time to "get to a ceasefire" in Lebanon but stopped short of calling for an immediate halt to hostilities.

The LBCI said more than 60 villagers, including 37 children, were killed in the pre-dawn air raid which left homes in ruins and villagers trapped under the rubble. It was the bloodiest attack since Israel launched its war on Hizbullah following the capture of two soldiers on July 12.

Israel expressed "regret" over the civilian deaths and ordered an inquiry but said it had warned residents to leave and pinned the blame Hizbullah for launching rockets from the village.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was in "no rush" for a truce and told Rice that Israel needed 10 to 14 days more to continue its offensive against Hizbullah, an Israeli government official said.

But he promised that humanitarian aid will be allowed to reach Qana.

"We will cooperate with appropriate officials to allow humanitarian aid to reach the victims of the Qana bombing," Olmert said during a weekly cabinet meeting.

Amid faltering diplomatic efforts to staunch a conflict now in its 19th day, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the Security Council in an emergency meeting to call for an immediate ceasefire.

"We must condemn this action in the strongest possible terms, and I appeal to you to do likewise," Annan told the meeting of the 15-member council.

Annan also said that Israel informed The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that it was important for residents of Ramieh and Aita al Shaab to evacuate their towns before Sunday evening, a signal that warplanes would resume pounding these areas.

Premier Fouad Saniora denounced the Qana carnage as a "war crime," demanding an immediate ceasefire in a conflict that Health Minister Mohammed Khalifeh said had killed 750 people.

An AFP count has put the death toll at more than 500, while the U.N. has said around one third of the casualties were children.

In Beirut, angry demonstrators smashed into the U.N. building as thousands took to the streets in protest while Hizbullah and Palestinian militant movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad vowed revenge.

"This horrible massacre, like the others, will not remain unpunished," said Hizbullah, which has fired off waves of rockets against northern Israel since the onslaught began.

Israeli officials said fourteen civilians were injured after more than 140 rockets landed across northern Israel on Sunday.

In Qana -- scene of another deadly bombardment 10 years ago -- rescue workers with only their bare hands clawed through rubble of flattened homes and an underground shelter to find survivors while mothers hugged their dead children in a final hopeless embrace.

"The first thing I remember is spinning around. My head hit the wall and I heard screams," said Qassem Shalhoub, who lost many family members. "They were all calling at me. They were saying, 'stop the bleeding.' Others said, 'pull my son from the rubble.'"

Saniora ruled out any talks on putting an end to the conflict until there was an immediate halt to Israel's offensive, signaling the likely failure of Rice's efforts to win support for the deployment of an international force in southern Lebanon, which has borne the brunt of the offensive.

Speaker Nabih Berri, entrusted by Hizbullah to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Israel, said that conditions he had set for the release of two captured Israeli troops had changed after Israel's bombing of Qana.

The cabinet, in a meeting later in the day, declared Monday a day of mourning for the Qana massacre victims.

A U.S. official said Rice would return to Washington Monday to start intensive diplomacy aimed at reaching a U.N. resolution on the conflict.

Reaction to the Qana carnage was fierce across the Arab world, and even Britain, Washington's closest ally, branded the Qana attack as "quite appalling."

The village, said by some to be where Jesus turned water into wine, was the site of an Israeli bombing of a U.N. base in April 1996 that killed 105 people during Israel's "Grapes of Wrath" offensive -- also aimed at wiping out Hizbullah.

Fresh fighting also flared on the border after Israeli forces made a fresh push into southern Lebanon near the village of Taibe.

A Hizbullah statement said its fighters had inflicted casualties on Israeli troops during "fierce confrontations." Link

Syria's Assad calls Israel's Qana attack terrorism


Israel's attack on a building in the Lebanese village of Qana that killed at least 54 civilians, including 37 children, constitutes "state terrorism", Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday.

"The massacre committed by Israel in Qana this morning shows the barbarity of this aggressive entity. It constitutes state terrorism committed in front of the eyes and ears of the world," Assad said in remarks carried by state news agency SANA.

It said Assad telephoned his Lebanese counterpart Emile Lahoud to express his shock.

Syria, a main backer of Hizbollah, has been supplying electricity, fuel and humanitarian aid to Lebanon, whose infrastructure has been targeted by Israeli attacks.

Syria has also received more than 150,000 Lebanese refugees since the war began on June 12.

The United States and other Western governments accuse Iran and Syria of supporting the Hizbollah guerrillas in their fight against Israel. Link

db: In supporting Hizbollah Syria appears to have something in common with the overwhelming majority of Lebanese. From CSM:
According to a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.

Lebanese no longer blame Hizbullah for sparking the war by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers, but Israel and the US instead.

The latest poll by the Beirut Center found that 8 percent of Lebanese feel the US supports Lebanon, down from 38 percent in January.

"This support for Hizbullah is by default. It's due to US and Israeli actions," says Saad-Ghorayeb, whose father, Abdo, conducted the poll.
[Note that the poll took place before the Israeli Qana attack.]

Pakistan slams Israeli raid on Lebanon


Pakistan strongly denounced the Israeli attack Sunday on the southern Lebanese town of Qana, as thousands of Muslims protesting the killing of more than 50 civilians torched Israeli and US flags.

"Pakistani government and people strongly condemn this sad incident, which is clearly unwarranted aggression," Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told reporters after a telephone call to his Lebanese counterpart, Fuad Siniora.

He also appealed to the world community to come forward and help find "an immediate and peaceful settlement" of the conflict.

Aziz said he assured Siniora of "Pakistan's full support to the people of Lebanon in this critical hour."

The Israeli air strike on Sunday killed 51 people, including 25 children, the deadliest strike since Israel launched its offensive against Lebanon on July 12. The raid triggered protest rallies in Pakistan. Despite heavy rain, around 3,000 people at a rally in the port city of Karachi condemned the attack and vowed to support the Lebanese people.

Protesters carrying banners against the Israeli attack called for an immediate end to "Israeli aggression" in Lebanon.

The rally was convened by Muttahida Majli-e-Amal, an alliance of six Islamic parties, whose leaders called on the Muslim world to extend military help to Lebanon, witnesses said.

The minority Shiite Muslim community also held a separate rally in Karachi attended by more than 1,000 people, including women and children.

"We are ready to offer every sacrifice for our Lebanese brothers," a Shiite leader Haider Abbas told the gathering as slogan-chanting protesters burnt US and Israeli flags.

"We will continue to support the Palestinian people until they get their rights," he added. Link

Lebanon's PM thanks Hizbollah for its 'sacrifices'


Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora thanked Hizbollah on Sunday for its "sacrifices" in its war against Israel.

"We are in a strong position and I thank the Sayyed for his efforts," Siniora said when asked about a Saturday statement by Hizbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah calling on the government to take advantage of Hizbollah's steadfastness against Israeli military might.

"I also thank all those who sacrifice their lives for the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon," he added.

