Israel Air Force Flies 1,000 Sorties in 48 Hours 7-15-06 Power is out in Beirut, streets are deserted and thousands are leaving. Three Israeli airborne rockets destroyed Hizballah’s command and control center and Hassan Nasrallah’s residence in the southern suburb of Beirut as well as bridges and Hizballah bases and a second raid on Beirut international airport’s runways and fuel tanks. The Hizballah leader later broadcast a (recorded) threat of total war. Thousands heading out of the Lebanese capital towards Damascus encounter difficulties after Israeli air strikes damaged the main highway. Israel’s sea, air and land blockade and air bombardments of roads, bridges, airports and seaports are aimed primarily at preventing the delivery by Iran and Syria of replenishments for Hizballah’s depleted weapons stocks and manpower reinforcements. Its purpose is also to block escape routes to Hizballah operatives. Earlier Friday, Olmert approved new targets and declared all-out war on the Hizballah in view of the escalated Hizballah rocket offensive.

Israel Tightens Noose Around Lebanon
By SAM F. GHATTAS Associated Press Writer © 2006 The Associated Press BEIRUT, Lebanon — Waves of warplanes thundering through the darkness bombed Beirut’s southern suburbs for hours early Sunday, a day after Israel stepped up its air strikes and tightened a noose around this reeling nation. The Israeli air force on Saturday hit strongholds of the Hezbollah Shiite Muslim guerrilla group, bombed central Beirut for the first time, and pounded seaports and a key bridge. Then, after midnight and until 2:30 a.m., about 18 powerful explosions rocked southern Beirut, where Hezbollah is headquartered and much of the air assault has been aimed since cross-border hostilities erupted Wednesday. Israeli jets could be heard over the city, much of it darkened because airstrikes have knocked out power stations and the fuel depots feeding them. Hezbollah’s TV aired footage showing two long columns of smoke rising from buildings into the night sky. Much of Shiite-populated southern Beirut was deserted, its residents having fled east to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Trying to defuse the violence, which began when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a cross-border raid, Lebanon’s prime minister indicated he might send his army to take control of southern Lebanon from Hezbollah – a move that might risk civil war. In a more ominous sign that the struggle could spread, Israel accused Iran of helping launch a missile that damaged an Israeli warship, a charge both Hezbollah and Iran denied. Hezbollah, meanwhile, fired barrages of rockets ever deeper into Israel, and Israeli officials warned that Tel Aviv, 70 miles inside Israel, could be hit. The death toll in the four-day-old conflict rose above 100 in Lebanon, and stood at 15 in Israel. Despite worldwide alarm, there was little indication either Western or Arab nations could muster a quick diplomatic solution. In New York, Lebanon accused the United States of blocking a U.N. Security Council statement calling for a cease-fire. Diplomats said Washington for now preferred to see the issue dealt with at this weekend’s Group of Eight meeting in Russia and in other ways.

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The United States and France, meantime, prepared to evacuate their citizens, and Britain dispatched an aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean in apparent preparation for evacuations. Choking back tears, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora went on television to plead with the United Nations to broker a cease-fire for his “disaster-stricken nation.” The Western-backed prime minister, criticizing both Israel and Hezbollah, also pledged to reassert government authority over all Lebanese territory, suggesting his government might deploy the Lebanese army in the south, which Hezbollah effectively controls. That would meet a repeated U.N. and U.S. demand. But any effort by Saniora’s Sunni Muslim-led government to use force against the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah guerrillas could trigger another bloody civil war in Lebanon. Many fear the 70,000-strong army itself might break up along sectarian lines, as it did during the 1975-90 civil war. Reacting to Saniora’s statements, Israel’s Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Lebanon must prove it was serious by deploying troops on the border. “We have to see what they do and not what they say,” Peres told Israel’s Channel 2 TV. Iran, meanwhile, denied any role in the fighting, disputing Israeli claims that 100 Iranian soldiers had helped Hezbollah attack an Israeli warship late Friday. There has been no sign in Lebanon of Iranian Revolutionary Guards for 15 years. But Iran is one of Hezbollah’s principal backers along with Syria, providing weapons, money and political support. Many believe Iran and Syria are fueling the battle to show their strength in the region. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again condemned Israel’s Lebanon offensive Saturday, telling Tehran’s state television, “The Zionist regime behaves like Hitler.” In Indonesia, about 5,000 Muslims from a large Islamic political party protested Sunday in Jakarta against Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza. Some held up signs saying “Israel is the real terrorist,” while others waved Palestinian flags. Despite global concerns, there were few signs of diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting. President Bush, on a trip to Russia, said it was up to Hezbollah “to lay down its arms and to stop attacking.” But Russian President Vladimir Putin urged a balanced approach by Israel and said it appeared the nation was pursuing wider goals than the return of abducted soldiers. Arab foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo, adopted a resolution calling for U.N. Security Council intervention. But moderates led by Saudi Arabia, bickering with Syria and other backers of Hezbollah, denounced the Lebanese guerrilla group’s actions in provoking the latest conflict. In one sign the West expects a drawn-out battle, the U.S. Embassy said it was looking into ways to get Americans in Lebanon to Cyprus. France said it had already decided to send a ferry from Cyprus to evacuate thousands of its nationals. The British were sending two warships, including the carrier Illustrious, toward Lebanon, in apparent preparation for evacuations. In all, 33 people were killed in Lebanon on Saturday, police said. That raised the Lebanese death toll in the four-day Israeli offensive to 106, mostly civilians. On the Israeli side, at least 15 have been killed, four civilians and 11 soldiers. Israeli warplanes demolished the last bridge on the main Beirut-Damascus highway – over the Litani River, six miles from the Syrian border – trying to complete their seal on Lebanon. Four days into the Israeli offensive, Lebanese themselves remained divided over Hezbollah’s operation: Some angry and terrified, others proud. “No one has stood up to Israel the way the resistance (Hezbollah) has,” said a 33-year-old housewife, Laila Remeiti, one of about 130 people who have taken refuge at a Beirut government school.

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But the toll across the country was clear, with bridges, seaports, military coastal radars and Hezbollah offices all attacked in intensive air raids and sea bombardments Saturday: • Fleeing refugees, including women and children, were cut down on a road adjacent to the Lebanese-Israeli border in an airstrike as they left the village of Marwaheen. The bodies of several children, one headless, were sprawled on the ground. Police said 15 were killed in the afternoon attack and an Associated Press photographer counted 12 bodies in the two cars. At least three civilians were killed when another Israeli airstrike hit a bridge near the Syrian border, cutting the last land link on the main road to Syria and its capital, Damascus. In the afternoon, Israeli forces hit central Beirut, striking the port and a lighthouse on a posh seafront boulevard, a few hundred yards from the campus of the American University of Beirut. The seaport is adjacent to downtown Beirut, a district rebuilt at a cost of billions of dollars after the 1975-1990 civil war. The brunt of the onslaught focused more and more on Hezbollah’s top leadership in south Beirut and the eastern city of Baalbek. Ambulances raced to a Baalbek residential neighborhood where black smoke rose from airstrikes. Israel also targeted the headquarters compound of Hezbollah’s leadership in a crowded Shiite neighborhood of south Beirut for the second straight day.

Hezbollah in turn struck out repeatedly at Israel. Its rockets hit Tiberias three times on Saturday, the first attack on the city – 22 miles from Lebanon – since the 1973 Mideast war. At least two houses were directly hit, but only a few light injuries were reported, medics said. Residents were ordered into bomb shelters, and Israeli media reported that hundreds of tourists were fleeing the city. Police used megaphones to urge bathers at the Sea of Galilee to seek shelter. On Israel’s second front, against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, Israeli aircraft on Saturday struck the Economy Ministry of the Hamas-led Palestinian government and three other targets, killing two people, Palestinian and Israeli officials reported. Early Sunday, Israeli troops, tanks and attack helicopters were back inside the Gaza Strip again firing missiles and exchanging gunfire with armed Palestinians, signaling that the large-scale operation that began after a soldier was captured last month is still in full swing. Israeli tanks entered the town of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, across the border from an Israeli town, Sderot, frequently hit by Hamas guerrilla rockets. Despite the incursion, militants fired two missiles that landed in Sderot, an AP Television cameraman reported. There was no immediate word on damage or casualties. Three Hamas gunmen were killed in the renewed Gaza fighting, Hamas said. At least 11 people were wounded in Israeli airstrikes in Beit Hanoun, including a child, hospital officials said. Israel attacked Gaza on June 28, three days after Hamas-backed militants killed two soldiers and captured a third at an army post just inside Israel. Associated Press reporters Hussein Dakroub and Hamza Hendawi in Beirut, Nasser Nasser in south Lebanon and Matt Moore in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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Hizballah Brings out Iranian Silkworm to Hit Israel Navy Corvette
DEBKAfile Exclusive Military Analysis Israeli Intelligence Website July 15, 2006, 1:37 PM (GMT+02:00)

The disaster that overtook one of the Israeli Navy’s state of the art warships, Ahi-Hanit, was thoroughly planned in advance by an enemy which managed to take Israel’s military commanders by surprise. It has shocked Israel’s military to a degree comparable to the profound effect on US forces of al Qaeda’s 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden. The Saar-5 class corvette, with a crew of 61 seamen and a 10-man helicopter crew, was hit Friday, July 17 at 20:15 hours, while shelling Beirut international airport. Four crewmen were reported missing. One was found dead Saturday aboard the crippled ship. He is First Sgt Tal Amgar, 21, from Ashdod. The search continues for three missing crewmen, Sgt. Yaniv Hershkovitch, 21, from Haifa, Corp. Shai Atias, 19, from Rishon Lezion and Master Sgt. Dov Shternschuss, 37, from Carmiel. DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal: The Israeli Saar-5 corvette Ahi-Hanita was struck from Beirut by an Iran-made radar-guided C-802 shore-to-sea missile of the Silkworm family. Weighing 715 kilos, with a range of 120km, the missile is armed with a strong anti-jamming capability, which lends it a 98% success rate in escaping interception. The Israeli ship is armed with an advanced Barak anti-missile system, which may have missed the incoming missile. Israeli military planners must now look at the vulnerability of the navy following the appearance of the first Iranian C802 missiles. The Israeli chief of staff, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, started his news conference Friday night just 15 minutes earlier at 20:00. The campaign was then 60 hours old from the moment Hizballah raiders captured two Israel soldiers in an ambush inside Israel. He was poised, assured and clear, until a reporter asked if the military goals of the Lebanese offensive matched the objectives set out in government decisions. His answer was: “Don’t start looking for cracks.” But Hizballah found the cracks 15 minutes later. Its secretary general Hassan Nasrallah put in a telephone appearance on Al Manar TV straight after General Halutz to inform his listeners across the Middle East that one of Israel’s warships was ablaze at that very moment. He said the ship had been crippled while it was bombing Beirut and was sinking. Hizballah, he added, had prepared a number of surprises for Israel and its armed forces despite several Israeli air raids, the station is still broadcasting. In Israel, the Hizballah chief’s words were taken at first as an implausible threat for the future – until the order of events began to unfold. DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal: Shortly before 20:00 hours Friday, Hizballah launched a pair of land-to-sea C-802 missiles against the Israeli ship from the coast of Beirut. The trajectory of the first was adjusted to a landing amidships from above. It missed and exploded in the water. The second was rigged to skim the water like a cruise missile. It achieved a direct hit of the Ahi Hanit’s helicopter deck, starting a fire. The ship began to sink, as Nasrallah said, and would have been lost were it not for the speed and

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bravery of crewmen who jumped into the flames and doused them before the ship exploded and sank. It is not known whether the men dead and missing paid with their lives for saving the ship. This was the second time in 48 hours that the Israeli high command was taken by unawares. July 12, the day that Hizballah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, was also the deadline for Iran to deliver its answer to the six-power package of incentives for giving up its nuclear enrichment program. Tehran let the day go by without an answer. Someone should have kept an eye on Iran’s Lebanese surrogate and made the connection with a fresh virulent threat against Israel from Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, the high alert declared earlier this month for Israeli units on the Lebanese border was not restored. The Hizballah guerrillas took advantage of this lack of vigilance to infiltrate Israel near Zarit, penetrate to a distance of 200 meters, fire RPGs and roadside bombs at two Israeli Hammer jeeps on patrol, and make off with Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Eight Israeli soldiers lost their lives as a result of this attack. The IDF ground pursuit for the two men was cut short when an Israeli tank was blown up by a massive 300-kilo bomb in south Lebanon, killing the four-man crew and a fifth soldier who tried to rescue his comrades. The attack on the Ahi-Hanit was the third surprise. When General Halutz was asked if Israel does not fear Syrian and Iranian intervention in the hostilities, he replied firmly in the negative. But Iran has been involved from the very first moment. This localized perception of the Just Reward campaign in Lebanon, contrary to Israeli leaders’ rhetoric, is hampering its effectiveness. The war embarked on Wednesday night, July 12, must be seen in its regional strategic dimensions. It is therefore not enough to bash Nasrallah without taking into account beforehand that his strings are pulled by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad from Tehran and the Syrian president Bashar Assad, who opened up Damascus military airport for the delivery of Iranian missiles to his militia. Saturday morning, Hizballah TV broadcast a videotape showed a blurred object looking like a small unmanned aircraft purportedly packed with explosives exploding in the water. This was an attempt to muddy the trail leading to Tehran and present the fatal attack as an extraordinary feat of arms by Hizballah. It was also another move in and intense psychological war to undermine Israeli morale. The inference they are trying to get across is that if the Shiite terrorists have a weapon that can hit a moving target at sea, the will not find it hard to reach any part of Israel including Tel Aviv.

Gideon Shalit’s ‘Abduction’ Was Preventable
DEBKAfile Special Military Analysis Israeli Intelligence Website July 11, 2006, 10:50 PM (GMT+02:00)

Maj.-Gen (Ret) Giora Eiland traced the breakdown which allowed a Hamas-led squad overrun an Israeli army post on the Israeli side of the southern Gaza border, kill two soldiers and snatch Corporal Gideon Shalit on June 25, to an “operational” breakdown. He did not lay it at the door of commanders and their conduct. “None of them lied or failed to perform their duties,” said Gen. Eiland, former national security adviser, in the report on the inquiry the chief of staff entrusted him to carry into the causes of the incident at the Kerem Shalom post. Most damningly, Eilat affirmed that the corporal’s abduction could have been aborted. The kidnappers and their hostage were clearly visible on the unit’s electronic screens as they crossed the border into the Gaza Strip, but the tank commander delayed by first asking his superior for permission to open fire and abort their flight.

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The only action Chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz took on receipt of the report Monday, July 10, was to announce he had raised the matter in conversation with a number of commanders. Halutz made no mention of how he would handle Eiland’s comprehensive denigration of an “operational breakdown – from battalion and brigade level all the way up to the top of the division and general staff.” Neither was this finding itemized. Eiland himself did not recommend dismissals. His restraint was no doubt motivated by the general disinclination to give the enemy free points at a time when the IDF is engaged in combat in the Gaza Strip, especially when the commanders targeted for criticism are at the front line. According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, the two generals are counting on the Gaza operation, which the IDF launched on June 28, three days after the Hamas assault on the army post, stealing the limelight from the faults found along the entire chain of command. Our sources say that Eiland directs most of his disapproval at three to five officers from the ranks of colonel, brigadier general, major general and lieutenant general. At the same time, General Eiland omitted to asked the three searching questions that might have laid bare the rootcauses of the fiasco at Kerem Shalom: 1. Was this a one-time slip-up or a part of a long-running string of lapses? 2. Was it the natural, preordained consequence of the operational directives coming down from the prime minister, the defense minister via IDF chiefs? On June 23, two days before the attack and kidnap, DEBKAfile exposed the five taboos Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz laid down for military operations to counter the Qassam missile blitz against southern Israel. One banned Israeli forays into the areas of the missile sites in Gaza and ambushes on Palestinian side of the border fence. Read the original article HERE Eiland refrained from asking whether those strict prohibitions may not have handicapped the command levels of the army to the point of rendering them incapable of performing their duties. They officers had due warning of an impending Palestinian cross-border attack through an undiscovered tunnel. What more logical than to put IDF ambushes squads behind enemy lines to trap the assailants when they return to their base in Gaza? Knowing they might be there, the Hamas-led kidnap team would have realized its escape route with Shalit was blocked and might have been deterred from the abduction. 3. The Eiland probe should have examined the strategic concepts guiding Israel’s top commanders before and after the fall of the Kerem Shalom post. Given the far-reaching consequences, the Israeli public is entitled to a lot more enlightenment. The tailored facts released show a prime minister and defense minister still in a state of denial over the root-causes of the present security crisis. Israel’s unconsidered disengagement from the Gaza Strip and its military withdrawal from the Philadelpi border route in September 2005 constitute Israel’s most damaging military and political blunder in a decade. Until this is confronted and objectively analyzed, the top IDF brass will be constrained from looking squarely at the escalating terror threat posed by Hamas-in-government and addressing it with all the considerable professionalism at their command. Such cool analysis is the target of Olmert’s primary taboo. With the premiership, he inherited from Ariel Sharon the deadly fallout from this bungle, along with the leadership of the Kadima party, whose only raison d’etre after rubberstamping Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza is to continue the process on the West Bank. The scales have fallen from many Israeli eyes in the wake of the Gilead Shalit disaster. People have begun asking hard questions, such as how did Hamas come to take over Palestinian government in the first place. And why is Hamas being permitted to terrorize southern Israeli with Qassam missiles after the Gaza Strip was handed over lock, stock and barrel to full Palestinian control. And the missile menace is beginning to percolate into the West Bank too. Even some of Kadima’s leading figures appear perplexed.

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In his report to the chief of staff, Giora Eiland implied that the IDF may be in urgent need to revise some of its outdated concepts and apply a fresh approach to the new realities – even at the cost of standing up to civilian government. Unless this is broached, Israel’s armed forces are in for more command failures and further misfortunes.

Don’t Let Them Fool You – ISRAEL STARTED IT
Ever since the bloody carnage in Lebanon started, the mainstream media has echoed Israel’s self-righteous indignation about how they’re merely defending themselves – “Israeli sovereignty was violated” when Hizbullah “kidnapped” their soldiers from “across the border.” What they conveniently reverse is that Hizbullah confronted Israeli troops on the LEBANESE SIDE OF BORDER. It all started on July 12 when Israel troops were ambushed on LEBANON’S SIDE OF THE BORDER with Israel. Hezbollah, which commands the Lebanese south, immediately seized on their crossing. They arrested two Israeli soldiers, killed eight Israelis and wounded over 20 in attacks inside Israeli territory. [] *** Ehud Olmert holds “Lebanon responsible for the fate of the missing soldiers,” who were captured near Aita al-Shaab on the LEBANESE SIDE OF THE BORDER, that is to say the soldiers violated the sovereignty of Lebanon, a COMMON OCCURRENCE. [Kurt Nimmo] Even Israeli News reported it on the 12th, contemporaneously with the incident. The Hizbullah said its operatives destroyed an Israeli tank attempting to cross the border into Lebanon. Israeli ground troops entered southern Lebanon on Wednesday to search for two soldiers captured earlier in the day by Hezbollah. (AP) (07.12.06, 12:55) ISRAEL STARTED IT. “If somebody wants to kill you and you use a deception to save your life, it’s not immoral.” – former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres Spread it far and wide.

