Israel Widens Airstrikes; 140 Civilians Dead since Weds;
Nasrallah Threatens Haifa with Worse Attacks
Israel may be planning a ground incursion into southern Lebanon, according to The Guardian.
Photos of Lebanon courtesy Al-Safir.
An Israeli air strike on a south Lebanese town on Sunday killed 8 Canadians and wounded 6; several were from a single family on vacation there.
Israel struck at large numbers of targets on Sunday, and early Monday morning, that had nothing to do with Hezbollah. The far north of Lebanon is Sunni, as is the port of Tripoli, where the Israelis killed a Catholic Lebanese soldier. They also hit factories in north Beirut, not a Shiite area. They bombed a village near Zahle, a notorious center of Greek Orthodox, killing 3 civilians. The Israelis are either not very good shots, since they have murdered 140 civilians since Wednesday and only managed to kill about 17 Lebanese military personnel. Or they just don’t give a damn.
Aljazeera reports that Israeli air strikes on the civilian areas of southern Beirut have resumed. Hezbollah has offices in that area, and is widely supported there, but it is a heavily populated civilian area.
[PS: I just heard a comment by a reporter on CNN that Israelis are claiming that they are taking rocket fire from south Beirut. This is a lie and simple war propaganda. Hizbullah's rockets have to be fired from the far south because they are short range. No rocket is being fired into Israel from Beirut. Whatever reporter fell for this is uninformed and not doing his or her job.]
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert conveyed to Lebanon through Italian PM Romano Prodi his conditions for ceasing hostilities against Lebanon. As also reported on CNN they are:
1. The return of two captured Israeli soldiers held by Hizbullah
2. A withdrawal of Hizbullah to the Litani River, 30 mi. or so north of the Israeli border deeper into Lebanon.
3. Cessation of rocket attacks on Israel
It is worth noting that if this is what Israel wants, two of the three could have been gotten without reducing the entire country of Lebanon to rubble. They could have traded 3 Hizbullah members in their custody for the 2 Israeli soldiers. And, if they hadn’t gone wild bombing everything in sight it is unlikely Hizbullah would have shelled them on this scale in the first place.
As for the demand that Hizbullah withdraw (presumably this means its paramilitary fighters) to the Litani, that talking point will inspire the profoundest fear in the Lebanese that Israel is essentially attempting to move its border north and make the Litany the new border, thus staking a clear claim on the waters of the river, which Israelis have coveted since 1948. It is a non-starter politically, though whether it can be attained with violence is yet to be seen.
[Ar.] Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah (Hezbollah), gave a televised speech on Sunday explaining his own strategy. He said in an eerily calm and calculating voice that he had aimed his rockets only at military targets, not at Israeli settlements “in Occupied northern Palestine” (i.e. Israel). In contrast, he said, the Israeli military had from the beginning targeted civilians. (In fact, Nasrallah’s katyushas are impossible to aim with any precision and in loosing them on Israel, he inevitably killed and wounded civilians; likewise in Haifa. His opening statement is a self-serving lie.)
He complained at length about Israeli airstrikes against civilian targets. He linked hitting the Israeli warship to Israel’s airstrikes on Baalbak [where they hit a Husayniyah or Shiite mourning center].
“We arose to strike at the city of Haifa, and we know the importance and grave significance of this city. Had we targeted with our missiles the chemical and petrochemical factories, an enormous catastrophe would have ensued for the inhabitants of that area. But we deliberately avoided those factories, which were in the sites of our missiles, since we were eager not to push things toward the unknown and were eager that this weapon be a weapon not of revenge but of defense . . . a weapon that would return the crazies in the Olmert government to a modicum of reason and save them from a grandiosity complex, or, I might say, the stupidity whereby they distinguish themselves . . . But because we set those targets aside this time does not mean that we we always adopt this position. At any point where we consider that we are involved in defending our nation and our people and our families, we will resort to all means we can in pursuit of that defense . . . “
He also denied that there were any Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon or that he had had Iranian help. He said people were always putting down the Arabs and saying they could not accomplish anything, but, he said, look at the Israeli warship in flames. That was an Arab accomplishment.
Uh, wouldn’t an Arab accomplishment be more like, oh, inventing something or building up something nice? Destroying things and killing people is not an accomplishment.
I watched in horror as this maniacal speech unfolded in which Nasrallah actually threatened the Israelis with releasing chemical gas from local factories on civilians in Haifa. Despite fighting them for all those years, he clearly does not understand the Israelis’ psyche or the trauma of the Holocaust. A threat like that. The Israelis don’t like being caught in a quagmire any more than the next person, which is why Nasrallah could get them to leave southern Lebanon. But his victory appears to have given him megalomania, and he has now gone too far.
Hizbullah’s attacks on Israeli civilians are war crimes. The killing of the civilians in Haifa at the train station was a war crime. And threatening to release chemicals from factories on civilian populations is probably a war crime in itself, much less the doing of it.
Obviously, I do not accept that Hizbullah’s actions justify the wholesale indiscriminate destruction and slaughter in which the Israelis have been engaged against the Lebanese in general. But they do have every right to defend themselves against Nasrallah and his mad bombers.
Phalange leader Karim Pakradouni says that Israel might well destroy Lebanon, but it cannot destroy Hizbullah. He said that the Israelis are making the same mistake now with regard to the Shiite party as it did in 1982 with regard to trying to destroy Yasser Arafat’s PLO. Padradouni said that the Phalangists, who once maintained a significant paramilitary, would not remilitarize and were supporting Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. Lahoud, an ex-general and a Maronite Christian, is pro-Syrian and soft on Hizbullah.
More from the Pope. A Vatican statement said:
“As in the past, the Holy See condemns both the terrorist attacks on the one side and the military reprisals on the other.” It stated that Israel’s right to self-defence “does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian populations.”
[PS: See James Wolcott on the conundrum of rightwing US Catholics who don't care for the Pope's even-handedness on this issue.]
Taylor Marsh on Bush’s religion and his ineffectual role in the current crisis.
Gilbert Achcar on Israel’s dual onslaught on Palestine and Lebanon.