Israelis Kill Un Peacekeepers Halutz

Israelis Kill UN Peacekeepers
Halutz Commits to War Crimes
Israeli Airstrikes Kill Nabatiyeh Family
$150 Million Damage to Factories

Update: Hizbullah fighters defending Bint Jbeil have killed 14 Israeli soldiers, according to early reports on Wednesday. Hizbullah is ratcheting up its kill ratio with the Israeli military toward 1:1, something no other Arab fighting force has even approached.

A Radio interview with me by Barry Gordon.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed shock at the deliberate targetting of the UN peacekeeping base in Khiam, south Lebanon.

‘ “This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long established and clearly marked U.N. post at Khiam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by (Israeli) Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire,” ‘

The Israelis denied that they hit the base deliberately, but Kofi would know. Why do it? When you have in mind war crimes, it is better not to have neutral observers in the region.

Philip Gordon relays the thinking of the Israeli political and military elite behind its inhuman and massive bombing of all Lebanon:

‘ According to retired Israeli army Col. Gal Luft, the goal of the campaign is to “create a rift between the Lebanese population and Hezbollah supporters.” The message to Lebanon’s elite, he said, is this: “If you want your air conditioning to work and if you want to be able to fly to Paris for shopping, you must pull your head out of the sand and take action toward shutting down Hezbollah-land.” ‘

In other words, Zbig was right that the Israelis have kidnapped the 3.8 million Lebanese and are holding them all for ranson, while breaking their legs from time to time to encourage prompt payment. The horrible thing is that the Lebanese could not do anything about Hizbullah if they wanted to. Their government is weak and divided (Hizbullah is in it, and the Bush administration and Ambassador Mark Feltman signed off on that!) Their new, green army only has 60,000 men, and a lot of them are Shiites who would not fight Hizbullah. Lebanon was a patient that needed to be nurtured carefully to health. Instead, it has been drafted and put into the middle of the worst fighting on the battlefield.

Then there is this: ‘ Brigadier General Dan Halutz, the Israeli Chief of Staff, emphasised that the offensive . . . was open-ended. “Nothing is safe (in Lebanon), as simple as that,” he said. ‘

In other words, Halutz, who is also said to have threatened ten for one reprisals, is openly declaring that he will commit war crimes if he wants to. Nothing is safe? A Christian school in the northern village of Bsharri? A Druze old people’s home in the Shouf mountains? A Sunni family out for a stroll in the northern port of Tripoli? He can murder all of them at will, Halutz says. And Luft gives us the rationale. If these Lebanese civilians aren’t curbing Hizbullah for Israel, they just aren’t going to be enjoying their lives. They are a nation of hostages until such time as they have properly developed Stockholm syndrome and begin thanking the Israelis for their tender mercies.

I was in Beirut briefly in mid-June. I went downtown in the evening, where big LCD displays had been set up outside at the cafes, and thousands of people were enjoying the World Cup games. The young Lebanese, in jeans, were dancing to the new pop music of stars like Nancy Ajram and Amal Hijazi. Some had painted their faces with Brazilian flags. They were rooting for Brazil. The shops were full of fashionable clothing and jewelry, the restaurants tastefully decorated, the gourmet Lebanese food tantalizing. The bookstores were full of probing studies and intelligent commentary. The Syrians were gone and there was a lighthearted atmosphere. The snooty nightclubs at places like Monot street were choosy about who could get in.

I went to see publishers about my project, of publishing the works of great American thinkers in Arabic. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King. They mentioned about how the US did not have a good reputation and maybe not many readers would be interested. I said, maybe that is changing. Washington supports the new government, after all. We are your well-wishers.