A Shadow War is also Fought Against Hamas by Israeli Undercover Troops in Gaza and West Bank
DEBKAfile Exclusive Military-Intelligence Report Israeli Intelligence Website July 8, 2006, 2:43 PM (GMT+02:00)

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Saturday morning, July 8, the Israeli military announced the withdrawal of the armored force fighting under tank and helicopter cover in the al Atrat outskirts of the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya since Thursday, and the advance of a second contingent through the Karni crossing into central eastern Gaza to carry on the counter-missile purge. Earlier reports that Israeli troops had taken up positions in the evacuated Israeli locations of Eilei Sinai and Dugit were not repeated. The immediate consequence of the redeployment from northern Gaza was a hail of 25 Qassam missiles from the purportedly purged sector against three Israeli towns, Sderot, Ashkelon, Netivot as well as smaller villages and kibbutzim. Three civilians were injured and 12 suffered shock. Missiles exploded in the center of Sderot, Kafra Azza and Saad. The entire population of 200,000 which lives and works in places within range of Palestinian missiles from Gaza, realized they had become targets. It can therefore not be denied that the Israeli offensive, renamed Oaks of Bashan, has not achieved its goal of stamping out the Qassam menace. In fact it is more acute than ever – bigger numbers and longer range. Netivot, a small town, populated by some 30,000 people, many new immigrants, which is the site of a pilgrim destination, the tomb of the Kabbalist Baba Sali, was shaken by their first missile explosion half a kilometer from its houses and streets. Operation Oaks of Bashan has also done nothing to help bring Corporal Gilead Shalit home, 12 days after a Hamasled assault team attacked an Israeli army post, killed two of his comrades and kidnapped him. The Israeli incursion has also not made enough headway in purging Palestinian gunmen or locating the tunnels favored by Palestinian terrorists for surprise attacks and smuggling. Friday, Hamas again tightened the screw by announcing in an e-mail to the media that their captive, Corporl Shalit, is alive and well and treated humanely according to the tenets of Islam. Israelis were called on to “raise their voices and tell the truth about the soldier and the feelings of his family. The Hamas message claimed that most Israelis are demanding negotiations with the “Palestinian resistance.” Ehud Olmert and his contemptuous attitude are the only source of the threat to Gilead’s life, it is said. Early Saturday, July 8, a second Israeli armored force backed by tanks and helicopters pushed into the Karni crossing into eastern central Gaza and advanced on Sejaya east of Gaza City. Once again Israeli troops are staying well away from densely populated town districts. As in Beit Lahiya, they are cleaning out the town fringes of armed Palestinians. On the first day, 4 Palestinians were killed, three of them Hamas gunmen. This tactic, termed “incremental,” as dictated by the heads of government, is problematic in three ways: 1. 2. 3. Seeing that Israeli troops are not advancing into urban districts but keeping to the fringes, Hamas is pulling its operatives back to safe harbor in populated areas. This allows Hamas to preserve its own troops while sending Jihad Islami and Popular Resistance Committees members to resist the Israeli advance as canon fodder. Hamas planners infer from the Israeli tactic that there is no intention to wipe out its military strength. Therefore, the Hamas regime may come out of the clash damaged but not extinguished.

Israeli military experts refute some of these conclusions: 1. Air strength is being applied to destroying Hamas fighting strength. The Islamist group has no recourse against aerial attacks and is therefore shopping desperately for a supply of ground-to-air missiles, which would be smuggled into the Gaza Strip through Egyptian Sinai. Israeli forces have not limited their offensive to incursions above ground. Special forces are operating deep behind enemy lines. Tuesday, July 4, for instance, an Israeli ambush south of Gaza City targeted and killed Thayasar Roei, liaison officer between Palestinian national security forces and Hamas.


Thursday and Friday, several second-level Hamas operatives were taken from their homes. Hamas is sure they were captured by Israeli special operations teams for the purpose of smashing their political and religious institutions as a continuation of the swoop last week of 70-80 West Bank Hamas notables.

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Israeli undercover troops are now following up with a second round of detentions of heads of the Hamas A-Dawa clerical, recruitment, education and social welfare institutions. This overt and undercover trial of arms between Israel and Hamas is just beginning. Hamas is not a large movement; its hard core numbers no more than 12 to 15,000 men. Its leaders are perfectly aware that if the Israeli operation persists for long enough, it is capable of grinding their movement down to the point that will take years to recover. It is therefore likely that Hamas will not take its punishment without striking back, possibly by mounting more surprise attacks like the one that captured Gilead Shalit and took Israel unawares on June 25. Israel may also have surprises up its sleeve.

Assad Pledges Syrian Help for Lebanon
Sat Jul 15, 3:02 PM ET Syria will put its resources at the disposal of Lebanon to help cope with Israeli attacks devastating the country, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Lebanese President Emile Lahoud by phone on Saturday. The official news agency SANA said Assad expressed solidarity with Lebanon, where Israeli bombing has killed around 100 civilians since Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border operation on Wednesday. It was the first comment by Assad since the confrontation began between Israel and Hizbollah

Fires Rage in Beirut as IAF Attacks Port, Fuel Tank
By Yuval Yoaz, Amos Harel and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz Correspondents and Agencies

An IDF gunner adjusting shells at a heavy artillery piece fires before firing on a target in southern Lebanon, in northern Israel on Sunday. (AP) The Israel Air Force early Monday attacked the port of Beirut with missiles, bombing a gas tank in a northern neighborhood and shelling the southern suburbs, witnesses and Lebanese media said. According to the report a large fire broke out in the port, and two people were killed when missiles hit a parking area for trucks next to the harbor, Lebanese media reported. Sky News TV showed footage of vehicles in flames on the port compound and firefighters rushing to the fire. Predawn Monday Israel lobbed missiles at targets across Lebanon killing 15 and wounding 53 in a surge of reprisals after Hezbollah rockets slammed into new targets deep inside Israel. Eight of the dead were Lebanese soldiers who were killed when aircraft attacked a small fishing port at Abdeh in northernmost Lebanon near a highway, about six kilometers from the border with Syria. Witnesses and security

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officials said 12 others were wounded after the early Monday attack destroyed the position. There was no immediate comment from the military. An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the IDF was investigating the incidents. “In principle the Israeli military does not target Lebanese soldiers,” the spokesman said. The northern sectors hit early Monday are far off from Israel, and in zones where the Hezbollah is not known to operate. The IDF said it had targeted radar stations there, because they had been used by Hezbollah to hit a ship on Friday. It all but accused the Lebanese military of lending its support to Hezbollah. “The attacks... are against radar stations used, among other things, in the attack on the Israeli missile boat, by Hezbollah in cooperation with the Lebanese military,” the Israeli army spokesman told The Associated Press. Gunboats apparently aiming at a relay station for Hezbollah’s al-Manar television missed their target and hit a house in the Kharroub region south of Beirut. Police said four villagers were killed and 10 wounded. Israel Air Force planes staged successive airstrikes, targeting neighborhoods in the eastern city of Baalbek where Hezbollah officials have residences. Police had no casualty count. Residents reported that the bombardment, up to 12 missiles in six air raids, was the heaviest on the city, famous for its Roman ruins. The missiles started several fires and kicked up black smoke. Along the Beirut-Damascus highway at Taanayel in the central section of the Bekaa Valley in the east, an air raid killed two people and wounded 23 at a commercial compound, police said. IAF jets also struck at the seaport in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city in the northernmost part of the country. Five troops were wounded, according to witnesses. It appeared the Israelis targeted Tripoli and other areas deep inside Lebanon to counter the latest salvo of Hezbollah rockets exploding ever further south into Israeli territory late Sunday. The Hezbollah rockets on the two towns of Afula and Upper Nazareth, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Lebanese border, showed a range farther south than previous barrages. Eight Lebanese-Canadians Die in IAF Strike Eight Canadians were killed in Lebanon on Sunday when an Israel Air Force aircraft attacked their house in a south Lebanon village, Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told CTV television. “All we can say is that there are eight confirmed casualties and six who have been critically injured,” he said. Asked to confirm whether this meant eight Canadians had died, he replied: “That’s the information that we have to date.” Lebanese Health Ministry officials said earlier that five Lebanese-Canadians, all from the same family, were killed when an IAF aircraft attacked their home in the southern town of Aitaroun, which abuts the border. The target of the raid was not immediately clear. The victims were not identified. TV stations said the family had come from Canada to spend the summer holidays in the town. An IDF spokesman said after the Canadians were killed that the IDF had warned residents of the village to clear out of the area and that Hizbollah was responsible for any civilian deaths. “The IDF requested and warned residents of the area not to stay within range of the launch sites” used by Hizbollah to fire rockets into Israel, the army said in a statement. “The responsibility for any civilian casualties rests entirely with the Hizbollah terrorist organization,” the army said. An Indian soldier taking part in the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon was wounded late Sunday when two Israel Defense Forces tank shells hit his position in the border village of Houla, a UN spokesman said. Another base run by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)in a southern village near Bint Jbeil was also hit, but no one was wounded.

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“The wounded soldier was evacuated to a medical facility,” spokesman Milos Strugar told Reuters. UNFIL was created in 1978, after Israel’s first major incursion into southern Lebanon and has been there ever since. Also late Sunday, IAF aircraft fired missiles at fuel tanks in Beirut’s international airport, airport sources said. The airport, the country’s only civilian air outlet to the world, was closed on Thursday by IAF air strikes that came a day after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight in a cross-border attack. Sunday’s bombardment was the fourth time Israel hit the Rafik Hariri International Airport located on the southern edge of the capital since Wednesday when it began its strikes on Lebanon. Over 40 Lebanese civilians were killed and dozens more wounded in IAF attacks on Lebanon over the course of Sunday. Earlier Sunday, IAF jets attacked ten rocket launching sites in southern Lebanon. According to the Israel Defense Forces, a mobile Hezbollah missile battery was hit in the strike. The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday warned the residents of southern Lebanon to leave their homes within two hours, ahead of Israel Air Force attacks that would follow shortly after the deadline expires. “We want to say to the population in the south of Lebanon, we want to avoid innocent victims, so we recommend them to leave their villages and homes and go to the north of the country and let us work in the south of Lebanon, because in two or three hours we are going to attack the south of Lebanon heavily,” said GOC Northern Command Major General Udi Adam. An IAF strike on a building on Sunday killed at least 16 civilians and wounded scores in Lebanon’s southern port city of Tyre, witnesses said. More feared trapped under the rubble, an official source said. The warning came after a Hezbollah rocket attack killed eight people and wounded 19 others in the northern port city of Haifa. “Hezbollah’s actions do not surprise us,” Adam told reporters. “They’ve been stockpiling these weapons for many years and the Lebanese government allowed this to happen.” He said that Hezbollah “is in Lebanon not to defend [the country] but to wait for the day they would be able to harm Israel. As far as we are concerned, there are no surprises, and only determination will change the situation.” “We have no intention of dragging Syria into this conflict and all of our steps are cautious and measured. The objective is to change the reality here in Israel and this is why our targets in Lebanon keep changing,” he said. “We have a pretty good idea where they are launching their rockets from – villages and small communities – and [as such] we have warned civilian residents to evacuate their homes,” he said. Another 19 people were killed Sunday in two separate attacks on the southern Lebanese city of Zur. On Saturday night, Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the IDF to step up the rate of attacks against Lebanon. His orders were issued close to the time when Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora made a national address and called for an immediate cease-fire. The United Nations Security Council on Saturday again rejected pleas that it call for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon after the United States objected, diplomats said. Peretz said that the IDF must continue applying pressure on Hezbollah, giving the organization no room to breath, and continue expanding its bombing raids elsewhere. Hours after the order was made, the IAF launched a wave of bombing raids on the Lebanese capital’s southern suburbs Sunday. A series of loud explosions, about 18 in total, shook the capital, much of which was plunged in darkness after warplanes struck power stations and fuel depots feeding them. Hezbollah’s television station, Al-Manar, said that the IAF bombed the Jiyeh power station early Sunday. The plant,

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which is located some 20 kilometers south of the Lebanese capital, was in flames in the early hours of the morning, Al-Manar said. The IDF denied the report. The southern suburbs were struck repeatedly by IAF warplanes Saturday, but the early Sunday raids were the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive last Wednesday, following the killing of eight IDF soldiers and abduction of two others by Hezbollah guerillas. The TV said a bridge linking the al-Hazmiyah district to the road that leads to the airport, south of the capital, was also targeted. In Israel, the military confirmed that IAF jets were bombing the Hezbollah headquarters in south Beirut. A heavy bombardment in the early hours of Sunday targeted the Al-Manar building, the IDF said. The station’s signal twice disappeared briefly before returning, and it was not immediately known if it was broadcasting from its original location. The extent of the damage caused to the suburbs could not be established because the area is deemed too dangerous for journalists to visit. Most of the raids target an area known as the “security square,” where Hezbollah has its headquarters, destroyed in a Friday air strike, and where some of its leaders live. Most residents of the suburbs, which is in reality a part of the Lebanese capital, have fled their homes for the relative safety of the Beka’a Valley, a mainly Shiite region to the east of Beirut.

‘Lebanon Can be Shut Down for Years’
Amir Mizroch, THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 16, 2006 Lebanon can be “shut down for years, as long as necessary” a senior military official said over the weekend. He added that the goals of the Israeli blockade of Lebanon were, on a tactical level, to make sure that no rockets could be supplied to Hizbullah, and strategically, to make the government in Beirut take responsibility for its southern border. The official said the blockade could be maintained “for as long as is necessary to remove the threat of missiles on the State of Israel,” but acknowledged that diplomatic pressure might end it sooner. Regarding the imminent arrival in the region of a UN team to work on resolving the crisis, the military official said Israel would only work with the mediators if their paramount objectives were the return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for Hizbullah to be disarmed and for the Lebanese Army to take control of its southern border. The feeling within the IDF General Staff is that the Lebanese government will eventually succumb and deploy its army in the south, but that this decision will be made at the political level, under international pressure. The senior military official said the current clash with Hizbullah was inevitable, that the “writing had been on the wall.” Hizbullah miscalculated Israel’s response to the kidnapping of two soldiers on Wednesday, he said. Israel’s relations with UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, were “reasonable,” Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz told The Jerusalem Post on Friday. “Their contribution to fighting terror is not overwhelming. Their presence along the border adds to creating an atmosphere, but they are not doing anything concrete to help the situation,” Halutz said, adding that the future of UNIFIL’s presence along the border would be determined by the political echelon. Halutz said Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah had gone “a step too far” in evaluating his organization’s power, and in forecasting Israel’s reaction. “Nasrallah had expected a different response from Israel, he had grown accustomed to a different response from Israel,” Halutz said. He said that there were already signs of criticism of Hizbullah by Lebanese parliamentarians. Halutz said there was no sign that Syria and Iran would be dragged into the conflict, but added that those who acted against Israel would themselves be acted against. “I see no reason that the Syrians would want to jump into a pool they are liable to drown in,” he said, adding that the IDF has not seen any unusual Syrian military activity in recent days.

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A naval, air and land blockade does not necessarily mean that a country is “shut down,” the military official said, but it does give the blockading power control over what goes in and out. “In a naval blockade, the navy can be ordered to let certain ships in and others not. In an air blockade, the airports are shut down. If you want to enter Lebanon you will have to land in Syria and enter in cars,” the official said, speaking in a closed forum. The official said the IDF was not acting against the Lebanese government but rather against Hizbullah’s infrastructure. However, the official warned the government in Beirut that “it had a lot to lose” if it did not deploy its forces in the south. The official said Israel knew that Iran has given Hizbullah a “blank check” regarding weapons supplies and had promised to replenish anything destroyed by Israeli action. Israel also knew that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were active in Hizbullah’s rocket attacks, the official said, including the attack on Israel Navy Ship Hanit off the coast of Lebanon Friday. The official said that so far, there had been no direct military clashes between the IDF and the Iranian forces in Lebanon. The IDF has would continue to attack Hizbullah’s missile silos and mobile rocket launching pads in southern Lebanon, the official said, in a long overdue attempt to deal with the strategic threat along the northern border. He said that by destroying roads and bridges throughout Lebanon, as well as disabling airports, the IDF hoped to prevent Iran and Syria from replenishing Hizbulah’s supply of rockets and launchers in the south. Not one rocket will make it into Lebanon, the senior IDF official said over the weekend, adding that the BeirutDamascus highway had been “shut down.” The IDF’s plan was to cut off Hizbullah’s supply line from Syria and Iran, preventing weapons-laden trucks, ships and aircraft from reaching Lebanon, he said. The army was unable to say how long it will take for things to “turn around” and for Hizbullah to start running out of rockets, he said. Halutz said Hizbullah had missiles with a range of 70 km., “and perhaps a little more.” With that range, the rockets might be able to reach reach Hadera and Netanya. Halutz could not say how many missiles Hizbullah had with that range. Estimates of the total number of missiles in Hizbullah’s possession in southern Lebanon range from 10,000 to 13,000. The army took into account the very likely possibility that Hizbullah would unleash its rocket arsenal on northern Israel when the IDF responded to the kidnapping by striking Hizbullah’s rocket infrastructure. “They have enough rockets at this stage to continue firing at Israel,” Halutz said. “Hizbullah has taken on for itself the role of the defender of Lebanon, but in reality, it has become the destroyer of Lebanon,” he said. Halutz said another reason roads and bridges in Lebanon had been hit was to make it harder for the kidnappers of IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev to move them within Lebanon or to take them out of the country. He said that the latest information Israel had was that the three kidnapped soldiers [including Cpl. Gilad Shalit in Gaza] were alive and in a “reasonable” state of health.

The Real Israeli Aim
By: Uri Avnery 07/15/06 “Information Clearing House“ – THE REAL aim is to change the regime in Lebanon and to install a puppet government. That was the aim of Ariel Sharon’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It failed. But Sharon and his pupils in the military and political leadership have never really given up on it. As in 1982, the present operation, too, was planned and is being carried out in full coordination with the US. As then, there is no doubt that it is coordinated with a part of the Lebanese elite. That’s the main thing. Everything else is noise and propaganda.