Siniora, a member of Lebanon's anti-Syrian coalition, has often been at odds with the Syrian-backed Hizbollah but the 19-day-old conflict appears to have brought the two sides closer together. Link

India deplores bombing of Lebanon by Israel, calls for truce

The Hindu

India condemned as "outrageous" Israel's air strikes on Lebanon today which left dozens of people dead and suggested an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the region.

"India strongly condemns the continued irresponsible and indiscriminate bombing of Lebanon by the Israeli military, ignoring calls for restraint", an official spokesman said in a statement.

The spokesman said "particularly outrageous is the bombing this morning of the building in Oana in South Lebanon which has resulted in the deaths of dozens of innocent civilians, mostly women, children and old people who had taken shelter there.

"India expresses its deep condolences to the Government and People of Lebanon over this tragic incident", he said.

He said a ceasefire should be followed by negotiations leading to a peaceful and comprehensive solution to the problems of this region that would take into account the legitimate and grievances of all parties". Link

Hamas condemns 'state terror'

A Palestinian official has said that Hamas will carry out attacks on Israel in response to its attack on the Lebanese village of Qana.

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas MP, told Reuters: "In the face of this open war against the Arab and Muslim nations all options are open, including striking the depth of the Zionist entity."

Asked if that meant suicide bombings against Israelis, al-Masri said: "All options are open. Every means is allowed. This is a crime and state terror and a crossing of all red lines."

Shortly after Hamas issued its statement on Sunday, a rocket fired from Gaza hit the Israeli border town of Sderot.

Medics said a 29-year-old woman was wounded. Hamas's armed wing claimed responsibility for the launch Read more

Fouad Siniora: Israeli bombing "no mistake"


Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, condemned "Israel's war crimes." In a press conference held in Beirut with the Chairman of Parliament, Nabia Beri, the prime minister said, "This is no mistake. This is an event that repeats itself." He also referred to the air force attack on the village in April, 1996, in which more than 100 Lebanese, mostly children, were killed by the shelling.

Siniora added: "On this sad morning, there is no room to discuss anything except an unconditional ceasefire, and to establish an international inquiry committee to investigate the massacres the Israelis carried out in Lebanon." Official sources in Lebanon informed US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who is staying in the region, that he would not be able to meet with her until a ceasefire is achieved. Siniora refused to refer to reports that Condoleeza [Rice] cancelled her visit to Lebanon following the event.

"In honor of the memory of those killed and of the corpses of children under the rubble, I call the world to stand by our side against the Israeli war criminals. Israel and her crimes will not break our spirit and will not bring us to forego our rights and surrender," said the Lebanese prime minister.

He demanded an inquiry into the events of Qana, emphasizing: "All talk right now that is not directed at an immediate ceasefire is unacceptable."

The chairman of the Parliament, ordained by Hizbullah as their political and diplomatic representative, said that he completely supports the position of Prime Minister Sinior. Link

Lebanon cancelled Rice visit - not US!

AP gets it wrong again - like good Soviets:

Rice Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora Postpones [Rice] Trip to Beirut After Attack

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday she is "deeply saddened by the terrible loss of innocent life," after an attack on a village in southern Lebanon. But, despite international pressure on the United States, she did not call for an immediate cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militia.

Rice said she spoke with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to say she would postpone a visit to Beirut on Sunday. She planned to stay in Jerusalem instead, where she said she had work to do to end the fighting. Link

Qana Massacre Pictures - Do You Have Kids?

Dozens of children were killed today after Israeli missiles struck the southern Lebanese village of Qana, flattening houses on top of sleeping residents

Thank You Tony
Robert Fisk: I have to say - from my eyrie only three miles from the Israeli border - that the compliant, gutless, shameful refusal of Bush, Rice and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara to bring this bloodbath to an end sentenced many hundreds of innocent Lebanese to death. As I write this near the village of Blat, which has its own little list of civilian dead, it's quite clear that many more innocent Lebanese are being prepared for the slaughter - and will indeed die in the coming days Link

Rice visit cancelled after deadly raids - no talks before ceasefire

The Australian

LEBANON told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today it could not meet with her before a ceasefire ends a 19-day-old Israeli offensive.

Lebanese officials said Dr Rice, who was due in Beirut later in the day, was told of the Lebanese position after an Israeli air strike killed at least 51 civilians in southern Lebanon. They said Dr Rice's visit to Beirut had been cancelled.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora denounced the deadly raids as a "war crime", vowing there was no place for talks until Israel ceased its attacks.

"There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now," Mr Siniora said at a press conference. Link

"Hitting children to bring the fighters to their knees"


Dozens of children were feared dead today after Israeli missiles struck the southern Lebanese village of Qana, flattening houses on top of sleeping residents. Reports said that about 50 adults and children had died.

The Israeli army said missiles had been fired from the area before the 1am air strike in which a three-story building took a direct hit.

Rescuers aided by villagers were digging by hand to look for casualties.

"We want this to stop," shouted villager Mohammed Ismail. " May God have mercy on the children. They came here to escape the fighting."

"They are hitting children to bring the fighters to their knees," said the black-haired man with a gray beard, his brown pants covered in dust. Read more

UN 'peacekeepers' injured in Israeli strikes


Two Indian soldiers with the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon have been wounded and their observation post damaged by an Israeli air strike.

Milos Strugar, spokesman for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), says the two have been evacuated to hospital.

He says the observation post inside their position had been damaged.

Last week, an Israeli air raid killed four UN observers in an attack UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said was "apparently deliberate". Link

No negotiations before ceasefire and massacre probe

Al-Manar TV

Israeli massacre in Kana kills 55 including 30 children; Saniora and Berri [db:speaker of the Lebanese parliament and the head of the Shi'ite Amal party] say no negotiations before ceasefire and probe into massacre. Link

Israeli air strike kills 35 civilians - 21 children


An Israeli air strike killed at least 35 Lebanese civilians, including 21 children, in the southern village of Qana on Sunday, in the bloodiest single attack during Israel's 19-day-old war on Hizbollah.

Several houses collapsed and a three-storey building where about 100 civilians were sheltering was destroyed, witnesses and rescue workers said. Distraught people screamed in grief and anger amid the rubble of wrecked buildings.

Israel's military said it had warned residents of Qana to leave and said Hizbollah bore responsibility for using it to fire rockets at the Jewish state.

In April 1996, Israeli shelling of a base of U.N. peacekeepers in Qana killed more than 100 civilians sheltering there during Israel's "Grapes of Wrath" bombing campaign.

The deadly air strike, whose target was not immediately clear, occurred as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Jerusalem on a mission to persuade Israel and Lebanon to agree on an international force to deploy on the border. Read more

Fisk: The truth of Blair's 'urgent diplomacy'


I dropped by the hospital in Marjayoun this week to find a young girl lying in a hospital bed, swathed in bandages, her beauty scarred for ever by some familiar wounds; the telltale dark-red holes in her skin made by cluster bombs, the weapon we used in Iraq to such lethal effect and which the Israelis are now using to punish the civilians of southern Lebanon.