Meanwhile, while Nancy was singing and Brazil was scoring, Halutz and Olmert were putting the final touches on their long-planned bombing campaign. They would go up and hit Tripoli’s port, a Sunni area. They would hit the port at Jounieh, the trendy Christian city near Beirut. They would hit Beirut’s port and its new shiny airport. They would hit the milk factory, the telecom towers, the roads, the bridges, and some clinics and hospitals for good measure. They would hit the fuel depots. It would be a total war on the Lebanese civilian population, setting 800,000 out of 3.8 million out from their homes or the rubble of their former homes, forcing them to other cities as homeless refugees, or abroad to Syria or Cyprus. They would reduce al-Dahiyah al-Janubiyah, the teeming Shiite slum to the south, to rubble and stray bloody fingers, feet and noses. They would say that these were all military targets, but they lied. Hizbullah is a political party with 14 MPs in parliament. It has political party offices, soup kitchens, clinics, in those Shiite slums. A lot of times it seems to be these that the Israelis hit. They lied and said that missiles were launched from Beirut, when they never were.

Israel’s present policy toward Lebanon, of striking at so many civilian targets as to hold the entire civilian population hostage, is unspeakable.

I haven’t complained about the Israeli border war with Hizbullah. I’m not sure it is wise, and I don’t know how many Israelis Hizbullah even killed in, say, the year 2005. Is it really worth it? But I don’t deny that Hizbullah went too far when it shelled dozens of civilian towns and cities and killed over a dozen innocent civilians, even in reprisal for the Israeli bombing campaign. (You can’t target civilians. That is a prosecutable crime.) That is a clear casus belli, and I’d like to see Nasrallah tried at the Hague for all those civilian deaths he ordered. The fighting at Maroun al-Ra’s and Bint Jbeil was horrible on all sides, but it was understandable, even justifiable. The fighting itself isn’t going to lead anywwhere useful, though, and it is time for a ceasefire and political negotiations–the only way to actually settle such disputes.

What was done to Lebanon as a whole is among the most horrible war crimes of the young 21st century. And that it was done tells me that there is something sick in the heart of the Israeli military and political elite, a sickness of the soul that had better be faced and remedied before our entire world catches the contagion.

I mean, who talks like that? “if you want to be able to fly to Paris for shopping, you must pull your head out of the sand and take action toward shutting down Hezbollah-land.” . . . “Nothing is safe, as simple as that.” If they are the good guys, why do they talk like James Bond villains?

Yes, yes, Nasrallah and his shock troops are also evil. They are also sick in the soul. We have established that. Halutz can have the 5,000 fighters and the 12,000 rockets to do as he pleases to them. I have been to Haifa, too, and the city means a lot to me. I mind deeply when I hear that the mad bombers around Nasrallah have killed people there and done substantial damage.

But you will note that 800,000 Israelis are not homeless, that the ports are still operating, that Tel Aviv airport is open, that over 400 Israeli civilians aren’t dead in two weeks, that factories, roads, bridges, telecom towers are still there. In fact, you will note that no flotilla of international vessels had to come to evacuate tens of thousands of foreigners from Israel. It is suffering, and that is wrong. It is not suffering what Lebanon is.

The Daily Star reports

Israeli airstrikes throughout Lebanon killed 10 civilians and wiped out a family:

‘ Meanwhile, Israeli attacks on Lebanon claimed the lives of at least 10 civilians . . . Israeli warplanes raided Southern Lebanese towns and pounded the Bekaa and the Chouf areas, and committed a new massacre in the Southern town of Nabatiyeh, where six people from the Hamza family, Saad Hamza and his wife and children, were killed in attack on their home.


Rubble in Nabatiyah Courtesy as-Safir

The article adds,

After two days of relative calm, Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hizbullah stronghold, were once again targeted by Israel in an attack which destroyed 10 buildings . . .

I don’t know why the wire services keep saying Monday had been a day of “relative calm” in Beirut. The Israelis bombed it at least twice, once before Condi’s visit and once after.

Fighting continued in the far south as Israel continued its land invasion of Lebanon, including at Maroun al-Ra’s, a small village the Israelis claimed to have taken days ago. One Israeli soldier was announced dead at Maroun al-Ra’s on Tuesday. The Israelis claimed to have “sealed off” the town of Bint Jbeil (ordinary pop. 30,000) but admitted that they were engaging in firefights with its defenders. Hizbullah admitted that the Israeli army had killed 5 of its fighters on Tuesday.