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ON THE eve of the 1982 invasion, Secretary of State Alexander Haig told Ariel Sharon that, before starting it, it was necessary to have a “clear provocation”, which would be accepted by the world. The provocation indeed took place – exactly at the appropriate time – when Abu-Nidal’s terror gang tried to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London. This had no connection with Lebanon, and even less with the PLO (the enemy of Abu-Nidal), but it served its purpose. This time, the necessary provocation has been provided by the capture of the two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah. Everyone knows that they cannot be freed except through an exchange of prisoners. But the huge military campaign that has been ready to go for months was sold to the Israeli and international public as a rescue operation. (Strangely enough, the very same thing happened two weeks earlier in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and its partners captured a soldier, which provided the excuse for a massive operation that had been prepared for a long time and whose aim is to destroy the Palestinian government.) THE DECLARED aim of the Lebanon operation is to push Hizbullah away from the border, so as to make it impossible for them to capture more soldiers and to launch rockets at Israeli towns. The invasion of the Gaza strip is also officially aimed at getting Ashkelon and Sderot out of the range of the Qassams. That resembles the 1982 “Operation Peace for Gallilee”. Then, the public and the Knesset were told that the aim of the war was to “push the Katyushas 40 km away from the border”. That was a deliberate lie. For 11 months before the war, not a single Katyusha rocket (nor a single shot) had been fired over the border. From the beginning, the aim of the operation was to reach Beirut and install a Quisling dictator. As I have recounted more than once, Sharon himself told me so nine months before the war, and I duly published it at the time, with his consent (but unattributed). Of course, the present operation also has several secondary aims, which do not include the freeing of the prisoners. Everybody understands that that cannot be achieved by military means. But it is probably possible to destroy some of the thousands of missiles that Hizbullah has accumulated over the years. For this end, the army chiefs are ready to endanger the inhabitants of the Israeli towns that are exposed to the rockets. They believe that that is worthwhile, like an exchange of chess figures. Another secondary aim is to rehabilitate the “deterrent power” of the army. That is a codeword for the restoration of the army’s injured pride that has suffered a severe blow from the daring military actions of Hamas in the south and Hizbullah in the north. OFFICIALLY, THE Israeli government demands that the Government of Lebanon disarm Hizbullah and remove it from the border region. That is clearly impossible under the present Lebanese regime, a delicate fabric of ethno-religious communities. The slightest shock can bring the whole structure crashing down and throw the state into total anarchy – especially after the Americans succeeded in driving out the Syrian army, the only element that has for years provided some stability. The idea of installing a Quisling in Lebanon is nothing new. In 1955, David Ben-Gurion proposed taking a “Christian officer” and installing him as dictator. Moshe Sharet showed that this idea was based on complete ignorance of Lebanese affairs and torpedoed it. But 27 years later, Ariel Sharon tried to put it into effect nevertheless. Bashir Gemayel was indeed installed as president, only to be murdered soon afterwards. His brother, Amin, succeeded him and signed a peace agreement with Israel, but was driven out of office. (The same brother is now publicly supporting the Israeli operation.) The calculation now is that if the Israeli Air Force rains heavy enough blows on the Lebanese population – paralysing the sea- and airports, destroying the infrastructure, bombarding residential neighborhoods, cutting the BeirutDamascus highroad etc. – the public will get furious with Hizbullah and pressure the Lebanese government into fulfilling Israel’s demands. Since the present government cannot even dream of doing so, a dictatorship will be set up with Israel’s support. That is the military logic. I have my doubts. It can be assumed that most Lebanese will react as any other people on earth would: with fury and hatred towards the invader. That happened in 1982, when the Shiites in the south of Lebanon, until then as docile as a doormat, stood up against the Israeli occupiers and created the Hizbullah, which has become the strongest force in the country. If the Lebanese elite now becomes tainted as collaborators with Israel,

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it will be swept off the map. (By the way, have the Qassams and Katyushas caused the Israeli population to exert pressure on our government to give up? Quite the contrary.) The American policy is full of contradictions. President Bush wants “regime change” in the Middle East, but the present Lebanese regime has only recently been set up by under American pressure. In the meantime, Bush has succeeded only in breaking up Iraq and causing a civil war (as foretold here). He may get the same in Lebanon, if he does not stop the Israeli army in time. Moreover, a devastating blow against Hizbullah may arouse fury not only in Iran, but also among the Shiites in Iraq, on whose support all of Bush’s plans for a pro-American regime are built. So what’s the answer? Not by accident, Hizbullah has carried out its soldier-snatching raid at a time when the Palestinians are crying out for succor. The Palestinian cause is popular all over the Arab word. By showing that they are a friend in need, when all other Arabs are failing dismally, Hizbullah hopes to increase its popularity. If an IsraeliPalestinian agreement had been achieved by now, Hizbullah would be no more than a local Lebanese phenomenon, irrelevant to our situation. LESS THAN three months after its formation, the Olmert-Peretz government has succeeded in plunging Israel into a two-front war, whose aims are unrealistic and whose results cannot be foreseen. If Olmert hopes to be seen as Mister Macho-Macho, a Sharon # 2, he will be disappointed. The same goes for the desperate attempts of Peretz to be taken seriously as an imposing Mister Security. Everybody understands that this campaign – both in Gaza and in Lebanon – has been planned by the army and dictated by the army. The man who makes the decisions in Israel now is Dan Halutz. It is no accident that the job in Lebanon has been turned over to the Air Force. The public is not enthusiastic about the war. It is resigned to it, in stoic fatalism, because it is being told that there is no alternative. And indeed, who can be against it? Who does not want to liberate the “kidnapped soldiers”? Who does not want to remove the Katyushas and rehabilitate deterrence? No politician dares to criticize the operation (except the Arab MKs, who are ignored by the Jewish public). In the media, the generals reign supreme, and not only those in uniform. There is almost no former general who is not being invited by the media to comment, explain and justify, all speaking in one voice. (As an illustration: Israel’s most popular TV channel invited me to an interview about the war, after hearing that I had taken part in an anti-war demonstration. I was quite surprised. But not for long – an hour before the broadcast, an apologetic talk-show host called and said that there had been a terrible mistake – they really meant to invite Professor Shlomo Avineri, a former Director General of the Foreign Office who can be counted on to justify any act of the government, whatever it may be, in lofty academic language.) “Inter arma silent Musae” – when the weapons speak, the muses fall silent. Or, rather: when the guns roar, the brain ceases to function. AND JUST a small thought: when the State of Israel was founded in the middle of a cruel war, a poster was plastered on the walls: “All the country – a front! All the people – an army!” 58 Years have passed, and the same slogan is still as valid as it was then. What does that say about generations of statesmen and generals? Uri Avnery is an Israeli author and activist. He is the head of the Israeli peace movement, “Gush Shalom”.

The Road to War
We could all be in deep, deep trouble Jason Burke and Julie Flint in Bierut, Inigo Gilmore in Nahariya, Conal Urquhart in Gaza and Patrick Wintour in St Petersburg Sunday July 16, 2006 The Observer Beirut was silent yesterday morning. Smoke still hung in the blue sky like a vague threat, but after a night of violence – physical and verbal – the port city waited. A few shops in the centre warily raised their steel shutters, but the Shia Muslim areas in the south of the city were empty. Occasional cars worked their way around the rubble left by the air strikes of the evening before, some packed with families leaving, others filled with families going to funerals. Then came the blasts in the middle of the day, loud enough to rattle windows across the entire city. Plumes of flame and

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smoke spouted once more above the tattered buildings. And everyone knew that there would soon be more cars full of refugees, and more cars heading to funerals. There were many funerals last week, and this weekend there were more. At least 13 Lebanese villagers, including women and children, were killed yesterday in an Israeli air strike on a convoy of vehicles evacuating a village near the southern border. And few expect the funerals to stop soon. Yesterday Israeli and Hizbollah leaders declared ‘open war’; bodies of four Israeli sailors were retrieved from a warship struck by a Hizbollah drone; beyond Beirut, bombing continued in the Hizbollah heartland of southern Lebanon and even reached the Syrian border; and dozens of Hizbollah rockets continued to fall randomly on civilian areas in northern Israel, reaching as far south as Tiberias, some 40km inside Israel’s borders, causing minor injuries and provoking panic. Further south, though the worst violence of the week had ebbed, the Gaza Strip, from where rockets have been fired into Israeli towns, remained tense, with reports of an Israeli air strike and two dead. And as the violence continued, so the shock waves around the region and the world grew deeper. The crisis, which has pushed oil prices to a historic high of $78 per barrel and weakened stock markets around the world, dominated the agenda of the G8 summit of rich nations in St Petersburg, dividing international leaders. In the Middle East itself, Syria and Iran, deeply implicated in the events of the past week, are on high alert. The Egyptians, Jordanians, Turks, Saudis – and, of course, the Iraqis – are all very nervous. America is increasingly involved. Diplomats are frantically formulating plans to defuse what one described to The Observer as ‘a powder keg that could blow out all the lights’. And all this in just five days. The questions are now manifold and evident; answers less so. How and why did the crisis explode so powerfully and so quickly? What are the regional ramifications? And what happens next? As ever in the Middle East, the crisis can be traced back to a variety of causes. The timeline can start a few days ago – with a daring cross-border raid by Hizbollah militants on Tuesday that led to the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the deaths of eight more. Or it can start two weeks ago – with the kidnapping of another Israeli soldier by hardline Palestinian militants from the Hamas organisation in the Gaza Strip. Or it can start months, years or decades ago in the myriad interwoven causes that link Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, the development (with Iranian assistance) of the Hizbollah militia in response to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon 18 years earlier, and even the Iranian revolution of 1979, or the Arab-Israeli wars of 1973 and 1967. For Ehud Olmert, the recently elected Prime Minister of Israel, the crisis started on Wednesday with Hizbollah’s cross-border attack. It should have been expected. The militia’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has repeatedly said that it would seek to capture Israeli soldiers on or near the border, and has been trying to do so since moving back into the frontier zone following the Israeli withdrawal six years ago. The army was ‘caught with its pants down’, said one Israeli commentator last week. As soon as Olmert – said by associates to be ‘incandescent’ with rage – heard of the incident, he called an emergency meeting of the inner security cabinet. Around the table with the right-wing Prime Minister, who leads the Kadima party, were his senior ministers and leaders of the other parties, including the profoundly orthodox Shas, who comprise the ruling coalition. The politicians were briefed by the head of the army, Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, the head of the internal security service, the head of Mossad, and a series of other military advisers. Halutz’s plan mixed various aims. There was little real hope that the pressure on Hizbollah might force the immediate return of the soldiers. But a land, air and sea blockade would prevent Hizbollah receiving supplies and prevent the militia evacuating the hostages to Syria. A tight cordon coupled with air strikes would allow the destruction of Hizbollah’s military capacity. In addition, the physical damage wreaked by the bombing would force the government of Lebanon (and the international community) to act against the Islamic militia, hopefully implementing a recent UN Security Council resolution calling for Hizbollah’s disarmament and the positioning of Lebanese troops on the southern border. Civilian suffering leading to anger against Hizbollah would, the politicians and military men knew, force the Lebanese, or the international community, or both, to act rapidly. The plan was accepted unanimously. ‘If our security and economy is being hit,’ said one minister, ‘so shall Lebanon’s.’ Their responses were, given Israel’s history, relatively predictable. The Jewish state’s strategic doctrine has always relied, along with massive foreign aid, on a powerful, ruthless and immediate response to any threat. As a final bonus, the Hizbollah attack offered an opportunity to restore the ‘deterrence factor’ – a key aim of the hawkish chief of staff who has a significant influence on a government that contains fewer former soldiers than almost any other previous Israeli administration. ‘There has been a progressive decline in deterrence over the past six years and the defence establishment want to re-establish it,’ said Jonathan Spyer, a former adviser on international relations to the Israeli government and a research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Centre in Hertzeliya. ‘They see it as a very serious big boy’s game.’

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Crucially, Halutz’s plan was not new. Indeed, according to Gerald Steinberg, professor of political studies at Bar Ilan University, it had been sitting ‘on the shelf’ for some time. ‘The scenario that has been followed has been worked on by the military for several years,’ Steinberg said. ‘Sharon was briefed on it when he was Prime Minister and it is probable that Olmert knew about it.’ Yet the more hardline Israelis were not the only ones acting according to a script. Indeed, the script may well have been written elsewhere: in Beirut, Gaza, Damascus and Tehran. On Thursday morning, the people of the village of al-Dweir, a few miles from the Israel-Lebanon border, gathered at the mosque for a family funeral. Rockets launched by Hizbollah fighters could be heard echoing off the low hills of the border area. Overhead, Israeli jets and drones circled unheeded by a crowd full of Hizbollah members and supporters. Before long, the yellow and green flag of the Shia group was fluttering. Dr Yousef Akkash was among the mourners. His brother, killed along with his wife and eight children earlier in the day when Israeli planes obliterated their home, was possibly a member of Hizbollah, but Akkash was not sure. ‘I hope he was,’ Akkash said. ‘If he was engaged in Hizbollah activities, then it was his fate.’ But it was a fate that lay in the hands of shadowy men in different countries. Israeli diplomats last week insisted on an ‘axis of evil’ linking Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hizbollah, Damascus and Tehran. ‘They are united to destabilise the situation and act against the wills of most people and governments in the region to progress a peace process,’ said Barnea Hassid, an Israeli spokesman. The argument here is simple. The past few months have seen several developments that have displeased those who stand to benefit from continued strife. There has been an improvement in relations between moderate Palestinian leaders and Olmert, who is committed to a disengagement of Israeli forces and settlers from the West Bank and hints that even elements of Hamas might be shifting towards a more pragmatic position. In addition, the Syrians, forced to leave Lebanon last year, have become marginalised and Hizbollah has begun to lose credibility. In addition, Tehran is under huge international pressure because of its nuclear programme. Nothing would benefit hardliners in Gaza, Lebanon, Damascus and Tehran more than a nasty and bloody war. ‘It is a good thing for Damascus and Tehran,’ said Spyer. ‘They are largely behind what we are now seeing...’ However, experts point out that there is little history of contact between Hizbollah and the Sunni Muslim Hamas. And though a senior Hamas militant in Damascus is suspected of running the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier in Gaza, that does not mean, says one Western intelligence source, that the Hizbollah strike last week was part of a coordinated strategy. And the relationship between Iran and Hizbollah may be more nuanced than often thought. ‘The Iranians are in trouble over the nuclear programme, and the Syrians are under pressure, too, and chaos and diversions benefit both,’ said Nadim Shehadi, of London’s Chatham House think tank. ‘But Hizbollah is more linked to Tehran than Damascus.’ An axis may exist, but in a rougher, more informal form than the tight-knit institutional connections seen by the Israelis and their allies. ‘If you ignore state borders, you can see a broad anti-American and anti-Israeli front, with Iran leading it. They are playing a clever game. The Iranians are playing chess: their opponents are playing poker.’ One critical question is the degree of support that Hizbollah, which has a well-armed militia and a large social programme, has among Lebanon’s poor Shias. The consensus is that the militia had been losing support before the crisis. That may be one reason for Wednesday’s attack, even if the reaction of the Israelis was greater than foreseen. ‘Hizbollah was being squeezed,’ said Steinberg. ‘It was “use-it-or-lose-it” time.’ Initially, it looked as if those tactics might have worked. On Wednesday night, as news of the kidnapping broke, teenagers on motorbikes rode up and down Beirut seafront waving the party’s yellow flag and honking horns. Even after bombardment chewed up the highway to Damascus and put the airport out of action, celebrants were setting off firecrackers. But as the extent of Israel’s onslaught on Lebanon’s infrastructure became clear, the atmosphere changed. ‘In 1982, I was anti-Israel,’ presidential candidate Chibli Mallat told The Observer. ‘But this offensive has been provoked by a blatant violation of the demarcation line and the abduction of soldiers. I cannot put the blame on the Israelis. They did not start it.’ Few Lebanese accept Hizbollah’s claim that its aim was to barter the release of the handful of Lebanese still held in Israeli jails: they blame Hizbollah for plunging Lebanon back into war. Everywhere there is widespread recognition that, even if the Lebanese government, with its pro-Syrian President and predominantly anti-Syrian administration and parliament, wanted to rein in Hizbollah, it could not. ‘The Israelis blame the Lebanese government for not controlling Hizbollah,’ said architect Simone Kosremelli. ‘Is Italy able to control the Mafia? Could England control the IRA? Israel must know that 50 years of conflict have not brought a solution. There must be another way.’

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If there is, it will almost certainly involve the international community. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s leader, had hoped to use this weekend’s G8 summit to showcase the economic progress in his nation. Officially, education and the fight against HIV head the agenda, but attention has focused on the Middle East – and divisions between the summiteers. The splits echoed those over Iraq three years ago, with France’s Jacques Chirac leading condemnation of the Israelis, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso saying that the use of force by Israel was ‘disproportionate’, Putin calling for the Israeli response to be more ‘balanced’ and President Bush avoiding any condemnation of Israel, saying ‘the best way to stop the violence is for Hizbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking.’ However, with a meeting this weekend of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo disintegrating in mutual recriminations, the EU lacking a clear strategy and the UN lacking credibility, the Americans may hold the real key. ‘The Israelis tend to go as far as they can, as quickly as they can, to make their point and strengthen their negotiating position before the international pressure on them gets too much to bear,’ said one Western diplomat. ‘The US can bring 10 times as much pressure to bear as anyone else.’ Bush has so far largely left discussions with Israeli leaders to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Rice, after conversations with UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, has backed the dispatch of a UN team to the region to attempt to negotiate a truce, but few believe it has much chance of immediate success. A key question is whether Israel will escalate its military response to Hizbollah’s continued provocation – yesterday rockets fell deeper and deeper inside Israel. A spokesman refused to rule out a ground offensive, though casualties would be high and the political fall-out of a botched operation potentially devastating. However it may be that a negotiated settlement – exchanging prisoners in Israeli jails as part of a more general agreement that would see the return of the captured Israeli troops and Hizbollah pulling back from the frontier – is possible. Though Israeli demands for the disarmament of Hizbollah may be unrealistic in the short term, they may not be in the long term. However, it may be that a fuse has been lit. ‘The nightmare scenario is war in Gaza, widespread war against the Israelis in Lebanon and between factions, Syria and Iran being dragged into the conflict and a steady escalation from there to who knows where, widespread conflict, oil prices through the ceiling, bombs going off all over the place’ said the diplomat. ‘You don’t usually see the nightmare scenario evolve in the Middle East but, if it does, we are all in deep, deep trouble.’ Perhaps the most hopeful sign is that the vast bulk of the Lebanese and Israeli populations still do not wish harm on one another, though tensions have heightened antagonisms and, in Israel at least, provoked a strong pro-war solidarity. During a rocket barrage on Friday afternoon, a missile landed in a kibbutz on the edge of the northern Israeli town of Nahariya. As the community had already been almost entirely evacuated, there were no casualties. Avi Hever, a long-time resident, was one of just four men who chose to stay behind after the first missiles landed last week. ‘I was watching TV when I heard the missile go over the house and explode,’ he said. ‘I went into a safe place between the two walls and the house was shaking all over. Its unpleasant, shocking; it makes you freeze.’ Pointing to empty rooms, he explained that he has sent his wife and two children to his family in Tel Aviv, an exodus mirroring that of Lebanese civilians further north. The Observer asked if he sympathised with those caught up in the same conflict living just a few miles away over the border. ‘It’s quite hard to feel empathy at the moment, when just 10 minutes ago a rocket hit here and I was in danger. But empathy will come,’ he said, glancing across the neat houses, with their groomed front lawns, the Star of David flags flapping defiantly from the rooftops. ‘We do want peace and the Lebanese want the same as us. But it’s up to them now; they have to choose which way they want to organise their life, with Hizbollah or without it.’ Outside the village of Damour on Lebanon’s coast, holes that are dozens of feet wide have shattered a key highway overpass that connects Beirut to the south of the country. It is also the only way out of the war zone for many of south Lebanon’s residents, who have been clambering over the piles of rubble and around the craters on their way to Beirut or the northern Bekaa Valley and safety. ‘This is a fight between Hizbollah and Israel,’ said Umm Mohammed, 36, a Shia woman from outside Tyre. ‘Why must they hurt civilians? I have small children.’ And she looked nervously to the sky. Key Players of the Conflict

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• • •

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah: Chief of Hizbollah in Lebanon has close links to Syria and Iran. Told Israel: ‘You wanted an open war and we are heading for an open war’. Bashar Assad: President of Syria denied being behind the Hizbollah attack. Syria’s relations with Lebanon strained since last year’s killing of former Lebanese premier Rafif Hariri that led to withdrawal of Syrian troops. Fouad Siniora: Lebanese Prime Minister Critic of Syria but he has been so far unable to disarm Hizbollah, a group he calls ‘legitimate resistance’. In a difficult position with two Hizbollah ministers in his cabinet. Ehud Olmert: Israeli Prime Minister said he would agree to a ceasefire if Hizbollah returned the two captured soldiers and stopped firing rockets but has rejected calls for restraint from UN’s Kofi Annan. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: President of Iran was where Hizbollah was founded and it retains close links. Tehran warns of a ‘fierce response’ if Israel strikes at Syria.

Countdown to Crisis

• • •

25 January: Hamas defeats moderate Fatah in Palestinian elections. 10 April: EU severs political contact and suspends direct aid to Palestinian government. 9 June: Hamas calls off 16- month military truce after seven members of a Palestinian family are killed on a Gaza beach by Israel shell. Four days later a family of nine die in Israeli missile strike in Gaza. 25 June: Palestinian militants launch raid into Israel, killing two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping Cpl Gilad Shalit. 29 June: Israel troops, having pushed into Gaza, detain Hamas lawmakers and cabinet members. Air strikes. 12 July: Hizbolla captures two Israeli soldiers and kills eight. Israel calls it ‘act of war’ and widens Gaza offensive, killing 24 civilians. Air strikes destroy 10 bridges in Lebanon, and hit power stations and a water facility. 13 July: Israel bombs Palestinian Foreign Ministry and Beirut airport. Navy blockades Lebanese ports. The US 14 July: Israel bombs Beirut-Damascus road and Shia suburbs of Bierut: 67 Lebanese civilians dead. Hizbollah launches 130 missiles at Israel, killing at least two civilians. Israeli ship is hit by an explosives- filled drone, four dead. 15 July: In the village of Marwaheen – 500 yards from the Israeli border, an air strike kills up to 13.