And, of course, it occurred to me at once that if George Bush and Condoleezza Rice and our own sad and diminished Prime Minister had demanded a ceasefire when the Lebanese first pleaded for it, this young woman would not have to spend the rest of her life pitted with these vile scars.

And having seen the cadavers of so many more men and women, I have to say - from my eyrie only three miles from the Israeli border - that the compliant, gutless, shameful refusal of Bush, Rice and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara to bring this bloodbath to an end sentenced many hundreds of innocent Lebanese to death. As I write this near the village of Blat, which has its own little list of civilian dead, it's quite clear that many more innocent Lebanese are being prepared for the slaughter - and will indeed die in the coming days.

What was it Condoleezza Rice said? That "a hasty ceasefire would not be a good thing"? What was Blair's pathetic excuse at the G8 summit? That it was much better to have a ceasefire that would last than one which might break down? Yes, I entirely understand. Blair and his masters - we shall give Rice a generic title to avoid the obvious - regard ceasefires not as a humanitarian step to alleviate and prevent suffering but as a weapon, as a means to a political end.

Let the war last longer and the suffering grow greater - let compassion be postponed - and the Lebanese (and, most laughably, the Hizbollah) will eventually sink to their knees and accept the West's ridiculous demands. And one of those famous American "opportunities" for change - ie for humbling Iran - will have been created.

Hence, in the revolting words of Lord Blair's flunky yesterday, Blair will "increase the urgency" of diplomacy. Think about that for a moment. Diplomacy wasn't urgent at the beginning. Then I suppose it became fairly urgent and now this mendacious man is going to "increase" the urgency of diplomacy; after which, I suppose, it can become super-urgent or of "absolutely" paramount importance, the time decided - no doubt - by Israel's belief that it has won the war against Hizbollah or, more likely, because Israel realises that it is an unwinnable war and wants us to take the casualties.

Yet from the border of Pakistan to the Mediterranean - with the sole exception of the much-hated Syria and Iran, which might be smothered in blood later - we have turned a 2,500-mile swath of the Muslim world into a hell-disaster of unparalleled suffering and hatred. Our British "peacekeepers" in Afghanistan are fighting for their lives - and apparently bombing the innocent, Israeli-style - against an Islamist enemy which grows by the week. In Iraq, our soldiers - and those of the United States - hide in their concrete crusader fortresses while the people they so generously liberated and introduced to the benefits of western-style democracy slash each other to death. And now Lord Blair and his chums - following Israeli policy to the letter - are allowing Israel to destroy Lebanon and call it peace.

Blair and his ignorant Foreign Secretary have played along with Israel's savagery with blind trust in our own loss of memory. It is perfectly acceptable, it seems, after the Hizbollah staged its reckless and lethal 12 July assault, to destroy the infrastructure of Lebanon and the lives of more than 400 of its innocents. But hold on a moment. When the IRA used to cross the Irish border to kill British soldiers - which it did - did Blair and his cronies blame the Irish Republic's government in Dublin? Did Blair order the RAF to bomb Dublin power stations and factories? Did he send British troops crashing over the border in tanks to fire at will into the hill villages of Louth, Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal? Did Blair then demand an international, Nato-led force to take over a buffer zone - on the Irish, not the Northern Ireland side, of the border?

Of course not. But Israel has special privileges afforded to no other civilised nation. It can do exactly what Blair would never have done - and still receive the British Government's approbation. It can trash the Geneva Conventions - because the Americans have done that in Iraq - and it can commit war crimes and murder UN soldiers like the four unarmed observers who refused to leave their post under fire.

And what of the Hizbollah, faithful servants of Syria and Iran, and its leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, God's first servant, perhaps, but that of Damascus and Tehran a close second? I have long believed that its attack across the Israeli border was planned months in advance. But I've now come to realise that Israel's assault on Lebanon was also planned long in advance - as part of the American-Israeli project to change the shape of the Middle East. The idea that Nasrallah is going to kneel before a Nato general and hand over his sword - that this disciplined, ruthless, frightening guerrilla army is going to surrender to Nato - is a folly beyond self-delusion.

But Blair and Bush want to send a combat force into southern Lebanon. Well, I shall be there, I suppose, to watch its swift destruction in an orgy of car and suicide bombings by the same organisation that yesterday fired another new longer-than-ever range missile that landed near Afula in Israel.

The Lebanese government - democratically elected and hailed by a US administration which threw roses at its prime minister after the US state department claimed a "cedar revolution" - has just caught the Americans off guard, producing a peace package to which the Hizbollah has reluctantly agreed, starting with an immediate ceasefire. Can Washington ignore the decision of a democratic government? Of course it can. It is encouraging Israel to continue its destruction of the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza and the West Bank.

So stand by for an "increase" in the "urgency" of diplomacy - and for more women with their skin torn open by cluster bombs.

Jack Straw condemns Israeli military tacticts


The Cabinet revolt against Tony Blair intensified last night as Jack Straw broke ranks to condemn Israel for causing "death and misery to innocent civilians".

As the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, arrived in Israel for talks, her former British counterpart, Mr Straw, bitterly condemned Israeli military tactics, saying they risked destroying the Lebanese government.

The public attack is the most direct so far on the authority of the Prime Minister, who still refuses to join calls for an immediate ceasefire or rebuke Israel. Instead Mr Blair will today make the case for pre-emptive strikes against Islamist militants when he addresses Rupert Murdoch's senior executives in California.

Downing Street had hoped that pressure on Mr Blair would be relieved by his joint announcement of a peace plan in Washington on Friday with President Bush. But he was looking increasingly isolated last night as the depth of the anger among senior ministers at his failure to rebuke Israel became clear.

Mr Straw, now Leader of the House, said that he grieved for innocent Israelis but also the "10 times as many innocent Lebanese men, women and children who have been killed by Israeli fire", adding: "It's very difficult to understand the kind of military tactics used by Israel. These are not surgical strikes but have caused death and misery to many innocent civilians." Read more

Revealed: Ireland blocked Prestwick US bomb flights

Blair and GBU 28 bombs

Sunday Herald

The two Israeli-bound cargos of US bombs that were expected to refuel at Prestwick Airport last night contained deadly, high-density uranium warheads which represent a serious safety risk to the airport.

The arrival of the bomb cargos at Prestwick has caused a storm of protest, with opposition MPs describing the use of the Scottish airport to re-arm the Israeli offensive in Lebanon as "completely unacceptable".

Anger over the flights was compounded after it emerged that the Irish government refused to allow the US administration to use Shannon Airport for similar shipments to Israel. Dermot Ahern, the Irish foreign affairs minister, said he would block any attempt by the US to transport arms through his country .