With regard to Bint Jbeil, The Daily Star notes

‘ Sources in the foreign observer force UNIFIL said it was difficult to know which side controlled which parts of the town and that some civilians were feared trapped by the crossfire. ‘

Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot played down the idea that there were still civilians in Bint Jbeil, saying that there were only 200 to 400 Hizbullah guerrillas left there.

The total death toll for civilians in Israel’s total war on Lebanon has risen to 406, with 20 Lebanese Army soldiers killed and 27 Hizbullah fighters.

The Israelis continued to interfere with humanitarian aid efforts despite their announcements to the contrary, according to the Daily Star:

Israeli warships also forbade a French ship loaded with humanitarian aid from reaching a port in Lebanon, according to media reports.

Israeli gunboats also fired warning shots at a Turkish ferry that was helping evacuate Australians from Lebanon and held it for several hours, Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday.

Hizbullah fired more than a dozen rockets into Haifa (see next entry).

Nicholas Blanford of the Daily Star reports on the human dimension of Israel’s vast displacement of civilians from their homes in South Lebanon:

‘ TIBNINE: Wearing only slippers on his feet, it took Youssef Beydoun two-and-a-half terrifying hours to walk from his shell-battered village of Kounine to the relative safety of Tibnine. Here the 78-year-old is one of some 1,600 refugees crammed into Tibnine’s government-run hospital, all of them having fled from a cluster of Shiite hill villages to the south. With drinking water running out, no milk, no electricity and declining stocks of food as well as little prospect of imminent escape from Tibnine, the refugees are caught in a vortex of confusion, fear, anger and despair.

“All the time there’s bombing; all the houses have been hit. It was very bad. I thought my heart would stop,” said Beydoun, a slim, stooped man with a white floppy hat shading his stubbly beard and weather-beaten face from the midday sun. He said he left Kounine after his house was flattened by Israeli bombing, killing his Sri Lankan and Ethiopian maids.

“They are still buried under the rubble,” he said . . . Bint Jbeil and the surrounding Shiite villages, such as Aitaroun, Kounine, Beit Yahoun and Ainatta have borne the brunt of Israel’s air and artillery blitz.

“It’s very bad in Kounine,” said Souad Shibli, 45, an Egyptian nurse whose Lebanese husband is working in Kuwait. “All night there are explosions. We want cars to go to Beirut. Please tell Kofi Annan we must have cars to get us out,” she added, her voice becoming more desperate and shrill. ‘

The economic impact of the relentless Israeli bombings would be hard to calculate. Some experts are saying that the Israelis have caused at least $150 million in direct damage to factories:

‘ “The losses are more than $150 million in the current book value and we are afraid the situation will get worse,” Jacques Sarraf, a chemical plant owner and the former president of the industrial association, told The Daily Star. More than a dozen factories in the Bekaa valley and other areas were hit by Israeli strikes in two weeks of bombing. Among the factories that were hit and destroyed were the country’s largest dairy farm, Liban Lait; a paper mill; a packaging firm and wood plant.

“I just want to know why these factories are being targeted by the Israelis,” Sarraf said. “Why Liban Lait, which makes cheese for the United Nations in Lebanon?” Liban Lait, which produces cheese, yogurt and labeneh, controls more than 50 percent of the Lebanese market. Sarraf said that the one of the industries that was flattened by the raids was an Indian investment project.

Many industrialists strongly believe that the ostensible cause of the Israeli bombardment, the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by the militant group Hizbullah, was nothing more than an excuse to destroy the Lebanese economy because the economy poses a challenge to Israel. ‘

Among the industries worst damaged is the telecom sector.

‘ Lebanon’s mobile networks and satellite antennas are being targeted by Israeli warplanes, causing at least $10 to $15 million in material damage and a drop in the revenues of the telecom sector, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade said on Sunday. . . Israeli warplanes have hit transmitters, relay stations and satellite stations in Beirut, the South, the North and the Bekaa Valley since the war started 12 days ago.

Israeli warplanes bombarded a satellite and antenna station in Kesrouan on Saturday, killing an [Christian] employee of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation and destroying the television antenna. ‘

For essential background:

Jim Quilty in Middle East Report on Israel’s war on the Lebanese Shiites.

Helena Cobban, “Hizbullah’s New Face.”