• • •

• •

Wildly Disproportionate Attack on Lebanon Seems like Pretext to Confront Iran, says Linda McQuaig
July 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

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As Israeli firepower rained down on Lebanon last week, pundits here in the West wasted no time pinning the blame on — Iran. “Iran and its radical allies are pushing toward war,” wrote Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. Washington defence commentator Edward Luttwak weighed in: “Iran’s leaders have apparently decided to reject the Western offer to peacefully settle the dispute over its weapons-grade uranium-enrichment program.” In fact, Iran’s leaders haven’t rejected the “Western offer;” they’ve said publicly they will respond to it by Aug. 22. This isn’t fast enough however to satisfy Washington, which considers the “offer” more of an ultimatum. Is it really Iran that is pushing for war? Think about it. Why would Iran want to provoke a war with Israel and the U.S. — both heavily armed nuclear powers — when it has no nuclear weapons itself? The U.S. and Israel, on the other hand, are very keen to attack Iran. In a recent series of articles in New Yorker magazine, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has detailed Washington’s plans to attack Iran. Israel has called Iran a “major threat” that “must be stopped” from developing nuclear weapons. But the U.S. and Israel don’t want to look like aggressors. They insist their intentions are purely defensive. Recall that Washington also claimed its invasion of Iraq was purely defensive — to protect itself from Iraq’s arsenal of deadly weapons, which, it turned out, didn’t exist. So when Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon seized two Israeli soldiers last week, a perfect opportunity arose. Since Hezbollah has links to Iran, presto, here was a prima facie case that Iran was gunning for confrontation. Did the Western pundits who quickly embraced this theory ever consider that the Hezbollah militants, as well as the Palestinian militants in Gaza who captured a single Israeli soldier last month, might have had their own motives for striking Israel? Certainly the Palestinians have endless grievances against Israel. In addition to four decades of Israeli military occupation of their land, Israel has attempted to destroy the Hamas government, which was democratically elected by Palestinians last January. Hezbollah’s seizure of the two Israeli soldiers was probably an act of support for the Palestinians in Gaza, who have been under Israeli military siege since the capture of the first soldier. Hezbollah also said it seized the soldiers because it wanted to trade them for Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails. A similar Israeli-Hezbollah prisoner exchange took place in 2004. Abandoning Canada’s traditional role as an honest broker in the Middle East, Prime Minister Stephen Harper unabashedly supported Israel last week, calling its devastating attacks on Gaza and Lebanon “measured.” If Israel is simply trying to “defend” itself, its actions are wildly disproportionate. On the other hand, if Israel and the U.S. are looking for an excuse to attack Iran, the capture of the Israeli soldiers is as good as any.

Israel Said Using DU, Poison Gas on Lebanese
by Wayne Madsen Exclusive to WMR 7-17-06 Our intelligence sources in Lebanon have reported to us exclusively that Israel is now using poison gas and depleted uranium shells on towns in the south of Lebanon. Residents of the small village of Kasarshoba became violently ill, experiencing severe vomiting, after the Israelis hit the village with poison gas. In other cases, underground shelters in southern Lebanon were hit by Israeli depleted uranium shells. Our sources also report that the entire southern suburbs of southern Beirut, with a population of 800,000, have been totally depopulated. Israel has targeted thousands of civilian homes for destruction.

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Meanwhile, Israeli government spokespersons and Bush administration officials took to the Sunday morning talking head programs in Washington to defend Israel’s barbarous actions. The networks failed to present the views of Lebanese government spokespersons. Israel’s and the Bush administration’s line is that Israeli attacks are “precision targeted.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pointedly refused to criticize Israel on ABC’s This Week.

Israeli Kadima (ex-Likud) Prime Minister Ehud Olmert joins Ariel Sharon in annals of Israeli leaders who committed war crimes in Lebanon. American media is failing to report that the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, like the U.S. attacks in Iraq, are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocols governing military attacks on civilians by governments that are parties to the conventions: “Civilians are not to be subject to attack. This includes direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks against areas in which civilians are present. There is to be no destruction of property unless justified by military necessity. Warring parties must not use or develop biological or chemical weapons.”

Hezbollah Rejects Ceasefire with Israel
Updated at 1800 PST BEIRUT: Hezbollah on Monday rejected entering into a ceasefire on terms dictated by Israel, with a senior member of the Lebanese militia saying it would not accept three conditions the Jewish state has set. “We accept no conditions for a ceasefire, whatever the pressure,” Abdullah Kasir, a member of Hezbollah’s central committee, told media. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Friday said a ceasefire would only be considered on three conditions: that Hezbollah release two captured Israeli soldiers, that the firing of Hezbollah rockets on Israeli towns cease, and that Lebanon proceeds with the disarmament of the militia in line with a UN resolution. Kasir said Israel’s demand to see the Lebanese army deploy along the border with Israel, replacing Hezbollah guerrillas that currently control the area, was a matter for the Lebanese to settle themselves.

Iran Warns Israel of ‘Unimaginable Losses’ if Syria Hit
7-17-06 TEHRAN – Iran warned Israel Sunday of “unimaginable losses” if it attacks Syria and vowed that it was standing by the Syrian people. “We hope the Zionist regime does not make the mistake of attacking Syria, because extending the front would definitely make the regime face unimaginable losses,” foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

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“We have offered and will offer Syria and Lebanon spiritual and humanitarian support,” Asefi said, reiterating Iran’s denial that it is providing military and financial assistance to the Hezbollah movement. “We have no Guards there. It is not true that we have sent missiles. Hezbollah is capable enough. The Zionist regime is under pressure,” Asefi said, repeating Iran’s denial of any connection to the attack.

Israel’s Dangerous Overreaction
By Henry Makow PhD 7-17-06 As French President Jacques Chirac said, the Israeli reaction seems dangerously out-of-proportion to the provocation. A few soldiers killed and captured and they are ready to “set Lebanon’s clock back 20 years” risking a regional or even a global conflagration. The cruelty and severity of Israel’s response are totally unjustified and suggests to me that a bigger scenario is in the works. This is confirmed by the tepid international efforts to initiate a cease fire. I am not sure whether Iran or Israel will emerge as the big loser. But I suspect every move is orchestrated in advance. Joseph Ehrlich (“Senderburl”) thinks the NWO is playing a double game with Israel, and that Haifa and Tel Aviv are going to be nuked by Iran. He believes Sharon refused to play according to this script and was removed, but the traitor Ehud Olmert will. He believes Israel has outlived its usefulness to the globalists, and they want control of Jerusalem and a new relationship with the Muslim world. He doesn’t think this will be an excuse to nuke Iran, which he says has immunity by virtue of its oil wealth. Ehrlich’s scenario is as horrific as it is farfetched but it is consistent with reports that the Illuminati hate Israel. Erhlich says the trigger is an attack on Syria by Israel. In any case, the new Israeli “unilateralism” assumes opponents have no right to resist, have no legitimate grievances and are “terrorists.” This is based on the canard that Israel has no one to negotiate with, which is nonsense. It is the attitude of an aggressor who has no intention of negotiating and relies entirely on force and intimidation. (Btw, the “terrorists” are the ones without the air force.) The Israeli government seems to suspend the law of cause-and-effect. It ignores the connection between the Hizballah attack in the North and Israel’s overreaction to the capture of a soldier in Gaza. The Israelis shut off water and electricity in Gaza, imprisoned Hamas government members and missile-attacked government buildings killing civilians. The Gaza capture in turn was a response to the killing of a family picnicking on a Gaza beach, and the continued targeting of Hamas leaders. The new Israeli unilateralist approach won’t lead to a solution. It will only increase worldwide animosity against Israel and her allies. It may lead to Israel’s demise. The Israeli government must recognize Palestinian grievances, accept a cease-fire and negotiate generously. This is the only way to quell the recent escalation and ensure permanent peace. Many Israelis agree with me and feel as helpless about their government’s war policies, as we do about ours. Polls suggest just over one-third of Israelis are opposed to the overreaction against Lebanon.. Israelis may soon learn how dangerous this overreaction really is. ----Israelis were captured inside Lebanon? 500 Israelis Protest War Robert Fisk on Israel’s outrageous overreaction. Lebanese Villagers told to leave, then van hit. 15 dead. Pictures EU: Israel Response Disproportionate

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Don’t Let Them Fool You – ISRAEL STARTED IT
Ever since the bloody carnage in Lebanon started, the mainstream media has echoed Israel’s self-righteous indignation about how they’re merely defending themselves – “Israeli sovereignty was violated” when Hizbullah “kidnapped” their soldiers from “across the border.” What they conveniently reverse is that Hizbullah confronted Israeli troops on the LEBANESE SIDE OF BORDER. It all started on July 12 when Israel troops were ambushed on LEBANON’S SIDE OF THE BORDER with Israel. Hezbollah, which commands the Lebanese south, immediately seized on their crossing. They arrested two Israeli soldiers, killed eight Israelis and wounded over 20 in attacks inside Israeli territory. [] *** Ehud Olmert holds “Lebanon responsible for the fate of the missing soldiers,” who were captured near Aita al-Shaab on the LEBANESE SIDE OF THE BORDER, that is to say the soldiers violated the sovereignty of Lebanon, a COMMON OCCURRENCE. [Kurt Nimmo] Even Israeli News reported it on the 12th, contemporaneously with the incident. The Hizbullah said its operatives destroyed an Israeli tank attempting to cross the border into Lebanon. Israeli ground troops entered southern Lebanon on Wednesday to search for two soldiers captured earlier in the day by Hezbollah. (AP) (07.12.06, 12:55) ISRAEL STARTED IT. “If somebody wants to kill you and you use a deception to save your life, it’s not immoral.” – former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres Spread it far and wide.

Hizbullah Says it Destroyed an Israeli Tank Attempting to Cross Border,7340,L-3274430,00.html 07.12.06, 12:55 The Hizbullah said its operatives destroyed an Israeli tank attempting to cross the border into Lebanon. Israeli ground troops entered southern Lebanon on Wednesday to search for two soldiers captured earlier in the day by Hezbollah. (AP)

It’s War by Any Other Name
By Sami Moubayed Asia Times

Jul 15, 2006

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DAMASCUS – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described what is happening in Lebanon as saying. “This is an act of war.” Olmert is correct. This is war. It has been war, non-stop, since 1948. What is happening in Lebanon today is yet another chapter of bloody Middle East events that will last for generations to come, because it is impossible, after so many years of conflict, for the Israelis and Arabs to forgive and forget. In this week’s events in Lebanon, the one set of parties, which include Syria, the Palestinians, Iran, Arab nationalists in the Middle East and North Africa, along with jihadi Muslims in the Muslim World, believe that escalation is the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. They claim that the Arabs tried to talk peace with the Israelis after the Palestinians signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, and ended up with nothing. They say that war is correct, justified morally, politically and religiously. To them, it is legitimate self-defense. They back this argument by saying that Israel still controls the Sheba Farms, which are part of Lebanon, and still has Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails. Also, they add that the Israeli tank destroyed by Hezbollah, and the soldiers captured and killed on July 12, had trespassed into Lebanon’s side of the border with Israel. They argue that if the Arab world cannot fight Israel, then the least Arab countries can do is permit -or facilitate – a proxy war with Israel through the Hezbollah resistance in Lebanon. US President George W. Bush, who commented on Lebanon from Germany 24 hours after violence had spiraled out of control, described the situation as “pathetic”. He also expressed concern that Israel’s offensive into Lebanon could destabilize or even topple a Lebanese government that Washington supports. He made things worse and further infuriated the Arab street by expressing Israel’s “right to defend herself”. The other party (centered mainly in Lebanon) argues that Lebanon is paying a high price for a war that does not concern all Lebanese. The Christians of Lebanon, along with a majority of the Sunni Muslims, want a war-free Westernized country that thrives on tourism and sound economic policies. The Christians in particular were never too fond of the Shi’ites of Lebanon. They treated them as an underclass in the 1950s and 1960s, allocating no more than 0.7% of the budget for construction and health care in their districts, waged war against them in the 1970s and 1980s, then tried to mend relations with them from 1990 onwards. The Christians were worldly, well-educated and worked in business, politics, literature and the arts, while the Shi’ites were mainly laborers, farmers and ordinary citizens with limited social mobility. Even their deputies in parliament were feudal landlords who cared little for the community’s welfare. These Christians today – despite all the unity talk heard in Lebanon – do not feel that the Hezbollah prisoners in Israeli jails concern them. Nor do the Sheba Farms. They dislike the Shi’ite south of the country in as much as the Shi’ite leaders dislike the Christian districts of Lebanon. Therefore, they feel indifferent to the plight of Hezbollah. They do not want Lebanon to become the “Che Guevara” of Arab politics. They argue that all this military escalation does is wreck plans for Lebanon’s rebirth. On July 13 – as the Christians feared – tourism suffered tremendously after the Israelis struck at Beirut Airport. In one day, over 15,000 tourists fled Lebanon by land to Syria. Both pro and anti-Hezbollah arguments are valid, depending on where one stands today in the Arab world. It all started on July 12 when Israel troops were ambushed on Lebanon’s side of the border with Israel. Hezbollah, which commands the Lebanese south, immediately seized on their crossing. They arrested two Israeli soldiers, killed eight Israelis and wounded over 20 in attacks inside Israeli territory. This unleashed hell in Israel, and Olmert immediately responded by mounting a war on Lebanon. A sea, air and ground blockade was enforced on Lebanon, and a systematic destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure was began. Hezbollah responded by wounding 11 Israelis with Katyusha-style rockets fired on the town of Safad in northern Israel. Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah gave a press conference hours after the hostilities started. He was confident, articulate, strong and very defiant, as usual, saying that this operation aimed at getting the Israelis to release Lebanese prisoners from their jails. Counter-operations would not release the two abducted Israeli soldiers, he pointed out. Statements by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora, who wanted to distance himself from the attacks, said that his government had not authorized the Hezbollah operation.

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His claim, however, fell on deaf ears in Israel. Damaging his credibility was a statement by Lebanon’s ambassador to the United States, Farid Abbud, who spoke on CNN and demanded a prisoner exchange between Hezbollah and Israel, adding that Israel must return the occupied Sheba Farms to Lebanon. His statements gave the impression that the Lebanese government, which he was officially representing, approved of the kidnapping and was echoing the demands of Nasrallah. As a result, he was recalled to Lebanon. Undaunted by Siniora distancing himself from the Hezbollah operation, Israel responded by bombing Rafik al-Harriri International Airport in Beirut, bringing all aviation to a halt, and bombing two other airports in northern and southern Lebanon. These airports, Israel claimed, were being used to channel money and arms to Hezbollah. One of the party’s offices in the suburb of Beirut was bombed, and so was a post in the ancient city of Baalbak. And Israel battered roads, flyovers and fuel tanks in Lebanon early on Friday. A division of 12,000 troops has been stationed on the Lebanese-Israeli border. The Israeli Ministry of Defense has threatened to bomb the Damascus-Beirut highway. If this happens, Lebanon would become completely isolated, with no ground route to Syria, and its other outlets by sea and air blocked by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Hezbollah threatened that if more attacks ensued, it would target Haifa, the third-largest city inside Israel (which it then did), but Israel military commanders said that no targets in Lebanon were safe from reprisal attacks so long as the two Israeli soldiers were still held hostage in Lebanon. Israeli chief-of-staff Dan Halutz said that the operations would continue “to restore calm to northern Israel”. These responsibilities, he added “particularly bombings by air and artillery, target Lebanon itself and Hezbollah. They will continue as long as necessary until our objectives are reached.” Israel military commanders have pledged to plunge Lebanon back 20 years if hostilities did not end immediately. Bridges inside Lebanon, near the city of Sidon and throughout the south, were also destroyed. The death toll, at the time of writing, is over 50 Lebanese killed. Another 103 have been wounded. Meanwhile, according to the IDF, 90 people had been injured inside Israel. This is the largest Israeli offensive in Lebanon since the IDF invaded and occupied Beirut to defeat the Palestinian Army of Yasser Arafat in 1982. Apart from all of these facts, everything gets muddled in Lebanon. Israel announced on July 13 that two rockets had landed on Haifa from Lebanon, as Hezbollah had promised, but Hezbollah denied the accusation. If Hezbollah did not fire the rockets, however, who did? Is it a fabricated story being used by Israel to launch more offensives into Lebanon, because minutes after the story was revealed, and despite Hezbollah’s denial, Israel jets raided fuel tanks at Beirut airport. The question on everybody’s mind is: why is all of this happening now? Apart from the soaring emotions and reminders of trumpeting Arab nationalism of the 1960s, it is sheer madness for anyone to believe that Hezbollah would be able to defeat, or even inflict maximum pain, on Israel – and get away with it. Too much is at stake inside Israel for Olmert to let the offensive pass without transforming it into all-out war. In October 2000, right at the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in Jerusalem, Hezbollah did a similar stunt by kidnapping Israelis in Lebanon. At the time, Prime Minister Ehud Barak refused to seriously push for their release, fearing that opening another front against Lebanon, while the Israelis were busy combating the Palestinians at home, would only endanger Israeli lives. Five months later, Barak was voted out of office, in March 2001, for a variety of reasons, prime among them being his passive response to Hezbollah. So, is anybody influencing Hezbollah to dramatically escalate the conflict? Has Hezbollah coordinated these attacks with Hamas inside Palestine, believing that the time was ripe since relatively new and inexperienced leaders were now in power in Israel (in reference to Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Olmert)? Never before has Hezbollah carried out such a massive offensive, not even during the heydays of the Syrian presence in Lebanon in the 1990s when most of south Lebanon was still occupied. What makes it believe that this time – with the tense international situation – it can get away with it? Ultra-