A spokeswoman for Ahern told the Sunday Herald: "Minister Ahern did say during the week that permission would not be granted if there was an application made to transport munitions of war to the Middle East."

The bunker-buster weapons, thought to be GBU28 bombs, are being supplied by the US to Israel in a bid to assassinate Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and other senior militia officials who may be hidden in tunnel networks in southern Lebanon.

The arrival of the first flight yesterday came less than a day after George Bush apologised to Tony Blair over the previous use of Prestwick Airport to refuel two planes carrying bombs to Israel.

Each of the 747 cargo aircraft that were due last night at Prestwick could carry up to 40 two-tonne models of the bunker busters or more than 80 one-tonne models of the laser-guided weapons with high-penetration uranium cores that can drive through rock or reinforced concrete before exploding at up to 5000°C.

Dai Williams, an independent weapons expert with a background in oil industry health and safety, warned the cargos are a major risk to Prestwick Airport. "These are the most horrendously powerful non-nuclear weapons on earth," he said.

The bombs, which can penetrate up to 40 metres underground, are being shipped to Israel via a US military base in Qatar.

Up to 10 more flights are needed to ship the other 400 guided weapons reported to be in the total consignment.

Despite a one-line apology from Bush over a procedural slip up on the first consignments of weapons through Prestwick, the use of the airport has created a rallying point for Scottish opponents of the war.

A demonstration led by Glasgow human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar is expected outside the gates of the airport today. Anwar says the Scottish Executive and Civil Aviation Authority are in clear breach of international law.

The SNP also sought to create mischief by calling on Jack McConnell to intervene, although aviation matters are a Foreign Office responsibility.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said the flights this weekend were "adding insult to injury".

But Tony Blair defended allowing the US to use Prestwick. Speaking on an official visit to San Francisco he told Sky News: "In relation to the issues at Prestwick Airport, we should just apply the rules in the appropriate way, which is what we are doing.

"What happens at Prestwick Airport is not going to determine whether we get a ceasefire in the Lebanon."

And, speaking during a round of TV interviews he told the BBC: "There are procedures we have in place with this. If what people are saying is that we should impose an arms embargo on Israel or indeed on the US I think that would be very curious indeed. I think we should apply the principles we have got and apply them to all countries." Link

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Chavez: "Venezuela will always stand beside Iran"


Tehran - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday in Tehran that Venezuela would always stand beside Iran.

'I stress herewith that, under whatever circumstances, we will always stand beside the Iranian nation. History has shown that as long as we stay united, we can remain resistant and defeat imperialism,' Chavez said in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Calling Ahmadinejad 'my brother', Chavez said that during his visit to Iran, several oil contracts would be signed between Iranian and Venezuelan companies.

Ahmadinejad praised Chavez's 'good and decisive stance' against the US and said that having him in Iran was 'like a meeting between two brothers and comrades.'

'Mr Chavez is very close to Iran due to his revolutionary standpoints and also the two countries of Iran and Venezuela have various common points on regional and global issues,' Ahmadinejad said.

'We therefore consider the progress of Venezuela like our own progress,' the president said. Read more

Sayyed Nasrallah TV speech - summary

Al-Manar the TV channel often dedicates its news programming to promoting Hezbollah's views and interests. Frequently it serves to convey official statements by Hezbollah and broadcasts Hassan Nasrallah's speeches. Wiki

Al-Manar TV - 29-7-2006

Sayyed Nasrallah:The victory of the resistance will be the victory of every honest Arab, Muslim and Christian

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah stressed in a televised speech on the airwaves of Al-Manar TV channel, the fundamental element for ending the confrontation is the developments on the battle ground. In his forth televised appearance since the beginning of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon, Sayyed Nasrallah said that the Israeli enemy is trying to find exits out if this crisis as he failed to materialize any military achievement. His eminence added that Israeli maritime and ground forces have been defeated and thousands of air raids did not prevent the Islamic Resistance from launching rockets against Israeli settlements in northern occupied Palestine.

Sayyed Nasrallah underlined the Israeli enemy is hiding its losses while imposing a firm media blackout adding that their surveys are all fabricated within the framework of Israel's psychological war. Hezbollah's chief also said that bombing "Afula" is the beginning of a new phase and that there are many cities that have been chosen as targets. "The courage of the resistance fighters will defeat the arrogance of the Zionist entity," he added. Sayyed Nasrallah also said that Israel is an obedient tool to serve the American plot. His eminence said: "we all know that despite all this destruction, we are in front of an historic opportunity to liberate our land, sea, sky and detainees."

On the internal level, Hezbollah's chief stressed Lebanon needs a national determination not less than the determination of the resistance fighters and the Lebanese people who left their homes and towns. "Lebanon needs a comprehensive national determination," he said. His eminence warned that the enemy wants to achieve through politics what he failed to achieve militarily. Sayyed Nasrallah added: "We emphasize on the cooperation of the government and some political parties in accordance with what the Lebanese people want." He also said that the victory of the Islamic Resistance will be the victory of Lebanon as a whole and will be the drive to materialize national unity adding that the victory will also be the victory of every honest Arab, Muslim and Christian.

Sayyed Nasrallah called for downplaying some positions and "fatwas - religious decrees" so as not to be dragged into serving the enemy. Hezbollah's Secretary General also addressed Arab leaders telling them: "we don'’t want you to defend us or to fight for us, all we want from you is not to cover for the Israeli aggression" adding: "we are not seeking enmities." His eminence praised Syria and Iran for not encouraging anyone against Lebanon and its people. Sayyed Nasrallah thanked Syria for receiving and taking care of thousands of Lebanese who sought refuge in the neighboring country.

The Islamic Resistance leader did not forget the steadfast people in his speech: "We have promised you of victory, you will return home with honor and pride as you have always been." And to resistance fighters, Sayyed Nasrallah said: "As you said, you are the sincere promise, you are the freedom of the detainees and you are the protectors of the country. You are the honor, the real history of this nation, you are this nation's manhood and the eternity of the cedars. You are the glory, like the high mountains of Lebanon, you are the hope after Allah and we bargain on you. You are the men of Allah, no matter how long this war takes, we are the men of this war, no matter what the sacrifices are." Link

The inclusion of links, articles, speeches or other information does not imply deficient brain editor's endorsement, recommendation or approval and are provided for educational purposes only.

Just hot air? Bush and Blair refuse to call for ceasefire


Tony Blair and George Bush defied the growing anger across the world yesterday by seeking a UN resolution that fell far short of a ceasefire to end the killing of Lebanese civilians.

Speaking after talks at the White House, Mr Bush announced that on Monday the UN Security Council will discuss the creation of a multinational force to patrol a buffer zone on the southern Lebanon border. Mr Bush said the US would be tabling a UN Security Council resolution next week to seek an end to hostilities "as soon as possible" but it failed to meet the demands for a ceasefire in an open letter in The Independent yesterday, signed by 42 leading figures in the arts, business and politics.