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nationalists in Hamas, like the Damascus-based Khaled Meshal, have certainly supported the Lebanese group, injecting them with confidence and prompting them into “defiance” mode. Meshal, who leads the anti-pragmatism fold in Hamas that still wants to destroy the Jewish state, is not satisfied by the overtures of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya towards Israel. Haniyya, voted into office early this year, wants to run a country and is suffering from an international boycott on food, medicine and money into the Palestinian territories. Wages have not been paid in Palestine since February. Haniyya made several gestures of goodwill toward Israel (much to the displeasure of Meshal), to prove that he was not in power to combat Israel but to improve the livelihood of the Palestinians. Meshal had other plans for the Hamas-led government, which contradicted with what Haniyya was seeing on the ground in Palestine. The two men drifted apart on how to lead the government, and split when three resistance groups in Palestine, apparently coordinating with Meshal’s team, kidnapped the 19-year old Israeli soldier on June 25. This sent shockwaves throughout Israel, and Olmert responded with grand force, re-occupying Gaza and killing, to date, an estimated 75 Palestinians in revenge. Electricity was destroyed in Gaza, and currently 1.5 million inhabitants live in darkness. Israel struck at buildings, an Islamic university and official buildings, including that of Haniyya and his Foreign Minister Mahmud al-Zahhar (which was destroyed on July 13). Ministers have been arrested, along with parliamentary deputies, and brought before military courts clad in chains to their feet and hands. Haniyya, who sees the state he is heading crumbling before his very eyes, wanted to solve the crisis politically, claiming that all the Palestinians living under his control were suffering from Israel’s military response. The resistance groups demanded a prisoner swap where 1,000 Palestinians would be released from Israeli jails, in exchange for the young Israeli soldier. Israel has refused. Haniyya is closer to a solution that releases the Israeli soldier in exchange for Israel releasing Palestinian funds (frozen since Hamas came to power in January, and its authorization to bring clean drinking water, food and medicine into the Occupied Territories. Both solutions have not yet materialized, and in the middle of all the chaos and war, came the Hezbollah operation. Men of War This is where the Meshal-Nasrallah connection comes into play. Both leaders are clearly not interested in peace with Israel. Their views are mirrored with their two allies in Tehran and Damascus. Both leaders are unimpressed by Arab regimes that call for peace and dialogue – prime on the list being Mahmud Abbas in Palestine. They are being aggressive with Israel so Israel can respond with similar aggressiveness – killing whatever dreams Arabs peacemakers have in mind. The same formula applies inside Israel, where many do not want room for moderation in Israeli-Arab relations. They want to root out the moderates to justify aggression against the Palestinians and Lebanese. Meshal would very much love to see Hamas out of the political process. It would then be restored to the fold of the resistance, and freed from the burden of government, able to focus on military operations once again. The same applies to Nasrallah. If Israeli leaves the Sheba Farms and frees all Lebanese prisoners from its jails, there would no longer be a need for Hezbollah. The reason behind such calculations, however, and the dramatic side-effects such adventures have on Palestinian and Lebanese lives, are colossal. They believe, however, that war on two fronts would achieve one of two things. Either it would get Israel to show aggression, justifying their own aggression against the Israelis. Or a best-case scenario would be that a two-side war would break Israel. Either outcome, Hezbollah and Hamas are the victors. The final argument – based on conspiracy theories – in the war of Lebanon is that somebody convinced Hezbollah of this offensive with the purpose of destroying Hezbollah, forcing them to commit “political suicide”. This “somebody” has given Hezbollah enough rope to hang itself, making it believe that it could turn the tables on Israel by capturing two Israeli soldiers. The reason for this argument is that Hezbollah, for the past two years, has been a topic of international concern. Everybody wants Hezbollah to disarm (except Syria and Iran) but do not have the means to make them lay down their weapons. It certainly is not working by dialogue – because Hezbollah would not hear a word of it, and, therefore, has to be done by force through a foreign power. The only power able and willing to inflict a deadly blow on Hezbollah is

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Israel. Having the Americans pressure Hezbollah to disarm would be considered aggression on the Shi’ite community as whole. It would enrage Iran and alienate whatever support the Americans still had left among the Shi’ite community in Iraq. The leaders of Lebanon, who came to power after the Syrian troop withdrawal in April 2005, wanted to court Hezbollah. They believed that by making them shoulder responsibility for government, Hezbollah would show more reason in dealing with Israel. The same reasoning applied to the Americans when they brought the Sunnis to power in Iraq, hoping that this would help end the Sunni insurgency. The Lebanese, headed by Siniora, reasoned that with seats in parliament and government ministries allocated to Hezbollah, the resistance group would not possibly engage in war with Israel. Apparently, they were wrong. Many wrongly believed that once the Syrian army left Lebanon, Hezbollah would be weakened, gradually losing its influence in the country. This turned out to be nonsense, since contrary to what is commonly portrayed in the Western media Hezbollah is a party that is totally independent in Lebanon from control of the Syrians. They used to work under Syria’s umbrella under former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad in the 1990s, needing his support to keep their arms in the post-war era, but since their victory in liberating south Lebanon in 2000, they have become independent of Syrian control. They still confer with the Syrians, seek their advice and coordinate with Syria but they do not take orders, money or arms from Damascus. For example, they had four parliamentary seats in 1992, and four for their allies, a total of only eight, and this in the heyday of Syrian hegemony in Lebanon. Today, with Syria out, they have 14 seats. This explains why Hezbollah remained pro-Syrian until curtain-fall. Nasrallah never relied on the Syrians for his power base, nor did any member of Hezbollah. Also in Hezbollah’s favor now is the victory of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who has shown strong support for the Shi’ite Lebanese resistance. Ahmadinejad clearly believes in the vision of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to promote Shi’ite Islam and help emancipate the Shi’ites of Lebanon. Ahmadinejad said on Thursday any Israeli strike on Syria would be considered an attack on the whole Islamic world that would bring a “fierce response”, state television reported. Relevant to all that is happening in Lebanon today is the degree of support Hezbollah and Nasrallah have in the Shi’ite community – and the amount of animosity in non-Shi’ite districts. One reason the Shi’ites support Hezbollah is religion. It is not the only one, however, because a study conducted by Dr Judith Harik, a professor at the American University of Beirut in 1996, showed that 70% of Hezbollah’s supporters saw themselves only as moderately religious, and 23% said they were religious only out of obligation. Pragmatism, nationalism and charity networks, rather than Muslim ideology, are the secrets of Hezbollah’s success. Hezbollah enjoys authority and commands unwavering loyalty among Shi’ites because it always appears to be a confident political party that is doing an honorable job in fighting Israel. Adding to the nationalist aspect is the social one, which is that many people in the Shi’ite community, mainly at the grass-root level, rely on Hezbollah for charity and welfare. Hezbollah has succeeded in promoting itself through the media, igniting confidence, safety and security among the 10 million viewers of al-Manar television, for example. Many of those viewers are Shi’ites. Not once does al-Manar, for example, show viewers a member of Hezbollah defeated. Rather, it shows pictures of dead Israelis, real footage of Hezbollah operations and programs highlighting Hezbollah’s charity organizations. Hezbollah is a movement inspired by nationalism rather than religiousness. Precisely for these reasons it would be difficult for anyone to tackle Hezbollah. The only way to disarm is for the Shi’ite group to wait until the Israelis leave Sheba, then free all prisoners. They would then have to modify their agenda, after quiet discussions with everybody in Lebanon, and transform themselves from a military party into a political one. That would have been the logical response, but Nasrallah proved otherwise. What he has done in the past few days is show the world that if he so wishes, he can create havoc in Lebanon and the entire Middle East. Nasrallah is sending a message to the world – and to his opponents inside Lebanon – that he is still strong and a force

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to be reckoned with. He is also sending a message to the United States, Israel and the Lebanese that the Shi’ites are still there – still strong, still a force and still visible to the rest of the world. Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst. (Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing .)

Israel and US fall into Another Trap of their Own Making
Amin Saikal July 17, 2006 Israel’s disproportionate military response to the abduction of one of its soldiers and the killing of two more by Palestinian militants nearly three weeks ago and to similar action by the Lebanese Hezbollah last week has generated a regional crisis. The Bush Administration’s public backing of such a response can only increase resentment of both Israel and the US in the Arab and Muslim worlds, further undermining Washington’s efforts in the war on terrorism. In part, Israel’s overreaction may reflect the inexperience of its new Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and Minister for Defence, Amir Peretz. Yet Israel’s operations appear to be designed to go well beyond punishing Palestinian militants and Hezbollah. What started as two minor skirmishes on Israel’s borders with Gaza (which despite Israel’s formal withdrawal from the strip a year ago has, for all practical purposes, remained under its control) and Lebanon, have been blown out of all proportion. The Palestinian and Hezbollah kidnappings are nothing new in the region. Israel has kidnapped, jailed and killed Palestinians and Lebanese in the hundreds over the years in the name of self-defence and combating terrorism, as defined by Israel. Why has Israel overreacted? It is using the abductions to achieve a wider goal. In the case of the Palestinians, it has been deeply troubled by the rise to power of the radical Islamist group Hamas through a democratic election early this year. Although Israel initially backed the formation of Hamas in the late 1980s as a counter to the secularist Palestine Liberation Organisation, which it then rejected as a terrorist organisation, it has increasingly found it expedient to do everything possible to prevent Hamas from governing and strengthening the forces of political Islam in the region. Israel’s ultimate objective seems to be to cause the demise of the Hamas Government, and a civil war between the PLO and Hamas supporters as a way out of negotiating a possible end to its occupation. In this, it has had the support of Bush, who has been unhappy with the outcome of the Palestinian process of democratisation. Similarly, Israel has been increasingly uncomfortable with the growth of Hezbollah and the speed of Lebanon’s recovery following its civil war and democratisation, especially since Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon after 20 years of costly occupation. Since its foundation in 1948 Israel’s policy in historical Palestine has been to do whatever it takes to ensure that its Arab neighbours remain weak and divided. On this basis, while it has neutralised the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes through peace treaties and American influence, and the US has paralysed Iraq as a threat to the Jewish state, Israeli leadership has been keen to ensure favourable regime change in Syria and its regional ally, Iran, along with the destruction of the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Israel is seeking to destroy not only Hezbollah, but also Lebanon. Its wider objective is to set back Lebanon’s reconstruction by years so that it could never rival Israel politically and economically, as well as to undermine the chances of any US-Iran agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. Israel has embarked on a dangerous game. Syria and Iran will not leave Hezbollah in the lurch. The situation that Israel has generated by its overreaction will leave both Israel and the US vulnerable to wider accusations of a Jewish-Christian conspiracy against Islam, and an upsurge in secular and religious radicalism among Arabs and Muslims.

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This can only assist al-Qaeda and its supporters, and may well illustrate once again the immaturity of the Israeli leadership, and the naivety of the US in handling the Middle East conflict. Amin Saikal is professor of political science and the director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) at the ANU.

Fleeing Lebanese Talk of Indiscriminate Israeli Bombing
By Dahr Jamail Inter Press Service 7-17-06 ADDABBAOUSIYEH (northern Lebanese border) (IPS) – People fleeing the bombing of Lebanon say the Israelis are targeting civilian neighbourhoods and vital infrastructure, and not just Hezbollah centres.* The bombing has killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians so far. Several border points between Syria and Lebanon are being deluged with refugees. Lebanon has a long border with Syria towards its south, east and north. The refugees include both Lebanese and tourists. “Everything is being bombed,” a teacher from the United States who was on vacation in Beirut told IPS. “It’s terror. We’ve literally been terrorised.” Twenty-five-year-old social studies teacher Abdul Rahman was living with his family in downtown Beirut near the United Nations building before they all decided to flee. “We have not slept for three days because we were living in terror and never knew when the Israelis would bomb us since they were hitting everything,” he told IPS. “If they want to hit Hezbollah, let them hit Hezbollah, but not the civilians. But civilians are all that they are hitting.” His mother feared for her 96-year-old father who they had to leave behind. “We cannot move him because he is too frail,” she said. “And now all we can do is worry, since the Israelis are taking it out on the innocent people.” On Sunday, the Israeli army also re-entered the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip. According to reports from Gaza, three members of Hamas were killed after Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered Beit Hanun town early morning. Gunfire and shelling by the Israelis is also reported to have killed a 75-year-old woman and wounded 10 others, along with a baby. Israel launched several air strikes in Gaza as well. An Israeli army spokeswoman claimed they destroyed a Hamas operations room in the Jabaliya refugee camp. Israel’s stated goal in Gaza is to free a soldier captured by Hamas. So far Israeli actions there have left one Israeli soldier dead, along with 82 Palestinians. Hamas is demanding the release of prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for the Israeli soldier. Israel is now embroiled in fighting on two fronts. The impact of the fighting with Lebanon is being felt widely in Syria. Abud Aziz, a 31-year-old Lebanese pastry chef from Beirut crossed the border into Syria carrying his suitcase and looking for food and water. There had been no water or electricity in Beirut since Saturday, he said. “Yesterday I saw two hospitals bombed,” he told IPS. “Nobody who remains in Beirut can be safe. No way.” A 25-year-old construction worker named Hamed also said he saw warplanes bomb a hospital in Beirut.

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“I saw them bomb a hospital yesterday,” he told IPS. “I left just hours ago. They are bombing everything – houses, casinos, fuel stations and so many bridges.” Meanwhile, on Sunday Hezbollah fired more than 20 rockets into the city of Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, killing eight and wounding at least a dozen. The Hezbollah clearly have the means to strike back at Israel. They are a well-armed and well-organised political and military group of Shia Muslims in Lebanon. Sustained military attacks by the Hezbollah forced Israel to vacate southern Lebanon in May 2000. But the Hezbollah are not supported by all Lebanese. About 60 percent of the 3.8 million population of Lebanon is Muslim, most of them Shia. This is where Hezbollah draws its support. The rest of the population is almost all Christian. A 15-year civil war between Muslim and Christian groups ended in 1991. The Hezbollah are believed to draw more support from outside the country than from many within. In the wake of Hezbollah strikes into Israel, Israeli authorities have declared a 48-hour period of martial law over the northern part of the country. Hezbollah groups have fired more than 400 rockets into Israel, killing at least 16 civilians in the last five days. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Lebanon of “far-reaching” consequences after the rocket attacks. The Israeli army said that it had warned all civilians to leave southern Lebanon. Many of those who have left report panic conditions in Lebanon. “The Israelis bombed a bridge to the airport near us and killed many people,” 26-year-old Hasna told IPS. “When other people went on the bridge to help the wounded, the planes bombed it again.” Ambulances are usually not available because of the danger, she said. “We were the last people to leave our area. The road there was nearly empty.” Alham Aras, a Danish woman who was vacationing in Tripoli in Lebanon, drove up to the border with her six children Sunday. She said she had left on instructions from her embassy. “The warplanes bombed the Palestinian camps in Tripoli,” she said, “They are attacking up and down the coast, and the port in Tripoli was also attacked.” Her 14-year-old daughter Barihan al-Jassim said, “Somebody should stop this madness. How is it possible for a country to be bombed like this and nobody stops them from doing it?” (c)2006 Dahr Jamail. All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr’s Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger’s Photography Media Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr’s dispatches via email. More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

Williams Confronts Kristol: ‘You Just Want War, War, War, and You Want Us in More War’
This morning on Fox News Sunday, William Kristol argued that the Bush administration’s “coddling” of Iran had “invited” the latest outbreak of violence, and that the United States should join in the current fighting. Juan Williams pushed back:

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You just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war. You wanted us in Iraq. Now you want us in Iran. Now you want us to get into the Middle East. … You’re saying, why doesn’t the United States take this hard, unforgiving line? Well, the hard and unforgiving line has been, we don’t talk to anybody. We don’t talk to Hamas. We don’t talk to Hezbollah. We’re not going to talk to Iran. Where has it gotten us, Bill? Kristol threw up his hands and didn’t answer. Watch it:

Full transcript: KRISTOL: Look, our coddling of Iran — if I can use the neutral term like that — over the last six to nine months has emboldened them. I mean, is Iran behaving like a timid regime that’s very worried about the U.S.? Or is Iran behaving recklessly and in a foolhardy way? WALLACE: But isn’t that the result of what’s happened in Iraq? KRISTOL: No, it’s a result of our deducing from the situation in Iraq that we can’t stand up to Iran. I mean, when we stand up over and over and say Iran is shipping Improvised Explosive Devices into Iraq and killing U.S. soldiers, and Syria’s providing a line for terrorists to come into Iraq and kill U.S. soldiers, and that’s unacceptable. That’s not helpful. And then we do nothing about it. When Ahmadinejad says provocative things, continues to ship arms to Hezbollah, and we say, okay, maybe now we’ll give you direct talks. That, unfortunately, that weakness has been provocative. Ahmadinejad feels emboldened. Now we need to show him, and I think the administration has done a good job the last couple of days of showing him, that he miscalculated. And indeed, this is a great opportunity. I think our weakness, unfortunately, invited this aggression, but this aggression is a great opportunity to begin resuming the offensive against the terrorist groups. Israel is fighting four of our five enemies in the Middle East, in a sense. Iran, Syria, sponsors of terror; Hezbollah and Hamas. Al Qaeda doesn’t seem to be involved. We have to take care of them in Iraq. This is an opportunity to begin to reverse the unfortunate direction of the last six to nine months and get the terrorists and the jihadists back on the defensive. WILLIAMS: Well, it just seems to me that you want…you just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war. You wanted us in Iraq. Now you want us in Iran. Now you want us to get into the Middle East, where I think there’s a real interesting dynamic at play. I think it’s psychological on the part of Israel and many of its supporters, and I’ll throw you in here. Somehow you see Israel as weak, and you see Ehud Olmert as weak – WALLACE: He’s the new Prime Minister — WILLIAMS: The new Prime Minister of Israel. And the Defense Minister as weak. Everybody is weak in the aftermath of Sharon, and so everybody has to prove what a man they are in the Middle East, including — you’re saying, why doesn’t the United States take this hard, unforgiving line? Well, the hard and unforgiving line has been, we don’t talk to anybody. We don’t talk to Hamas. We don’t talk to Hezbollah. We’re not going to talk to Iran. Where has it gotten us, Bill?

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Israel Plans Lebanon Buffer Zone to Stop Attacks
Rockets again hit Israeli city of Haifa Monday, July 17, 2006; Posted: 11:33 a.m. EDT (15:33 GMT) BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) – Amid renewed cross-border fighting between Israeli and Hezbollah forces, Israel said Monday that it plans to create a buffer zone in southern Lebanon to stop rocket attacks from the militant group. “We have no intention of allowing anyone to stop us before we complete the creation of a buffer zone,” Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said. In six days of fighting, 165 people have been killed and 415 wounded in Lebanon, Lebanese internal security sources said. Twenty-four Israelis have died in the conflict, including 12 soldiers, and more than 300 have been wounded, Israeli military sources said. The fighting began last week after Hezbollah guerrillas abducted two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. Israel responded with an offensive in Lebanon aimed at Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group with a strong presence in southern Lebanon that also holds seats in the Lebanese government. Hezbollah guerrillas began firing rockets into northern Israel. The United States and Israel say that Hezbollah receives financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and training, from Iran and Syria. Suspected Hezbollah rockets hit the northern Israeli city of Haifa on Monday, a day after a deadly strike on a train depot in the city. Israel closed the port in its third-largest city in the wake of Monday’s rockets, Reuters reported. Haifa is one of Israel’s key shipment points. A large cloud of smoke could be seen over the port area. Another rocket landed in the sea. A rocket also struck a residential building, and two wounded people were removed. The barrage also hit the towns of Sefad and Tiberias, but no casualties were reported, Israeli medical sources said. Earlier reports suggested Israeli ground forces had entered southern Lebanon, but an Israeli military source said that there is no Israeli ground operation going on at present. The source said a small Israeli military unit “destroyed one or two Hezbollah outposts just over the line in Lebanon last night.” “At the moment, there are no military ground troops in Lebanon, and we are working primarily with an air campaign,” the source said. Meanwhile, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman denied an Israeli plane had gone down over east Beirut. Video footage showing an aircraft falling from the sky may have been a missile crashing instead, the spokesman said. Arabic-language television networks earlier reported an Israeli plane went down.

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Reaction at G-8 Summit
In a conversation inadvertently picked by an open microphone during the Group of Eight summit in Russia, President Bush disclosed that he is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Middle East. Despite the president’s remarks, the White House told The Associated Press that it had nothing to announce about a Rice trip. The development came after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for an international stabilization force to be sent to the Israeli-Lebanese border to help end the fighting. The proposed international force would be the first step in what Annan and Blair said should be a series of actions that would stop the hostilities. “The only way we are going to get a cessation of hostilities is the deployment of an international force to stop the bombardment of Israel and get Israel to stop its attacks on Hezbollah,” Blair said at a news conference in St. Petersburg at the end of the G-8 summit. Annan said the U.N. Security Council would have to discuss the matter but said such a force would be only a part of a comprehensive plan of action to stop the fighting across the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Beirut Port Bombed
Earlier Monday, Israel bombed Beirut’s port, an army barracks and the capital’s southern suburbs. Video footage of the strike’s aftermath showed black smoke billowing into the air over the port against a backdrop of large shipping containers and the charred remains of a truck. (Watch Beirut airport burn -- :46) At least two people died in the attack. In the city of Abdeh, about 50 miles (about 80 kilometers) north of Beirut, three Israeli missiles struck an army barracks, officials said, killing six soldiers and wounding 28. Israeli strikes Monday in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border killed seven people, authorities said. Forty-three others were wounded, and a girl is missing. (Watch Lebanese town bombarded -- 3:25) The attacks followed Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern cities in Israel on Sunday, including one that struck a train depot in Haifa and killed eight Israelis. (Watch panic in Haifa Sunday as rockets hit -- 2:13) Meanwhile, several countries continued efforts to evacuate their citizens from Lebanon. (Full story) The Lebanese government insists it has nothing to do with the Hezbollah attacks and has called for a cease-fire. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer” on Sunday that the Israeli attack had opened “the gates of hell” with what he called a disproportionate response to Hezbollah’s initial raid last week. Israel says it will only stop its campaign when kidnapped troops are freed, Hezbollah withdraws from southern Lebanon and rocket attacks stop. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Anderson Cooper, Paula Hancocks, Elise Labott, Nic Robertson, Barbara Starr and John Vause contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

Three Soldiers Kidnapped – Gas Heads to $4 a Gallon
by Michael Shore in Israel 7-17-06 Watch what is currently going on in Israel and you can observe the Illuminati in action. Three Israeli soldiers are supposedly kidnapped by Hamas or Hezbollah. No one outside of the inner circle of government knows for sure what really happened and what is going on. Instead of going through diplomatic channels to try and get back the so-called kidnapped soldiers, Olmert and his Israeli/Arab partners in crime immediately escalate this supposed kidnapping event into a WAR FOR PROFIT. The Israelis start bombing in Beirut and other places and the Arabs start bombing Israel. To put into action any military operation takes much planning and could take many months of preparation, which means that this plan was hatched before the Israeli soldiers were supposedly kidnapped. Even the so-called kidnapping can be a part of the plan. If you understand that the Illuminati control BOTH the Israeli and Arab governments with their multi-TRILLION dollar WAR CHEST, it becomes easier to get the picture of what’s going on. So far unfortunately over 200 Arabs and over 100 Israelis have been killed or wounded over the supposed kidnapping of just THREE PEOPLE. Millions of dollars in damages has been caused from the bombings in Lebanon and Israel etc. Now here’s the part that gives away that this whole atrocious killing event was planned in advance. WHO BENEFITS from all this? Oil went to a new record high of over $78 a barrel, so we can definitely say that the Illuminati connected oil corporations are benefiting by billions of dollars, as oil at the pump is on its way to $4 a gallon. This gang of thieves, the Illuminati, needed some kind of event to get the people to accept $4/gallon oil and this is the $4/gallon event. And what does the sick oil soaked Bush regime say about all this? Let the war continue, we’re going to make more billions for ourselves. Here’s an article that talks about oil tripling in price if Iran is attacked. People have their heads buried in the sand if they don’t think these WARS FOR PROFITS are not about MONEY, trillions of dollars of Iraqi OIL, Afghani {Caspian Sea} OIL, Iranian OIL.. Plus millions (possibly billions) of dollars of property that is destroyed by bombs etc., will need to be rebuilt, so the Illuminati connected construction companies who will get these contracts will benefit, as they have in Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course the Illuminati connected war corporations are right there in the forefront benefiting by more billions of dollars from the new military contracts they will get. How much do you think one bomb costs that is dropped from a plane? Or one artillery shell that is shot from a cannon? Or one missile that is shot at a target? Or one ship that is blown up? etc., etc., etc. This unfortunately is just the beginning. Will this be the lead event of the Illuminati’s march to attack Iran or for them to do another one of their 911 style events in the U.S.A.? How many more lives will be lost or destroyed by the criminal gangs in control of governments, American, Arab and Israeli etc., whose leaders and associates in crime make MONEY from war? And all this killing, violence and destruction is being blamed on the supposed kidnapping of JUST THREE PEOPLE! Does this make any sense at all? It can only be described as insane. Hopefully people can finally wake up to the Illuminati WAR FOR PROFITS SCAM that they continually perpetrate. Tell as many people as you can to STOP giving their sons and daughters to the criminal armies of these gangsters, who unfortunately hoodwink the public all the time and make billions of dollars for themselves, even if it means killing innocent babies, children and adults. WHO ARE THE ILLUMINATI? STOP THE KILLING OF HUMAN BEINGS!

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Michael Shore

Oil Prices Could Spike, Saudi Warns
By Marianne Lavelle Posted 6/20/06 World oil prices could double or triple over the current painful $70-per-barrel level if diplomacy failed and military conflict broke out over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal warned this morning. “We don’t know” what will happen if the United States chooses a military option in Iran, al-Faisal said, but “if there is military conflict, if bombs are dropped, ships are blown up, oil facilities on our side of the gulf are targeted . . . just the idea of somebody firing a missile at an installation somewhere would shoot up the price of oil astronomically.” In such a scenario, he said, Saudi Arabia “hopefully would defend our oil installations as best as we can and seek an immediate resolution,” but the risks would be grave. “Not just our installations, but the whole gulf would become an inferno of exploding fuel tanks and shut-up facilities,” al-Faisal said. Al-Faisal, who has served as Washington-based ambassador to the Saudi kingdom since last year, is the son of former Saudi King Faisal. Although he has warned against military conflict in Iran previously, his remarks today were his most specific yet on the consequences of an outbreak of violence. Speaking this morning in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Energy Association, an organization of public and private energy companies and agencies, Al-Faisal said that Saudi analysts estimate that a $20-to-$30 premium of today’s world oil price is a result of fear in the marketplace over global political problems. When asked what would be the most important foreign policy step the United States could take to address these issues, Al-Faisal said, “I think they can fix the Middle East problem, fix the Iraqi problem, and carry through with the diplomatic process on the Iranian problem. All of these things are doable.” He added that “the entire world community” must become more engaged, “but the United States has the leading role on all these issues.” Regarding Iraq, Al-Faisal said that his country supports President Bush’s current policy of working with the newly formed Iraqi government until it requests that troops withdraw. “Our position in Saudi Arabia is that the U.S. came into Iraq uninvited and they should not leave uninvited. “Simply to pack up and leave, I think, would be disastrous, not just for Iraq, but for the area,” he said. He encouraged the United States to continue forward with the U.N. Security Council and other nations on the diplomatic proposal to address Iran’s goal to move forward with nuclear fuel enrichment. “The Iranians have indicated that they are interested in engaging with the U.N. Security Council on that subject. What we encourage is that process should continue. We think military conflict would be counterproductive... definitely, we’re talking about $70-a-barrel oil– you’d see that perhaps doubled or tripled as the result of conflict.”

We’re Being Set Up For Wider War in the Middle East
by Paul Craig Roberts 7-18-06 The old adage, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” does not apply to Americans, who have shown that they can be endlessly fooled. Neoconservatives deceived Americans into an illegal attack and debilitating war in Iraq. American neoconservatives are closely allied with Israel’s Likud Party. In the past, some neocons lost their security clearances because of “mishandling” of classified information. According to Insight Magazine, “the Pentagon has banned security clearance to Americans with relatives in Israel. Government sources and attorneys said the Pentagon has sought and succeeded in removing security clearance from dozens of Americans, mostly Jews, who either lived, worked, or have relatives in Israel.”

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Despite questions of dual loyalties, neocons hold high positions in the Bush regime. Ten years ago these architects of American foreign and military policy spelled out how they would use deception to achieve “important Israeli strategic objectives” in the Middle East. First, they would focus “on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” This would open the door for Israel to provoke attacks from Hezbollah. The attacks would let Israel gain American sympathy and permit Israel to seize the strategic initiative by “engaging Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon.” Today, this neoconservative plan is unfolding before our very eyes. Israel has used the capture of two of its soldiers in Lebanon as an excuse for an all-out air and naval bombardment against Lebanese civilian targets. However, a number of commentators have pointed out that such a massive attack requires weeks if not months of preparation that could not be done overnight in response to the capture of the soldiers. Regardless, in the first two days of the Israeli military attack on Lebanon more than a hundred civilians, including Canadians, have been killed by Israeli bombs (gifts from U.S. taxpayers). The Beirut International Airport has been repeatedly bombed, as have residential neighborhoods, roads, bridges, ports, and power stations. Soldiers are a legitimate military target. Civilians, civilian neighborhoods, tourists, and international airports are not. Under the Nuremberg standard used to sentence Nazi war criminals to death, the Israeli government is clearly guilty of war crimes. Meanwhile, the Israelis are committing identical war crimes in Gaza. Again, Israel’s excuse is the capture of an Israeli soldier. However, the distinguished Israeli professor Ran HaCohen said that the Israeli army “had been demanding a massive attack on Gaza long before the Israeli soldier was kidnapped.” By blocking UN Security Council action against Israel for its massacre of civilians in Gaza, the Bush regime has made itself complicit in these monstrous war crimes. Just as Germans who supported Hitler were deemed to be complicit in his war crimes, Americans who support Bush are complicit in Bush’s war crimes. Hezbollah is not the Lebanese government. It does not rule Lebanon. Hezbollah is the militia organization founded in 1982 in response to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. Hezbollah defeated the Israeli army and drove out the Israeli invaders six years ago. According to the BBC, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that the two Israeli soldiers “were captured to pressure Israel to release the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in its jails,” especially the women and children. The BBC also notes that although Hezbollah operates “from Lebanese territory and the militant group has two ministers in the Lebanese government, the central government is almost powerless to influence the militant group.” (Note that the BBC applies the loaded word “militant” to Hezbollah but not to Israel.) Hezbollah, reports the BBC, “is also very popular in Lebanon and highly respected for its political activities, social services, and its military record against Israel.” The Prime Minister of Lebanon, who was installed with President Bush’s approval when Syria, under Bush’s pressure, recently withdrew its troops from Lebanon, has twice appealed to Bush to pressure Israel to stop its criminal attacks. Our great moral, democratic, Christian leader has twice rebuffed the appeal from the legal representative of the Lebanese people. Instead, Bush is willingly going along with the 1996 neocon script. Bush is laying the blame on Syria and Iran, exactly as the neocon script calls for him to do. When Bush demands that Syria “stop Hezbollah attacks,” he forgets that he was the one who forced Syria out of Lebanon to enable Israel to attack Lebanon. If Americans were attentive, they would be ashamed to witness “their” president acting as an Israeli propagandist. Fox “News,” CNN, and the rest of the Bush propaganda ministry are echoing the lie that innocent Israel is under attack from the “terrorist states” of Syria and Iran through their surrogate, Hezbollah. Americans, who are sick of the Iraq occupation and want the troops home, are being fooled again and set up for wider war in the Middle East. Evangelical “Christians” are a CENTRAL part of the propaganda show. Three thousand of them, under the lead of the Rev. John C. Hagee, are heading to Washington for a “Washington/Israel Summit” to demand, needlessly, that the neocon Bush regime show “stronger support for Israel.” It is difficult to see how Bush could show any stronger support without using the U.S. military to assist Israel in its attacks, which is, of course, what the “Christian” Rev. Hagee intends when he declares:

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“There’s a new Hitler in the Middle East [he doesn’t mean Bush or Olmert]. The only way he will be stopped will be by a preemptive military strike in Iran.” Present at Rev. Hagee’s “Washington/Israel Summit” will be Israel’s former Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, Republican Senators Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Gary Bauer. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful lobby in Washington, expressed its thanks to Rev. Hagee for demonstrating “the depth and breadth of American support” for Israel. Recently, AIPAC has been under investigation as a suspected nest for Israeli spies. David Brog, former chief of staff for Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, has gone to work for Rev. Hagee. Brog, who is Jewish, says he works for Hagee’s evangelical enterprise because “we’re bringing into a pro-Israel camp millions of Christians who love Israel and giving them a political voice. Israel’s enemies are our enemies, and this group instinctively understands that.” Brog goes on to say that Hagee’s evangelicals understand that they are not supposed to talk about Jesus, only about saving Israel: “Christians who work with Jews in supporting Israel realize how sensitive we are in talking about Jesus. They realize it will interfere with what they are trying to do.” Gentle reader, is this an admission that evangelicals have set aside Jesus for war? Do these bloody-minded evangelicals really believe they will be wafted to Heaven for helping Israel involve the U.S. in more war? Have evangelicals forgotten that “an eye for an eye” is Old Testament? “Turn the other cheek” is New Testament. On July 14, Reuters reported that alone among Christians, the “Vatican condemns Israel for attacks on Lebanon.” Whose delusion is the greatest the evangelical “rapture” delusion, the neocon delusion about American power, or the Zionist delusion? The three together mean disaster for America, Israel, and the world. One of the great evangelical/Zionist/neocon myths is that “tiny Israel” armed with 200 nuclear weapons is threatened by Muslim Middle Eastern countries. In actual fact, Egypt and Pakistan, which have the bulk of the Middle Eastern Muslim population, are ruled by American [i.e., US/UK] puppets. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the oil emirates are totally dependent on U.S. protection and, thereby, are also under the American [i.e., US/UK] thumb. Iran is Persian, not Arab, and has no common borders with Israel. Hezbollah was created when Israel tried to seize Lebanon in 1982. Hamas is a Palestinian response to the atrocities Palestinians have suffered for a half century at Israel’s hands. Israel’s land-stealing policy is the source of Middle Eastern instability. America is hated because American money and weapons are what enable Israel to steal Palestine from Palestinians. As numerous Middle East experts have pointed out, what is decried as “Arab terrorism against Israel” is, in fact, the only tactic Muslims have for calling the world’s attention to the plight of the Palestinians, about which Americans are generally ignorant. It is absurd for Bush to condemn Syria for not behaving as an American puppet and for not fighting Israel’s battles by taking on Hezbollah. Syria and Iran (and Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion) are the only Middle Eastern countries independent of American control. It is far beyond the boundaries of reason and morality to expect these two remaining independent countries to give up their independence in order to enable Israel to steal Palestine and southern Lebanon. It is the refusal of Syria and Iran (and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) to stand with Israel against Palestine that has made them targets for American attack. Neocons have total control of U.S. foreign policy in the Bush regime, and they have morphed our strategic interests into Israel’s. As the neoconservative architects of Bush’s wars revealed in 1996, their concern lies with Israeli strategic objectives.

Beware of Israeli FALSE FLAG WAR PROVOCATIONS with Connivance of Cheney
By Webster G. Tarpley
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Washington DC, July 15 (1PM EDT) – The escalating Israeli assault on Lebanon clearly represents a conscious bid to provoke a general war in the Middle East. The captured Israeli soldiers are only the pretext for the present massive military operations. Israeli spokesmen are making constant allegations that Hezbollah missiles being fired at Israel have been manufactured or delivered by Iran. At the same time, the Israelis accuse Hezbollah of wanting to transfer the two captured Israeli soldiers to Syria or Iran. These statements are an attempt to build a case for an Israeli sneak attack on Syria and/or Iran. US spokesmen, including the Nietzschean fascist Bolton, constantly repeat the litany that Syria and Iran are the supporters of Hezbollah. How might the Israelis and their Bush-Cheney allies escalate to a Middle East regional war? A linear scenario is that, after further bombardment of Israel by rockets allegedly made in Iran and allegedly delivered with the connivance of Syria, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) lashes out at Damascus and Teheran. Syrian and Iranian retaliatory measures would then be seized upon by the Bush-Cheney regime as a pretext for US entry into the war. Here the US would be openly dragged into war as the tail of the Israeli dog. But this is a deeply flawed scenario, sure to generate huge waves of resentment against the Israelis and their US partners as the body bags begin to come home. False flag scenarios would be entirely more effective from the point of view of the war planners. CNN and MSNBC coverage this Saturday morning has been stressing the situation of the 25,000 Americans now stuck in Lebanon. These Americans are being invited to register with the US consulates for possible evacuation. The State Department and the US military have been remarkably slow to begin such an evacuation. One possible provocation scenario to bring the US into the war is that a helicopter carrying US citizens being evacuated out of Lebanon is hit by a missile and destroyed, killing all on board. The missile might be fired by the Israelis or by their allies among the fascist Lebanese Phalangists. The Israelis would announce that the helicopter had been destroyed by Hezbollah, opening the way for a hysterical campaign by Fox News and the rest of the neocon mass brainwashing apparatus to secure an early US attack on Syria and Iran. An alternative: a group of Arabic-speaking Israeli Mossad or Shin Beth Special Forces, or a group of Phalangist militia round up a few dozen Americans and machine-gun them to death. The controlled media then blame the massacre on Hezbollah, thus stampeding the US population into war. The “Christian” Phalangist (or “Kataeb Party”) have long been a willing cat’s paw for the US and Israelis in Lebanon. It was the Phalangists, controlled by the Gemayel family, who did most of the actual killing at the infamous Tel-alZaatar massacre in August 1976, the midst of the Kissinger-provoked Lebanese civil war. The Phalangists in that case did the dirty work under the supervision of the Israelis. Although the controlled media have been silent about the Phalange, it is clear that they are still available for dirty operations. In an ominous sign, CNN broadcasts have featured first-person interviews with Caroline Shamoun, supposedly an American stuck in Lebanon. This reference recalls Camille Chamoun, the CIA puppet president of Lebanon who called in US forces in 1958. The goal of the current campaign is manifestly to call US forces to intervene into a Lebanesecentered crisis once again. All peace-loving governments and all Americans of good will should make it clear that they hold the Israeli Mossad, Shin Beth, and Israeli Defense Forces directly responsible for the safety and welfare of the Americans trapped in Lebanon by the present aggression. Any atrocities against these Americans cannot be attributed to Hezbollah, Syria, or Iran, none of whom has any conceivable interest in provoking the US into an attack. It is Israel and Cheney who have such an interest, as is likely to have been discussed during Olmert’s visit to the US in May and Netanyahu’s visit here in June. It is imperative that the US and world population be inoculated against the provocation scenarios now being propagandized by CNN, MSNBC, and the rest of the controlled media.

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Other Nationals Already Evacuated While Americans Are Left as Sitting Ducks for FALSE FLAG WAR PROVOCATIONS
By Webster G. Tarpley Washington DC, July 15 – (11 PM EDT) The above hypothesis has received further corroboration from Fox News Saturday evening. According to Silva Boghossian, a US citizen stuck in Lebanon interviewed by Greta van Susteren at 10:25 Eastern Daylight Time, “the US has no plan” for an effective evacuation of American citizens in Lebanon. According to Ms. Boghossian, Italian and South African citizens staying in her hotel were evacuated “two days ago,” meaning on Thursday, one day after the Israeli bombing began on Wednesday morning. Ms. Boghossian said that she has registered with US consular authorities, but that “nothing had happened so far.” She added that the persons she spoke with were of undetermined nationality. The hotel where she is staying is now “full of Americans,” Ms. Boghossian told Fox. All parts of Lebanon are within easy flying distance by helicopter from sovereign British bases on the nearby island of Cyprus (Larnaka, etc.) Nothing would be easier than to set up a speedy airlift which could bring all Americans in Lebanon quickly to safety. Bush, despite his constant demagogy about protecting the lives of Americans, is pursuing a policy of flagrant indifference to what happens to these 25,000 American citizens. They are being hung out to dry, left as sitting ducks for whatever bloody false flag operation may be cooked up by the Israeli intelligence services. This is criminal negligence infinitely worse than Katrina, in that any mass casualties among these Americans will represent a one-way ticket for this entire nation to World War III, a war which sooner or later will be fought with nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. A real US president would right now be warning Israel that it will be held responsible for the lives and safety of every American in Lebanon. The feckless Bush, totally isolated in St. Petersburg, is instead focused on showing his subservience to Olmert. It is therefore up to US public opinion to demand effective security measures for Americans stranded in Lebanon, with immediate evacuation to Cyprus or other safe areas.