Heightening fears that the war in Lebanon is being used as a proxy war between the US and Iran, Mr Blair said Iran would be mistaken if it thought the war was an opportunity to step up its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. " They risk increasing confrontation," he said.

Cabinet ministers warned that Mr Blair's refusal to stand up to Mr Bush would hasten his own exit from power. "This whole episode is very damaging for Tony," said one cabinet source. "They can cobble together a resolution but it won't be a solution to the violence. Tony thinks there is an arc of Islamic extremists like the Fascists in the Second World War. But this war is acting as a recruitment sergeant for the extremists." The source was dismissive about Mr Blair's attempts to influence the President. "The only special relationship the US has is with Israel. This is all driven by internal US politics. I don't know why Tony hasn't told Bush we have internal political pressures too."

Both Mr Bush and Mr Blair refused to discuss a ceasefire. Mr Blair was expected to claim their talks were a breakthrough but their commitment to a peace plan was in danger of being dismissed by their critics as window dressing and hot air last night. Read more

Israel's secret war: the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Palestine


A 12-year-old boy dead on a stretcher. A mother in shock and disbelief after her son was shot dead for standing on their roof. A phone rings and a voice in broken Arabic orders residents to abandon their home on pain of death.

Those are snapshots of a day in Gaza where Israel is waging a hidden war, as the world looks the other way, focusing on Lebanon.

It is a war of containment and control that has turned the besieged Strip into a prison with no way in or out, and no protection from an fearsome battery of drones, precision missiles, tank shells and artillery rounds.

As of last night, 29 people had been killed in the most concentrated 48 hours of violence since an Israeli soldier was abducted by Palestinian militants just more than a month ago.

The operation is codenamed "Samson's Pillars", a collective punishment of the 1.4 million Gazans, subjecting them to a Lebanese-style offensive that has targeted the civilian infrastructure by destroying water mains, the main power station and bridges.

The similarities with Israel's blitz on Lebanon are striking, raising suspicions that the Gaza offensive has been the testing ground for the military strategy now unfolding on the second front in the north.

In Gaza, following the victory of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas in January, Israel, with the help of the US, initiated an immediate boycott and ensured the rest of the world fell into line after months of hand-wringing. Israel has secured the same flashing green light from the Bush administration over Lebanon, while the rest of the world appeals in vain for an immediate ceasefire. Read more

Hezbollah - The "hiding among civilians" myth


Israel claims it's justified in bombing civilians because Hezbollah mingles with them. In fact, the militant group doesn't trust its civilians and stays as far away from them as possible.

By Mitch Prothero

The bombs came just as night fell, around 7 p.m. The locals knew that the 10-story apartment building had been the office, and possibly the residence, of Sheik Tawouk, the Hezbollah commander for the south, so they had moved their families out at the start of the war. The landlord had refused to rent to Hezbollah when they requested the top floors of the building. No matter, the locals said, the Hezb guys just moved in anyway in the name of the "resistance."

Everyone knew that the building would be hit eventually. Its location in downtown Tyre, which had yet to be hit by Israeli airstrikes, was not going to protect it forever. And "everyone" apparently included Sheik Tawouk, because he wasn't anywhere near it when it was finally hit.

Two guided bombs struck it in a huge flash bang of fire and concrete dust followed by the roar of 10 stories pancaking on top of each other, local residents said. Jihad Husseini, 46, runs the driving school a block away and was sitting in his office when the bombs struck. He said his life was saved because he had drawn the heavy cloth curtains shut on the windows facing the street, preventing him from being hit by a wave of shattered glass. But even so, a chunk of smoldering steel flew through the air, broke through the window and the curtain, and shot past his head and through the wall before coming to rest in his neighbor's home.

But Jihad still refuses to leave.

"Everything is broken, but I can make it better," he says, surrounded by his sons Raed, 20, and Mohammed, 12. "I will not leave. This place is not military, it is not Hezbollah; it was an empty apartment."

Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.

But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been.

For their part, the Israelis seem to think that if they keep pounding civilians, they'll get some fighters, too. The almost nightly airstrikes on the southern suburbs of Beirut could be seen as making some sense, as the Israelis appear convinced there are command and control bunkers underneath the continually smoldering rubble. There were some civilian casualties the first few nights in places like Haret Hreik, but people quickly left the area to the Hezbollah fighters with their radios and motorbikes.

But other attacks seem gratuitous, fishing expeditions, or simply intended to punish anything and anyone even vaguely connected to Hezbollah. Lighthouses, grain elevators, milk factories, bridges in the north used by refugees, apartment buildings partially occupied by members of Hezbollah's political wing -- all have been reduced to rubble.

In the south, where Shiites dominate, just about everyone supports Hezbollah. Does mere support for Hezbollah, or even participation in Hezbollah activities, mean your house and family are fair game? Do you need to fire rockets from your front yard? Or is it enough to be a political activist?

The Israelis are consistent: They bomb everyone and everything remotely associated with Hezbollah, including noncombatants. In effect, that means punishing Lebanon. The nation is 40 percent Shiite, and of that 40 percent, tens of thousands are employed by Hezbollah's social services, political operations, schools, and other nonmilitary functions. The "terrorist" organization Hezbollah is Lebanon's second-biggest employer.

People throw the phrase "ghost town" around a lot, but Nabatiya, a bombed-out town about 15 miles from the Lebanon-Israel border, deserves it. One expects the spirits of the town's dead, or its refugees, to silently glide out onto its abandoned streets from the ruined buildings that make up much of the town.

Not all of the buildings show bomb damage, but those that don't have metal shutters blown out as if by a terrible wind. And there are no people at all, except for the occasional Hezbollah scout on a motorbike armed only with a two-way radio, keeping an eye on things as Israeli jets and unmanned drones circle overhead.

Overlooking the outskirts of this town, which has a peacetime population of 100,000 or so -- mostly Shiite supporters of Hezbollah and its more secular rival Amal -- is the Ragheh Hareb Hospital, a facility that makes quite clear what side the residents of Nabatiya are on in this conflict.

The hospital's carefully sculpted and trimmed front lawn contains the giant Red Crescent that denotes the Muslim version of the Red Cross. As we approach it, an Israeli missile streaks by, smashing into a school on the opposite hilltop. As we crouch and then run for the shelter of the hospital awning, that giant crescent reassures me until I look at the flagpole. The Lebanese flag and its cedar tree is there -- right next to the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It's safe to say that Ragheh Hareb Hospital has an association with Hezbollah. And the staff sports the trimmed beards and polite, if somewhat ominous, manner of the group. After young men demand press IDs and do some quick questioning, they allow us to enter.

Dr. Ahmed Tahir recognizes me from a funeral in the nearby village of Dweir. An Israeli bomb dropped on their house killed a Hezbollah cleric and 11 members of his immediate family, mostly children. People in Lebanon are calling it a war crime. Tahir looks exhausted, and our talk is even more tense than the last time.