Israeli Bombings Could Lead to Escalation of Middle East War
by Michel Chossudovsky July 15, 2006 Following the bombings of Beirut by Israel, there is a danger that the US sponsored Middle East war, which is at present characterized by three distinct war theaters (Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq), will escalate and extend to the entire Middle East-Central Asian region. The bombings of Lebanon are part of a carefully planned military agenda. They are not spontaneous acts of reprisal by Israel. They are acts of provocation. The attacks could indeed be used as a pretext to trigger a much broader military operation, which is already in the active planning stage. In all likelihood, the bombings were conducted with Washington’s approval.

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The timing of these bombings coincides with the showdown with Iran regarding its alleged nuclear weapons’ program. They should be viewed and analyzed in relation to US-Israeli geopolitical and strategic interests in the broader region. The Beirut bombings should also be understood in relation to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, which has opened up a new space, for the deployment of Israeli forces. Since 2004, the US, Israel and Turkey have formulated concrete war plans involving air raids on Iran’s nuclear sites. Israel is slated to play a direct role in the US sponsored military operation against Iran, which is also the object of consultations at the G8 meeting in St. Petersburg on July 15-17. Since late 2004, Israel has been stockpiling US made weapons systems in anticipation of an attack on Iran. This stockpiling, which is financed by US military aid was largely completed in June 2005. Israel has taken delivery from the US of several thousand “smart air launched weapons” including some 500 ‘bunker-buster’ bombs, which can also be used to deliver tactical nuclear bombs. US tactical nuclear weapons have been deployed by the US and several of its allies and could be used against Iran. Israel’s thermonuclear missiles are pointed at Tehran. The participation of Turkey in the US-Israeli military operation is also a factor, following a 2004 agreement reached between Ankara and Tel Aviv. Extension of the War Tehran has confirmed that it will retaliate if attacked, in the form of ballistic missile strikes directed against Israel . These attacks, could also target US military facilities in Iraq and the Persian Gulf, which would immediately lead us into a scenario of military escalation and all out war. G8 On the agenda of the G8 is a draft UN Security Council resolution pertaining to Iran’s alleged (nonexistent) nuclear weapons program, which, according to news reports, has been tacitly approved by Russia and China This resolution, if adopted, could open the way for punitive bombings on Iran, with the full support of America’s European allies. Israel is now part of the Anglo-American military coalition. If these bombing raids were to be carried out, with the active participation of Israel, both Lebanon and Syria would become part of an extensive war zone. The entire region would flare up It is therefore essential that citizens’ movements around the world act consistently to confront their respective governments and reverse and dismantle this military agenda which threatens the future of humanity.

US, Israel Push World to Brink of World War
by Larry Chin July 17, 2006 Online Journal In the space of mere hours, the world has been collectively incited, provoked, and dragged into an all-out war that is on course towards potential nuclear super power conflict. (Analysis from independent sources such as Electronic Intifada, Dahr Jamail, and Angry Arab News provide bloody detail on unfolding conditions, as well as historic context.) What must be underscored and grasped at this historic moment are not simply the atrocities on the part of Israel, but the Bush administration’s pathologically sinister actions fanning the flames of this mushrooming war.

The insane Condoleezza Rice condoned the bombing of Lebanon, and then condemned Syria and Iran, and launched into the “terrorists” talking point mantra, repeatedly. Quoting the sick bitch (and I use the two words studiously and without hyperbole; they are accurately descriptive), “I am not

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going to try to judge every single act.” The fact that this monster is the US Secretary of State is beyond words.

The insane George W. Bush repeated the same “terrorists” talking point mantra, the same “get Iran and Syria at the same time” memo: “Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life.” The Bush administration and its insane UN Ambassador John Bolton cast the lone vote (1-10) against a UN resolution condemning the Israeli aggression, killing the resolution.

The entire world knows that only the US can stop it. The Bush administration won’t. It has only not even bothered to script words that sound like diplomacy, it has purposely congratulated Israel, which has spectacularly executed the shared 9/11-created policy of presumptive unilateral war against “terrorists” (all political opponents are “terrorists”). Bush neocon maniacs like what its demented cousins in Tel Aviv have unleashed – and want more. This comes in the wake of (1) the insane Donald Rumsfeld re-declaring war in the Middle East, reiterating that the US “is not going anywhere”; (2) a terror bombing in Mumbai (Bombay), India that can be traced to US-linked Pakistani terror groups, sparking possible India-Pakistan nuclear conflict; (3) new rounds of provocation towards Iran, and (4) North Korea. Going back several months to the events that began this specific chain of events in the Middle East, what was the role of Israel and the US in the assassination of Rafik Hariri? With the actions of Israel and the Bush administration, the words of Hitler burst forth once again: “The victor will not be asked, later on, whether he told the truth or not. In starting and waging a war, it is not Right that matters but Victory. Have no pity.” Could the Israeli aggression be the Bush administration pretext for the bigger Middle East war that the neocons have long dreamed about, with the US and Israel destroying Iran and Syria simultaneously, daring Russia and China to stop them? Is this the next stage of World War Three (begun on 9/11), or World War Four, a new and truly planetary holocaust? Last Feb. 14, Hariri, the ex-Prime Minister of Lebanon (from 1992 to 1998 and from 2000 to 2004) was assassinated in a strike inside Beirut. The Lebanese opposition, supported by the United States and France, has casually blamed Syria for the crime and has demanded the withdrawal of Syria’s 14,000 troops from Lebanon. Did Syria have an interest in assassinating Hariri? Are there other interests at play that are being hidden from us by official statements and the media’s coverage of the crisis? Mohamed Hassan, Middle East specialist, answers these questions.

Who Was Rafik Hariri, and Who Was Behind His Assassination?
by Mohamed Hassan First published in French on 28 Feb 2005 14 March 2005

David Pestieau and Luc Van Cauwenberghe Interview Mohamed Hassan Who was Hariri, and who could be behind this assassination?

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Hariri is a businessman born into an ordinary poor family from Lebanon. In the 1960s, he emigrated to Saudi Arabia where he became a very rich man. He returned to Lebanon where he twice became prime minister. He has always had good relations with Syria and all the nationalist forces of Lebanon. But the fact that he used the state apparatus to enrich himself personally even more, especially in the field of real estate, well he also had his enemies. Hariri became prime minister after the accords signed in Taef (a city in Saudi Arabia) in 1989 that put an end to the civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990). The presence of Syrian troops had been accepted at the time as a stabilizing factor. All the nationalist forces supported the presence of Syrian troops. We mustn’t forget that Israel still occupied the south of Lebanon. Even the United States, Saudi Arabia and France accepted the Syrian presence then. At that time, there was no question of speaking of “Syrian colonization” as certain elements are doing now. After the country was stabilized, the Syrian troops were supposed to leave, but there was no time limit fixed in the Taef accords. But if Israel withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000, why then did the Syrian troops remain? In 2000, with the departure of Israel, a new situation emerged. The Islamic movement Hezbollah controlled the south of Lebanon. The Christian Phalangists, some of them had left for Israel, they were being marginalized. In that situation, Syria played the role of a mediator. Without Syria’s presence, acts of revenge directed against the Phalangists could have been carried out. Moreover, the nationalists supported the presence of Syrian troops to protect the Palestinian refugee camps. One recalls 1982, when under the watchful eye of Sharon, the Phalangists carried out massacres directed against the Palestinians. Was Syria behind the Hariri assassination? The United States... But, to focus on this issue we need to take an overall view of the Middle East. The United States has a very serious problem in Iraq. They have not succeeded in stabilizing the country. They organized an election there, but it was not followed with something concrete for the population. Now, the government is only held afloat with the support of the U.S. army. The attempt to set up an Iraqi army has gotten nowhere. As time goes on, the resistance has become better organized. Nearly 30 cities have been liberated. The U.S. Army in practice has no access, it does not control the local authorities in these cities. Confronted with their inability to control the situation, they point their finger at Syria and at Iran. The Iraqi minister of defense of the pro-U.S. Allawi government has thus accused the two countries explicitly. The well known Qatar TV channel , AlJazeera, presented last Feb. 24 a video playback of Iraqi TV that attempted to prove that many Iraqi resistance fighters ere trained by the Syrian secret services. Then, just a few months ago, the CIA affirmed that the majority of the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. In other words, the U.S. is preparing “the foot to fit into the boot” and not “the boot to fit the foot.” Why are they accusing on Syria? Syria concluded an alliance with Iran. It is not simply a tactical alliance but more like a strategic alliance. Iran is a rich country, which is on the verge of entering the Group of Shanghai that includes China and Russia... Iran signed a quite large contract amounting to $170 billion for the delivery of oil to China. India and Japan have also concluded important contracts with Iran. The U.S. would like to chase everybody out of the Middle East, [including the Europeans] but these other powers are also involved [in the oil business]. In attacking Syria, the U.S. pressured that country to break its alliance with Iran and end its support of Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance. But the Syrian government didn’t panic and maintained its policies. It even concluded an alliance with Iran. The two countries support Hezbollah in South-Lebanon, which chased Israel out in 2000 and which continues to put pressure on Israel to evacuate the last piece of Lebanese territory it continues to occupy. The weakening of Syria, the last Arab country to maintain an independent nationalist policy, would contribute to reinforcing the Arab governments which collaborate with the U.S., like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

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What forces in Lebanon now support the withdrawal of Syria? There are the Phalangists, the Christian militias who are still supported by Israel. Then the feudal families with Chamael, Wallid Jumblatt and others that want to regain their old privileges. On the other hand, with the demographic changes, 50 percent of the Lebanese population is now Shiite. Well, the political organizations representing the Shiite community, the Hezbollah and Amal, are pro-Syrian. Other components like the bourgeois of Christian origin are aware that they can no longer have any influence. Finally, on a regional level, the comprador regimes in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt support the withdrawal as do the political forces linked to Egypt in Lebanon. Should we fear a military intervention against Syria? A military intervention would only be a last recourse, preceded by a long period of pressure and of interventions of all sorts. But the sanctions and pressures constitute a form of warfare. Faced with an impasse in Iraq, the U.S. is looking for enemies outside that country as they did during the Vietnam War, when they bombed Cambodia and Laos. They could also today bomb Syria and Iran. Because the resistance in Iraq increases support among the nationalists in Syria and Iran and stops the comprador bourgeoisie from developing. But if they decide to bomb Syria or Iran that will only reinforce anti-U.S. nationalist sentiment throughout the Arab World. Arab nationalism: what is the historical background? In 1952, the Arab nationalist Nasser seized power in Egypt. In 1956, France, Great Britain and Israel attacked Egypt. It was the Suez war, which finished in a catastrophe for the aggressors. The United States took advantage of the catastrophe to weaken the influence of France and Great Britain in the region. The nationalist governments of Syria and Egypt then concluded an alliance to create the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958. U.S. imperialism established the Baghdad Pact against the UAR. What was involved was an alliance supported by the comprador bourgeoisies of Iraq, Jordan, Iran and Lebanon. But the Iraqi revolution in 1958 gave the final blow to the Baghdad Pact. In the same year, the United States sent its troops to the Middle East for the first time, to Lebanon. Great Britain did the same in Jordan. It was a question of preventing at all costs the spread of the Iraqi revolution. But they did not manage to wall up the pan-Arab nationalist movement, whose goal was true independence. Nationalism continued to develop in Yemen, in Algeria, and in Palestine. At the time, Lebanon (roughly the same size and population as Connecticut), three times smaller than Belgium, is characterized by confessionalism (government power is divided on religious lines: Christian Maronites, Sunnites, Shiites, Druze...). There is a shaky balance between the various religious minorities, which are headed by feudal leaders. But during the 1950s, the Arab National liberation movement developed and made alliances with the Palestinians. A great number of Palestinian refugees driven out by Israel wound up in Lebanon. This development led to a weakening of the feudal forces and a position of relative neutrality of Lebanon between the nationalist countries on the one hand and the pro-US comprador countries on the other. The underlying situation was likely to shift [leading to a reinforcement of nationalism], which led to the intervention of the United States in 1958. Today, the situation is reversed. Nationalist Iraq has been destroyed, but there is an antiimperialist resistance there, which is developing. Egypt has become “a comprador regime” that collaborates thoroughly with the United States and Israel. [Note: a comprador bourgeoisie constitutes a capitalist class whose interests are closely tied to the imperialist system. For example, the Saudi bourgeoisie, which invested most of its wealth in the West.]

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These “comprador bourgeoisies” control the State in all the Arab countries except Syria. If the regime in Syria is weakened, capitulates or is overthrown, it will be a defeat for the Arab nationalist movement. Hezbollah will be weakened or will disappear and that will support the emergence of a bourgeois comprador Palestinian leadership [which has already happened in the wake of the death of Arafat], ready to collaborate with Israel while also giving in to its various demands. The United States could then more easily impose its influence in the entire and Israel would be integrated in the region while also imposing its solution on the Palestinians, deprived of external support. This scenario, ideal for the United States, is more than dubious. Resistance in Iraq continues to develop. Syria holds firm and has made an alliance with Iran. And popular conscientiousness and anti-Americanism in the Arab countries are stronger than ever, even if the level of organization of the people in revolutionary organizations is weak. With thanks for translation to John Catalinotto (International Action Center, New York). Minor editing by Michel Chossudovsky (Global Research)

Bush Wants the Hizballah-Israel War to Give Iran a Bloody Nose
DEBKAfile Special Analysis Israeli Intelligence Site July 17, 2006, 8:07 PM (GMT+02:00) Since the onset of the Israel-Hizballah war on July 12, US President George W. Bush never tires of repeating that Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorists and that it is up to Syria to press Hizballah to stop shooting rockets at Israel. His Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she doesn’t see how an immediate ceasefire can solve the Middle East crisis. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, playing along, is in no hurry to take a hand. “It will be a while before fighting ends,” he says calmly. And Germany’s Angela Merkel thinks the kidnapped [i.e., POW] Israeli soldiers should be returned before any talk begins. Britain’s Tony Blair would like to put an international force into southern Lebanon, but Bush put him off none too gently according to an open mike at the G-8 summit. Anyway, south Lebanon already has an international force. It is called UNIFIL, and it has never stopped Hizballah firing a single cross-border shot. All the world powers assembled in St. Petersburg for the G-8 summit agreed that Hizballah started the war as Tehran’s proxy terrorist arm. They picked up on the attitude of the US president, who is telling Israel: Let it run; but keep civilian casualties down and don’t kick too much Lebanese infrastructure. Even Arab governments, which automatically fought any Israeli military action in the past, have formed a solid Sunni Muslim front, led by Saudi Arabia, which is content to watch the Shiite Hizballah take a beating and the burgeoning Shiite assertiveness in the region squashed. The Olmert government is eagerly exploiting this leisurely international climate to smash as much of Hizballah’s terror machine as he can before Washington holds up a stop sign. Monday, July 17, a clutch of would-be ceasefire brokers descended on Beirut and Jerusalem. None came with Bush’s nod, so they will not get very far. In Tehran, the hardline supreme ruler, Ayatollah Khamenei, picked up on the prospect of the only export arm of Iran’s Shiite revolution facing a hammering in a drawn-out conflict. Sunday, July 16, four days into the hostilities, he spoke his first words in support for Hizballah. Typically, he struck out at UN Security Council resolution 1559 when he declared: No one will ever disarm the Hizballah.

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On the same day, when black clouds of rockets and warplanes filled the skies of Lebanon and northern Israel, both Tehran and Damascus made a point of supporting Syria – not Hizballah – against a possible Israel attack. This was seen by DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources as a jab at Bush and Rice first, Israel second. This poker game between Tehran and Washington is going back and forth over the heads of Israel and Lebanon. It is the cause of the muddled statements coming from Israeli leaders with regard to the targets of the Lebanon campaign. They range from recovering the kidnapped soldiers, to smashing the Hizballah, breaking up its terrorist infrastructure (what about its personnel?), moving their positions back from the Israeli border to one kilometer or more (depending on the estimated range of their rockets), and forcing the Lebanese government to displace the Hizballah in the south and disarming the Shiite terrorists as ordered by the Security Council. Meanwhile, no more than 25% of Hizballah’s arsenal has been destroyed in Israel’s six-day air blitz and cannonade, and no one is quite sure what surprises are in store in the form of long-range, heavy rockets or missiles, what hardware is being smuggled from Iran via Syria past the Israeli blockade, and whether either or both will intervene at some point – and how. The green light flashing in Washington may give Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a latitude never before granted any Israeli premier. But it also tells the Islamic Republic that its rulers’ meddling in Iraq carries a high price tag. By pulverizing Iran’s surrogate, Israel is articulating America’s determination to smash Iran’s strength and positions of influence around the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. This determination was sparked by an unnoticed incident in Iraq on July 4, 2006. On that day, for the first time in the Iraq War, Nasrallah activated the three-year old sleeper terror and sabotage networks Iranian and Hizballah intelligence had established across Iraq shortly after the US invasion. He was obeying orders from Iranian supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. America’s Day of Independence 2006 was selected for this group to make its first low-key attacks against US forces in Baghdad and British units in Basra and break surface under the name of The Abu al Fadal al Abas Brigades. No one had heard of it because Tehran had kept this Iraqi arm of Hizballah dark as the ultimate weapon to spring on the Americans in Iraq at the appropriate moment. President Bush saw that if he looked away and let Iran’s challenge burst into full-blown action without responding, America’s standing in Iraq and the rest of the region would be forfeit. He was further stirred into a response by Tehran’s developing appetite for quick gains. On July 12, believing they had got away with it in Iraq, Iran and Hizballah followed it up by opening a second front against Israel, America’s ally: the Shiite terrorists kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. That was the last straw, but George W. Bush turned it around as a boomerang to hit Tehran. The Israeli Defense Forces, there to hand, were more than ready to punish Hizballah and had been raring to go after five years of forced restraint against the Lebanese group and Palestinian terrorists. For Bush, this course offered America the chance of a bold, efficient blow against a Shiite extremist terrorist group without a single American soldier having to step onto the battlefield. Therefore, Israel’s “Operation Just Reward”, which started out as a rescue operation for its two abducted soldiers, then a campaign to push Hizballah back from its border, within six days opened Lebanon up as a major arena for the showdown building up between the United States and Tehran over a whole bagful of issues – not least Iran’s nuclear defiance. However, the unacknowledged object of Israel’s campaign is none of the highly rational goals outlined by officials. It is to satisfy Washington that Tehran has been given a bloody nose and is ready to pull back from its deepening political, military and intelligence interference in Iraq. To this end, Bush decided to let the armed forces of the Jewish state strike out against a fundamentalist Islamic force. For Israel, this is a first, a chance awaited since the first Gulf War of 1991 to get its own back on the radical Arab assailants besetting the country. This chance was denied even when it came under attack from Saddam Hussein’s missiles in 1991. Israel was then consistently held back from ridding itself of the vicious Palestinian suicide terror launched in 2000, leaving the conflict unresolved to this day. Israel was kept on the sidelines of the US global war on terror, even though it targeted the Jewish state no less than the West.

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Now, Ehud Olmert has picked up the gauntlet handed by Washington and decided to settle a long score with a Shiite terror group plaguing Israel from its northern border. He has plunged the country into a conflict that may well draw Iran and Syria in on the side of the enemy. No one can tell how it will come out. Israeli generals and officials asked about the objectives of this war are cagey; they can’t tell what will eventuate in the next 24 hours – and not only because of the uncertain fortunes of war. The tricky test is to correlate Israeli and American interests from one day to the next. Hizballah keeps on threatening “new surprises,” because its leaders are also playing their tactics by ear, dependent on the support and weapons Tehran judges it political to release. The conflict may only just be at the beginning. None of the main players show any eagerness to cut it short before they attain their purpose.