"Maybe it would be best if the Israelis bombed your car on the road here," he said, with a sharp edge. "If you were killed, maybe the public outcry would be so bad in America that the Jews would be forced to stop these attacks."

When I volunteered that the Bush administration cared little for journalists, let alone ones who reported from Hezbollah territory, he shrugged. "Maybe if it was an American bomb used by the Israelis that killed an American journalist, they would stop this horror," he said.

The handful of people in the town include some from Hezbollah's political wing, as well as volunteers keeping an eye on things while the residents are gone. Off to the side, as we watch the Israelis pummel ridgelines on the outskirts of town, one of the political operatives explains that the fighters never come near the town, reinforcing what other Hezbollah people have told me over the years.

Although Israel targets apartments and offices because they are considered "Hezbollah" installations, the group has a clear policy of keeping its fighters away from civilians as much as possible. This is not for humanitarian reasons -- they did, after all, take over an apartment building against the protests of the landlord, knowing full well it would be bombed -- but for military ones.

"You can be a member of Hezbollah your entire life and never see a military wing fighter with a weapon," a Lebanese military intelligence official, now retired, once told me. "They do not come out with their masks off and never operate around people if they can avoid it. They're completely afraid of collaborators. They know this is what breaks the Palestinians -- no discipline and too much showing off."

Perhaps once a year, Hezbollah will hold a military parade in the south, in which its weapons and fighters appear. Media access to these parades is tightly limited and controlled. Unlike the fighters in the half dozen other countries where I have covered insurgencies, Hezbollah fighters do not like to show off for the cameras. In Iraq, with some risk taking, you can meet with and even watch the resistance guys in action. (At least you could during my last time there.) In Afghanistan, you can lunch with Taliban fighters if you're willing to walk a day or so in the mountains. In Gaza and the West Bank, the Fatah or Hamas fighter is almost ubiquitous with his mask, gun and sloganeering to convince the Western journalist of the justice of his cause.

The Hezbollah guys, on the other hand, know that letting their fighters near outsiders of any kind -- journalists or Lebanese, even Hezbollah supporters -- is stupid. In three trips over the last week to the south, where I came near enough to the fighting to hear Israeli artillery, and not just airstrikes, I saw exactly no fighters. Guys with radios with the look of Hezbollah always found me. But no fighters on corners, no invitations to watch them shoot rockets at the Zionist enemy, nothing that can be used to track them.

Even before the war, on many of my trips to the south, the Lebanese army, or the ubiquitous guy on a motorbike with a radio, would halt my trip and send me over to Tyre to get permission from a Hezbollah official before I could proceed, usually with strict limits on where I could go.

Every other journalist I know who has covered Hezbollah has had the same experience. A fellow journalist, a Lebanese who has covered them for two decades, knows only one military guy who will admit it, and he never talks or grants interviews. All he will say is, "I'll be gone for a few months for training. I'll call when I'm back." Presumably his friends and neighbors may suspect something, but no one says anything.

Hezbollah's political members say they have little or no access to the workings of the fighters. This seems to be largely true: While they obviously hear and know more than the outside world, the firewall is strong.

Israel, however, has chosen to treat the political members of Hezbollah as if they were fighters. And by targeting the civilian wing of the group, which supplies much of the humanitarian aid and social protection for the poorest people in the south, they are targeting civilians.

Earlier in the week, I stood next to a giant crater that had smashed through the highway between Tyre and Sidon -- the only route of escape for most of the people in the far south. Overhead, Israeli fighters and drones circled above the city and its outlying areas and regular blasts of bombs and naval artillery could be heard.

The crater served as a nice place to check up on the refugees, who were forced by the crater to slow down long enough to be asked questions. They barely stopped, their faces wrenched in near panic. The main wave of refugees out of the south had come the previous two days, so these were the hard-luck cases, the people who had been really close to the fighting and who needed two days just to get to Tyre, or who had had to make the tough decision whether to flee or stay put, with neither choice looking good.

The roads in the south are full of the cars of people who chose wrong -- burned-out chassis, broken glass, some cars driven straight into posts or ditches. Other seem to have broken down or run out of gas on the long dirt detours around the blown-out highway and bridge network the Israeli air force had spent days methodically destroying even as it warned people to flee.

One man, slowing his car around the crater, almost screams, "There is nothing left. This country is not for us." His brief pause immediately draws horns and impatient yells from the people in the cars behind him. They pass the crater but within two minutes a large explosion behind us, north, in the direction of Sidon, rocks us.

As we drive south toward Tyre, we soon pass a new series of scars on the highway: shrapnel, hubcaps and broken glass. A car that had been maybe five minutes ahead of us was hit by an Israeli shell. Three of its passengers were wounded, and it was heading north to the Hammound hospital at Sidon. We turned around because of the attack and followed the car to Sidon. Those unhurt staked out the parking lot of the hospital, looking for the Western journalists they were convinced had called in the strike. Luckily my Iraqi fixer smelled trouble and we got out of there. Probably nothing would have happened -- mostly they were just freaked-out country people who didn't like the coincidence of an Israeli attack and a car full of journalists driving past.

So the analysts talking on cable news about Hezbollah "hiding within the civilian population" clearly have spent little time if any in the south Lebanon war zone and don't know what they're talking about. Hezbollah doesn't trust the civilian population and has worked very hard to evacuate as much of it as possible from the battlefield. And this is why they fight so well -- with no one to spy on them, they have lots of chances to take the Israel Defense Forces by surprise, as they have by continuing to fire rockets and punish every Israeli ground incursion.

And the civilians? They see themselves as targeted regardless of their affiliation. They are enraged at Israel and at the United States, the only two countries on earth not calling for an immediate cease-fire. Lebanese of all persuasions think the United States and Israel believe that Lebanese lives are cheaper than Israeli ones. And many are now saying that they want to fight. Link

UN: "It has to stop"


Top United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Jan Egeland proposed a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire to the UN Security Council on Friday in an effort to rescue children and infirm trapped by the ongoing violence between the Hizbollah militia and the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in southern Lebanon.

"There is something fundamentally wrong with the war where there are more dead children than armed men," Egeland told reporters after the closed-door briefing. "It has to stop."

The Lebanese death toll has risen in the two weeks of fighting and is now estimated to be between 400 and 600, with children comprising one-third of all casualties, according to Egeland.

The 72-hour humanitarian truce would be to rescue the sick, the elderly, children, and those in southern Lebanon who are caught in the crossfire and unable to get out of the way due to lack of safety or lack of access because of bombed bridges and roads. The truce would also enable aid workers to bring in supplies for hospitals and bring out those who wanted to leave.

"This should be done in the spirit that the children have nothing to do with this conflict. The children should be helped, should be assisted, and the firing should stop, at least until that is solved," said Egeland. Read more

Friday, July 28, 2006

Nasrallah Talks With Former US Diplomats

ICH/Democracy Now

Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah Talks With Former US Diplomats on Israel, Prisoners and Hezbollah's Founding

The US government considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, but several former former US diplomats sat down with the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in Lebanon earlier this year. In a US national exclusive, we play excerpts of the interview, and speak to former US Ambassador and White House Terrorism Task Force Director Edward Peck, who took part in the meeting.

Link to video/transcript

Bush on 'loss of American influence'

Q: But I asked about the loss of American influence, and are you worried about that?

BUSH: Well, we went to the G-8 and worked with our allies and got a remarkable statement on what took place. We're working to get a United Nations resolution on Iran. We're working to have a Palestinian state.

But the reason why you asked the question is because terrorists are trying to stop that progress. And we'll ultimately prevail, because their - they have - their ideology is so dark and so dismal that when people really think about it, it'll be rejected.

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.

And my attitude is that now's the time to be firm. And we've got a great weapon on our side, and that is freedom and liberty. And it's got - those two concepts have got the capacity to defeat ideologies of hate. Link

Blair warns Iran, Syria of 'increasing confrontation'


Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were asked at a joint news conference their message to both Iran and Syria. Bush said Iran needs to give up its nuclear ambitions and as for Syria, he said: "My message to Syria is: Become an active participant in the neighborhood for peace."

Blair said both countries should either participate as responsible members of the international community "or they will face the risk of increasing confrontation." Link

Meyer: The 'third class' special UK/US relationship


One of Britain's former senior diplomats has dismissed Tony Blair's ability to sway George Bush from his staunch backing of the Israeli campaign against Hizbullah when the two meet in Washington later today.

As the conflict entered its 17th day, and Israeli warplanes killed at least one person and wounded four others in attacks on southern Lebanon, Mr Blair's official spokesman said the prime minister wanted to "increase the urgency, the pace of diplomacy".

Downing Street sources told the Guardian that Mr Blair would express his concern that pro-western Arab governments were "getting squeezed" by the crisis and the longer it continued, the more squeezed they would be, giving militants a boost.

Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain's ambassador in Washington from 1997 to 2003, said it was important to remove the notion of Britain's special relationship with the US from the debate because it "completely poisons any objective analysis".

"The fact of the matter is that right now, in this crisis, the United States has only one special relationship and that is with Israel and all other relationships including ours with them are in a secondary or even a third category," Sir Christopher told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Read more

db: Ouch!! Christopher ... I thought they cared!! Never mind - I'm sure Bush will allow Blair to look 'the statesman' later. We will post the pics here @ db - Blair 'the humanitarian', Blair 'with a mind of his own' , Blair 'Of course the killing must stop' not forgetting Blair 'Refuel those jets carrying more bombs to kill Lebanese Kids here no problem'.

Two more US arms planes given permission to refuel in Britain


Despite growing political pressure Tony Blair has given the go-ahead for two more planes carrying bombs and missiles for Israel to refuel at British airports. Read more

Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbolla


At the onset of the Lebanese crisis, Arab governments, starting with Saudi Arabia, slammed Hezbollah for recklessly provoking a war, providing what the United States and Israel took as a wink and a nod to continue the fight.

Now, with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements.

The Saudi royal family and King Abdullah II of Jordan, who were initially more worried about the rising power of Shiite Iran, Hezbollah's main sponsor, are scrambling to distance themselves from Washington.

An outpouring of newspaper columns, cartoons, blogs and public poetry readings have showered praise on Hezbollah while attacking the United States and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for trumpeting American plans for a "new Middle East" that they say has led only to violence and repression.

Even Al Qaeda, run by violent Sunni Muslim extremists normally hostile to all Shiites, has gotten into the act, with its deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, releasing a taped message saying that through its fighting in Iraq, his organization was also trying to liberate Palestine.

Mouin Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst in Amman, Jordan, with the International Crisis Group, said, "The Arab-Israeli conflict remains the most potent issue in this part of the world."

Distinctive changes in tone are audible throughout the Sunni world. This week, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt emphasized his attempts to arrange a cease-fire to protect all sects in Lebanon, while the Jordanian king announced that his country was dispatching medical teams "for the victims of Israeli aggression." Both countries have peace treaties with Israel.

The Saudi royal court has issued a dire warning that its 2002 peace plan - offering Israel full recognition by all Arab states in exchange for returning to the borders that predated the 1967 Arab-Israeli war - could well perish.

"If the peace option is rejected due to the Israeli arrogance," it said, "then only the war option remains, and no one knows the repercussions befalling the region, including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire."

The Saudis were putting the West on notice that they would not exert pressure on anyone in the Arab world until Washington did something to halt the destruction of Lebanon, Saudi commentators said.

American officials say that while the Arab leaders need to take a harder line publicly for domestic political reasons, what matters more is what they tell the United States in private, which the Americans still see as a wink and a nod.

There are evident concerns among Arab governments that a victory for Hezbollah - and it has already achieved something of a victory by holding out this long - would further nourish the Islamist tide engulfing the region and challenge their authority. Hence their first priority is to cool simmering public opinion.

But perhaps not since President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt made his emotional outpourings about Arab unity in the 1960's, before the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, has the public been so electrified by a confrontation with Israel, played out repeatedly on satellite television stations with horrific images from Lebanon of wounded children and distraught women fleeing their homes.

Egypt's opposition press has had a field day comparing Sheik Nasrallah to Nasser, while demonstrators waved pictures of both.

An editorial in the weekly Al Dustur by Ibrahim Issa, who faces a lengthy jail sentence for his previous criticism of President Mubarak, compared current Arab leaders to the medieval princes who let the Crusaders chip away at Muslim lands until they controlled them all.

After attending an intellectual rally in Cairo for Lebanon, the Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm wrote a column describing how he had watched a companion buy 20 posters of Sheik Nasrallah.

"People are praying for him as they walk in the street, because we were made to feel oppressed, weak and handicapped," Mr. Negm said in an interview. "I asked the man who sweeps the street under my building what he thought, and he said: 'Uncle Ahmed, he has awakened the dead man inside me! May God make him triumphant!' " Read more

EU foreign policy chief calls for immediate Lebanon ceasefire


European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana has called for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East ahead of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's expected return to the region.

'What is important is to get a ceasefire as soon as possible,' Solana told Agence France-Presse, when asked if Rice should seek a different strategy to resolve the crisis in Lebanon.

'We are going to consider now first a humanitarian component, but without a political settlement, a ceasefire, it will be very difficult to do it,' he said, amid mounting calls for an immediate halt to the fighting. Read more

'Everything In My Life Is Destroyed, So I Will Fight Them'


By Dahr Jamail

"I am in Hezbollah because I care," the fighter, who agreed to the interview on condition of anonymity, told me. "I care about my people, my country, and defending them from the Zionist aggression." I jotted furiously in my note pad while sitting in the back seat of his car. We were parked not far from Dahaya, the district in southern Beirut which is being bombed by Israeli warplanes as we talk.

The sounds of bombs echoed off the buildings of the capital city of Lebanon yesterday afternoon. Out the window, I watched several people run into the entrance of a business center, as if that would provide them any safety.

The member of Hezbollah I was interviewing-let's call him Ahmed-has been shot three times during previous battles against Israeli forces on the southern Lebanese border. His brother was killed in one of these battles. It's been several years since his father was killed by an air strike in a refugee camp.

"My home now in Dahaya is pulverized, so Hezbollah gave me a place to stay while this war is happening," he said, "When this war ends, where am I to go? What am I to do? Everything in my life is destroyed now, so I will fight them." Link

Fisk: On a Red Cross mission of mercy when Israeli air force came calling


It was supposed to be a routine trip across the Lebanese killing fields for the brave men and women of the International Red Cross. Sylvie Thoral was the "team leader" of our two vehicles, a 38-year-old Frenchwoman with dark brown hair and eyes like steel. The Israelis had been informed and had given what the ICRC likes to call its "green light" to the route. And, of course, we almost died.

Trusting the Israeli army and air force, which are breaking the Geneva Conventions almost every day, is a dodgy business.

Their planes have already attacked - against all the conventions - the civil defence headquarters in Tyre, killing 20 refugees. They have twice attacked truckloads of refugees whom they themselves had ordered from their villages.

They have already attacked two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances in Qana, killing two of the three wounded patients inside and injuring all the crew - a clear and apparently deliberate breach of Chapter IV, Article 24 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

But the ICRC must put its trust in the Israeli military and so off we sped from southern Lebanon for Jezzine to the sound of gunfire, under the crumbling battlements of the crusader castle at Beaufort, through the ghostly, shattered streets of Nabatiyeh, bomb craters and crushed buildings on each side of us.

To cross the Litani river, we had to drive through the water, listening for the howl of airplane engines, one eye on the road, one on the sky. Sylvie and her comrades - Christophe Grange from France, Claire Gasser from Switzerland, Saidi Hachemi from Algeria and two Lebanese colleagues, Beshara Hanna and Edmund Khoury - drove in silence.

There were fresh bomb craters on the highway north of Nabatiyeh - the attacks had come only a few hours earlier, a fact we should have thought more about. Pieces of ordnance littered the roads, shards of wicked shrapnel, huge chunks of concrete. But we had had that all-important "green light" from Tel Aviv.

The ICRC teams may be the only saviours on the highways of southern Lebanon - their reticence in criticising anyone, including the Israelis and Hizbollah is a silence worthy of angels - although their work can attack their emotions as surely as an air strike. Only a day earlier, they had driven to the village of Aiteroun scarcely a mile from the Israeli army's disastrous assault on Bint Jbeil. In each "abandoned" village on the way, a woman would appear, then a child and then more women and the elderly, all desperate to leave.

There were perhaps 3,000 of them and, last night, Sylvie Thoral was trying to arrange permission for an evacuation convoy. The Israelis are promising the Lebanese much worse than the punishment they have already received - well over 400 Lebanese civilians dead - for Hizbollah's killing of three Israeli soldiers and the capture of two others. But still the Israelis have suggested no "green light" for Aiteroun.

"They were begging us to take them with us and we had no ability to do that," Saidi says with deep emotion. "Their eyes were filled with tears."

ICRC workers in Lebanon travel without flak jackets or helmets - their un-militarised status is something they are proud of - and driving with them in the same condition was an oddly moving experience.

They live - unlike the Israelis and their Hizbollah antagonists - by the Geneva Conventions. They believe in them when all others break the rules. But yesterday, when we reached the town of Jarjooaa, the ICRC in Beirut told us to turn back. The Israelis were bombing the road to the north and so we gingerly reversed our cars and started back down the hills to Arab Selim. The highway was empty and we had almost reached the bottom of a small valley.

I was reflecting on a conversation I had just had on my mobile phone with Patrick Cockburn, The Independent's correspondent who has just left Baghdad. Our guardian angels were working so hard, he said, that he was fearful they would form a trade union and go on strike.

That's when five vast, brown, dead fingers of smoke shot into the sky in front of us, an Israeli air-dropped bomb that exploded on the road scarcely 80 metres away with the kind of "c-crack" that comic books express so accurately, followed by the scream of a jet. If we had driven just 25 seconds faster down that road, we would all be dead.

So we retreated once more to Jarjooaa and parked under the balcony of a house where two women and three children were watching us, waving and smiling.

Sylvie was silent but I could see the rage on her face. The Israelis, it seemed, had made an "error". They had misread the route - or the number - of our little convoy. "How can we work like this? How on earth can we do our work?" Sylvie asked with a mixture of anger and frustration. On all the roads yesterday, I saw only three men whom I suspect were Hizbollah - no respecters of the Geneva Conventions they - driving at high speed in a battered Volvo. They can cross the rivers of Lebanon at will - just as we did - by circling the bomb craters and crossing the rivers. So what was the point in blowing up 46 of Lebanon's road bridges?

An old man approached us carrying a silver tray of glasses and a pot of scalding tea. Generous to the end, under constant air attack, these fearful Lebanese were offering us their traditional hospitality even now, as the jets wheeled in the sky above us. They asked us in to the house they had refused to leave and I realised then that these kind Lebanese people - unarmed, unconnected to Hizbollah - were the real resistance here. The men and women who will ultimately save Lebanon.

But before we abandoned our journey and before Sylvie and her team and I set off back to their base in the far and dangerous south of Lebanon, a man carrying a bag of vegetables walked up to Beshara Hanna. "Please move your cars away from my home," he said. "You make it dangerous for us all."

And the shame of this shook me at once. The Israeli attack on the Qana ambulances - their missiles plunging through the red crosses on the roofs - had contaminated even our own vehicles. He was just one man. But for him, the Israelis had turned the Red Cross - the symbol of hope on our roofs and the sides of our vehicles - into a symbol of danger and fear.

The laws of war

The laws of war, as the Geneva Conventions are sometimes known, often may seem like a lesson in absurdity. But for centuries countries have adhered to central principles of combat.

At the start of this conflict, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said: "Indiscriminate shelling of cities constitutes a foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians."

The rules of war state:

* Wars should be limited to achieving the political goals that started the war (and should not include unnecessary destruction).

* Wars should be ended as quickly as possible.

* People and property should be protected against unnecessary destruction and hardship.

The laws are meant to :

* Protect both combatants and non-combatants from unnecessary suffering.

* Safeguard human rights of those who fall into the hands of the enemy: prisoners of war, the wounded, the sick and civilians.

* Prohibit deliberate attacks on civilians. But no war crime is committed if a bomb mistakenly hits a residential area.

* Combatants that use civilians or property as shields are guilty of violations of laws of war. Link