US Special Forces Seize Control of Israeli Nuclear Weapons Complex
by Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Russian Subscribers July 18, 2006 Russian military analysts, and FSB sources, are reporting today that United States military Special Forces have seized control of the nation of Israel’s nuclear complex located at Dimona with a contingent of their Special Forces troops from the American war zone currently located in Iraq. These reports detail that this action by the American military leadership was in direct response to China’s President Hu’s ‘threat’ to the American President that should the Straits of Hormuz be blockaded by Iran, due to the escalating crisis between Israel and its Muslim neighbors, China would consider that action as a ‘declaration of war’ against the Chinese people. The America response to this ‘threat’ from China, coming from China’s President Hu in his ‘face-to-face’ meeting with the United States President Bush at the G-8 Summit, was to assure both China’s President Hu, and Russia’s President Putin, that the American Military Leadership would ‘secure’ Israel’s nuclear weapons and limit their, Israel’s, incursion into Lebanon. In return for the American military leadership’s securing Israel’s nuclear weapons both President Putin and President Hu have allowed a “72-hour-window” for Israel to secure its northern border with Lebanon, with the ‘understanding’ that Israel will not attack either Syria or Iran, and whom Israel has blamed for being the instigators behind this current war. These reports further detail that the American President has dispatched his Secretary of State to report to Israel’s Prime Minister Olmert the full details of this agreement, but which these reports state that the government of Israel is in ‘violent’ opposition to. We expect another update within the next 24 hours on these issues, and which we will report to you once received. ___________

US & Russian Special Forces Complete Training for Takeover of Israel Nuclear Complex upon Outbreak of Civil War
By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Russian Subscribers
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June 6, 2005 Russian Security Analysts are reporting today that this past week’s joint training exercise between both United States and Russian elite Special Forces units were a great success, and as we can read as reported by the Itar-Tass News Service in their article titled “Russian-US Mil Exercises in Bavaria Successful” and which says: “The Torgau-2005 Russian-U.S. exercises were successful and showed that such exercises could be held in the future, both sides said at a press conference on Friday at the south German training ground of Grafenwohr in Bavaria, where the second stage of the training took place. The relationship and cooperation are wonderful, said General Burwell Bell, commander of the U.S. ground troops in Europe and the U.S. 7TH Army. The Russian and U.S. military associated with each other, deepened cooperation between the ground troops and found new friends, he said. The Russian ground forces’ Deputy Commander in Chief Vladimir Bulgakov agreed with the view.” Desperation moves being made by the international war criminal Sharon include his expanded use of Israel’s vast spying network in the United States, especially in the political and Foreign Service classes, to thwart US Military moves towards making peace with Arab nations and instead to attack Iran and Syria which then would bring into the Middle East vast numbers of both Russian and Chinese military forces under existing defense agreements to protect various of their Middle Eastern allies, including both Syria and Iran. To the prospects of a larger Middle Eastern War the American President has determined not to allow this to happen, and as he had stated to President Putin during their recent summit in Moscow, making the joint effort of United States and Russian Military Special Forces to attack and secure Israel’s Negev Nuclear Research Center the most serious priority. The United States has let Israel know they have been targeted by their releasing of the news today that US Naval Forces have already spied out their planned attack, and as we can read as reported by the PTI News Service in their article titled “US Spied on Israel Using Submarine” and which says: “The United States spied on Israel, its key ally in the volatile west Asian region, using a Submarine last year, but aborted the mission soon after it was detected by Israeli naval intelligence, a media report has said. A mystery foreign submarine spotted spying off the Israeli coast by the military last November was American, Channel Two TV reported yesterday. The submarine, which caught Israeli naval intelligence officials off-guard, was on a spy mission in the sea across from the northern Israeli city of Nahariya when it was spotted, it said.”

‘Open War’ In the Middle East
By Dahr Jamail 7-18-06 “In my judgment, the best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place.” That one sentence (a surprisingly rare example of a complete sentence spoken by Cheney spokesman George W. Bush), taken on its own, would fully explain why the Middle East is now on the brink of regional war. But of course, Bush always finds a way to engage in Orwellian newspeak. At a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, he managed to rewrite history in the very next sentence by blaming Hezbollah for instigating the violence by launching rocket attacks into Israel and capturing Israeli soldiers. But then, George most likely has no idea where Gaza is, let alone what has been occurring there for decades. As puppet Bush goes on saying things like “Every nation has a right to defend itself,” referring to his favorite ally, Israel, his use of the word “every” would of course exclude Lebanon, since their army is using anti-aircraft guns against Israeli warplanes. And let us not forget the Iraqi resistance – as it may never cross his feeble mind that they are defending Iraq from the American invaders.

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Most Arab leaders are refusing to back Hezbollah, although US-influenced Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah II issued the usual statements demanding “an immediate halt on attacking civilians and vital infrastructure,” saying that such attacks breach the international humanitarian conventions. As if Israel will listen. As if the US listens to any calls from countries demanding similar actions by the occupation forces and Western contracting companies who are busily raping and pillaging Iraq. As if any country in war ever abides by the Geneva Conventions nowadays. And without a functional UN to actually take a stand for human rights or real justice, why should they? The typical response among the people here in the Middle East is to scoff at their leadership – who continue to cower and bow to US interests. Friday at the Lebanese/Syrian border, I spoke with a 50-year-old Kuwaiti man, Emad, as he fled Beirut with his family. “It’s very bad there, as the Israelis are attacking civilians, bombing police and petrol stations and even the fuel storage depots,” he told me, “In fact, they have even bombed the airport once again. I saw F-16’s bombing and there is smoke everywhere. This is a big disaster for the Lebanese.” When I asked him what he thought it would take to end the fighting, he promptly replied, “It looks like the Arab governments are not moving their asses, so I am leaving.” Yet as consistently as the Arab governments fail to get busy “moving their asses” toward something resembling a solution to this crisis, just as consistently are the people repressed by those same governments raising their voices. On Friday, tens of thousands of Arab protestors hit the streets, condemning the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and their actions in the Gaza Strip. 5,000 angry protesters gathered at a mosque in Cairo carrying banners that read, “Hey Arab leaders, you should be united.” In Amman, over 2,000 demonstrators gathered at a mosque after Friday prayers, shouting “Zionists get out, get out!” and “Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan are one people!” Thousands marched in Gaza, waving Palestinian and Lebanese flags. Meanwhile in Baghdad, thousands of angry Iraqis marched, praising Hezbollah’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, while denouncing Israel and the US for the attacks. Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr hinted that he may be prepared to put his Mehdi Army militia into action against the Americans due to the Israeli actions in Lebanon and Gaza. In an earlier piece titled “An Alliance of Violence,” I detailed how violence perpetrated on the people of Palestine by the Israeli military has immediate ramifications in Iraq. The same is now brewing yet again. In Kuwait, protesters rallied in front of the parliament building, shouting “Death to Israel!” and “Death to America!” Meanwhile, a Kuwaiti lawmaker named Musallam al-Barrak lashed out at his and other Arab governments when he stated, “Arab countries can do nothing but condemn.” There is a frightening undercurrent of rage among the people in the Middle East toward their governments: The Arab world is on fire over the injustice meted out against the Palestinian people, as well as to the Lebanese. The Israeli people are deeply angered at their government for failing to provide security (of course our corporate media would never report on the fact that hundreds of thousands of Israelis oppose their government’s actions in Gaza and beyond) – instead, preferring peaceful resolutions rather than brutal, unjust, failed occupation and ongoing acts of aggression. Predictably, the impotent UN Security Council goes about its machinations of futility, holding emergency meetings while hoping for resolutions – which rarely, if ever, change anything on the ground to stop the needless massacre of civilians on both sides of the conflict. Ah, the UN – where the US is responsible for eight out of the last nine vetoes, seven of which had to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So why pin any hope on the UN, when the US has already vetoed a resolution demanding that Israel stop its military offensive in the Gaza Strip? Meanwhile, the bloodletting continues as the situation escalates and spins further into chaos while threatening to spread deeper into the region. Israel, the only nuclear power in the region, hopes to completely annihilate Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. They have now insured total, unending war by demanding Hezbollah to completely disarm, leave southern Lebanon and hand over the Israeli soldiers, demands which Hezbollah will surely brush aside. Let us not forget that both Israel and the US announced in January that the Palestinian people would be punished for voting the wrong way by electing Hamas to power. That unjust act, which began the chain of events leading to our current crisis, may well be marked as the match that lit this hellish bonfire. Because it certainly seems, judging from

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their actions in Gaza and now in southern Lebanon, that the aim of the Israeli government is to wipe out the Palestinian people, in addition to Hamas and Hezbollah. So we naturally have open war in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. Israel declared it by their act of bombing and invading Lebanon, then bombing Nasrallah’s Beirut offices. Nasrallah, unhurt by the attack, promptly appeared on television announcing “open war” against Israel. On Hezbollah’s TV channel in Beirut, he said, “You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open war.” He announced, “Look at the warship that has attacked Beirut [referring to an Israeli warship off the coast that was lobbing shells into Lebanon] while it burns and sinks before your very eyes.” The ship was heavily damaged and four of its 80 soldiers on board went missing after being attacked by an explosive drone launched by Hezbollah, the first time such a weapon has been seen from their arsenal. “Now in the middle of the sea, facing Beirut, the Israeli warship that has attacked the infrastructure, people’s homes and civilians – look at it burning,” Nasrallah mocked, in his address that aired late Friday night. In footage aired by the same channel, dozens of Lebanese danced in the streets of Beirut to celebrate the announcement of the attack on the Israeli ship. This, of course, contradicts Israel’s goal in pressuring Lebanon: Israel hoped that by punishing the Lebanese they would force the country to pressure Hezbollah. Despite the propaganda of the dancing Lebanese aired by Hezbollah TV, reaction thus far is mixed in besieged Lebanon. Deepening the crisis, Nasrallah threatened to attack deeper inside Israel, “beyond Haifa.” And Saturday the bloodshed continued as the Israeli Air Force bombed bridges, fuel storage tanks, petrol stations in southern and eastern Lebanon. At least four people were killed in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and more bridges south of Beirut were destroyed. The same day, at least 15 Lebanese villagers, including women and children, were killed by an Israeli air strike on their vehicles as they fled their village of Marwahin in southern Lebanon after being ordered to evacuate by the Israelis. Leaflets dropped by Israeli aircraft over Beirut warned the Lebanese not to back Nasrallah. Yet, giving further evidence to the Lebanese army’s outwardly opposing the Israelis, after the leaflets were dropped they were promptly collected and taken away by Lebanese security forces. Underscoring this, Saadeddine Rafik Hariri, majority leader in the Lebanese Parliament and the son of the assassinated former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, told reporters in Kuwait on Saturday: “The Lebanese people must remain united. We must not allow Israel to divide us. The enemy is Israel.” Here in Damascas we’re on pins and needles. The mood is one of both high anxiety and seething anger at the Israelis’ war against both Lebanon and Hezbollah. Like anywhere else, nobody here supports collective punishment or attacks against sovereign countries. As Israeli jets pound the mountains in Lebanon near the Syrian border, striking radio and satellite antennas, the concern that Syria will be drawn into the conflict grows daily. The day before, Reuters reported that the ruling Ba’ath party in Damascas announced that they and the “Syrian people”... “are ready to extend full support to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes.” The war is even widening in Lebanon, as Israeli warplanes, also on Saturday, bombed an area in Tripoli, their most northern strike thus far. After Israel placed an embargo on Lebanon and shut down their main seaport in Beirut, 95% of the trade was rerouted through the port at Tripoli. Today, three bombs were dropped by Israeli war planes on that port. Other Lebanese ports now shut down include Jounieh, Amshit and Hamat, as the Lebanese economy has ground to a nearly complete standstill. At least 79 civilians have been killed and over 250 wounded since Israel began its attack against Lebanon on Wednesday. Civilians dying aren’t only in Lebanon. Over a dozen rockets were fired by Hezbollah into several towns in northern Israel, in addition to over 90 fired into a total of 15 towns in Israel thus far, killing at least four and wounding scores.

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Thus, both Hezbollah and the Israeli government have their “open war.” As usual, while the politicians and the UN wring their hands and twiddle their thumbs, those bearing the brunt are the civilians on both sides, whether they live in Israel, Lebanon or Palestine.

Israeli Troops Enter Southern Lebanon
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) – Israeli ground troops have entered southern Lebanon on a mission to destroy outposts of the militant group Hezbollah, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman told CNN early Wednesday. The spokesman said the troops are “close to the border.” No further details were immediately available. Hours earlier, Israeli airstrikes pounded the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital near the airport, lighting up the night with explosions. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the latest airstrikes, but at least a dozen people were killed in Israel and Lebanon on Tuesday. Eleven Lebanese soldiers died in an Israeli airstrike on an army barracks, and one Israeli was killed by Hezbollah rockets fired into northern Israel, sources said. Israel launched an extensive bombing campaign against the militant Islamist group after it abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed three others in a raid into northern Israel last Wednesday. Since Thursday, Hezbollah has fired 750 rockets into Israel, the Israel Defense Forces said. Also Wednesday, Israeli tanks were rolling into a refugee camp in central Gaza, the IDF said. Israeli forces have been operating in parts of Gaza since one of its soldiers was captured June 25 by three militant groups. There was no immediate word on casualties in the Gaza operation. The death toll in northern Israel stands at 25, including 13 civilians. Lebanese internal security forces said 183 people have been killed and 456 wounded in the country since the start of hostilities. There was no breakdown between civilians and military personnel. Members of Hezbollah told CNN that Israel’s aerial assault has not damaged their ability to fight, and vowed to struggle to the death. Hezbollah officials gave CNN exclusive access to the southern suburbs of Beirut – the area thought to house the organization’s headquarters, CNN’s Nic Robertson reported. Robertson noted that his tour of the area was hurried, and he could not confirm the group’s claims that civilians were being targeted or that it had no weapons stockpiles. Hezbollah members told him that morale is good, Robertson said. The continuing violence is raising fears that others in the region would join the conflict. (Watch how Syrians are reacting to fighting in Lebanon -- 2:30) Rocket kills 1 Israeli A dozen Hezbollah rockets rained down Tuesday in the Israeli coastal town of Nahariya, with one of them landing on a house and killing one person inside, Israeli medical sources and the town’s mayor said. (Watch a rocket attack’s aftermath in Israel -- 2:53) “I was near the bomb shelter,” eyewitness Eli Dayari told Israeli TV, according to The Associated Press. “There was a humongous boom, and I saw it was two meters next to my house, really two meters. People are panicking and the house was on fire.” Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, experienced another day of shelling as well. Air raid sirens wailed as four explosions were heard Tuesday afternoon, and people on the streets ran for cover. Haifa police said there were no reports of casualties.

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Several people were wounded Tuesday when rockets also struck Safed and Hatzor, medical sources said. (Watch why new rockets pose a greater threat -- 1:36) Rockets also hit the northern towns of Akko and Karmiel, but no casualties were reported, medical sources said. Lebanese soldiers die in strike Eleven Lebanese soldiers were killed when the Jahour barracks east of Beirut was hit by Israeli airstrikes early Tuesday. (Watch a dangerous tour of the damage in Lebanon -- 4:46) The deaths came a day after six Lebanese troops were killed in a similar strike on a post in Abdeh, north of Beirut. The Israeli air force also hit two trucks in the coastal town of Jbeil – also known as Byblos – north of the capital, Lebanese police said. There were no immediate reports of casualties. In Beirut, debris from the Israeli raids littered mostly deserted streets, Reuters reported. Broken glass, water tanks and satellite dishes lay on the ground, and water from broken pipes filled potholes in roads, Reuters reported. Buildings left standing were blackened from fires, the news service reported. Stray cats sniffed around a damaged sandwich stall for food. Carpets and rugs were scattered in front of a ruined shop, Reuters reported. The Lebanese port city of Tyre was under bombardment Tuesday, and unmanned drone aircraft circled overhead. At the site of one bombing, an apartment house, rubble was piled on the street alongside the wreckage of a nearly unrecognizable vehicle. A poster of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stood aside a road into the city. A billboard adorned with Hezbollah militia fighters read, “We stay and fight.” Many in Tyre support the militant organization. Mohammed Swyel, 18, said he and his family evacuated their home near the Israeli border in order to allow Hezbollah rocket teams more space to maneuver and fire into Israel. “Everybody in Lebanon needs Hezbollah,” he said. “Of course, we need peace for this country, but not over our dignity. Our dignity is first.” But French Army Maj. Eric Minoli, who is commanding a United Nations contingent in Lebanon, told CNN he is sickened by what he has seen. “The people are clearly terrorized. Many Lebanese are fleeing north,” he said. “As a Frenchman and a United Nations soldier, I hope the diplomats work out a cease-fire.” Evacuations under way In war-ravaged Lebanon, the evacuation of Westerners began to pick up steam Tuesday as foreign governments moved to get their citizens to safety by land, sea and air. Hundreds of Westerners have piled on to cruise ships, but tens of thousands remain stranded in Beirut. (Full story) The U.S. Navy’s Iwo Jima expeditionary group is heading to the Mediterranean from the Red Sea to help with the evacuations, Pentagon officials said. In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a cease-fire “when conditions are conducive to do so” after a meeting Tuesday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abdul Gheit. “We all want a cessation of violence; we all want the protection of civilians,” Rice said. In other diplomatic moves, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with a U.N. delegation headed by special envoy Vijay Nambiar in Jerusalem. (Full story) Hezbollah has demanded that Israel exchange Lebanese prisoners in its jails for the captured soldiers, but Israel has rejected calls for a prisoner exchange. CNN’s Avivit Dalgoshen, Paula Hancocks and Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bush Accuses Damascus Over Crisis
US President George W Bush has said he suspects that Syria is trying to use the crisis in the Middle East to reassert its influence in Lebanon. He suggested that Hezbollah activities were being orchestrated by Damascus. Israel attacked Lebanon after the militant group captured two soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July. Overnight air strikes are reported to have killed dozens of people, with 20 people reported dead in the southern village of Srifa. Casualties were also reported in raids near Nabatiyeh in the south and Baalbek in the east. Israel air strikes also targeted Hezbollah positions in the capital Beirut. Early in the morning, Israeli troops crossed into southern Lebanon to carry out what the army called “restricted pinpoint attacks”. About 230 Lebanese people have died in the week-long conflict, most of them civilians. Twenty-five Israelis have died, including 13 civilians killed by Hezbollah rocket attacks. Syrian ‘interference’ President Bush said Hezbollah was the “root cause” of the current crisis. “Syria is trying to get back into Lebanon, it looks like to me,” Mr Bush said. “And there is suspicion that the instability created by the Hezbollah attacks will cause some in Lebanon to invite Syria back in.” He reiterated his stance that Israel had a right to defend itself, but said Israel had been asked to be “mindful” of the new Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. “It’s very important that this government in Lebanon succeed and survive,” he said. The BBC’s Jonathan Beale in Washington says the US strategy is becoming clearer – to turn international attention and anger away from Israel’s actions, and to focus on those of Hezbollah and Syria instead. But he adds that some will question the evidence of blatant Syrian interference in Lebanon. With no sign of an end to the violence, many thousands of people continue to flee Lebanon. Several countries have sent ships and helicopters to move their nationals from Lebanon, while tens of thousands of people – including many Lebanese families – have fled across the land border to Syria. FOREIGNERS IN LEBANON Canada: 40,000 Philippines: 30,000 Australia: 25,000 US: 25,000 UK: 22,000 (inc. 10,000 with dual nationality) France: 20,000 Aid agencies fear 500,000 people have been displaced within Lebanon itself – and have called for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian relief work to start.

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Diplomatic efforts continue, with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana due to hold talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as Palestinian officials and Egyptian mediators. A UN team that has been in the region over the past few days is preparing to fly back to New York to brief SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan, who is due to address the Security Council on Thursday about the crisis. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israeli diplomats that Hezbollah’s capture of their soldiers had been coordinated by Iran. It was, he said, timed to coincide with the G8 summit in Russia and deflect attention away from Iran’s nuclear programme.

United States to Israel: You Have One More Week to Blast Hizbollah [i.e., LEBANON]
Bush ‘gave green light’ for limited attack, say Israeli and UK sources Ewen MacAskill, Simon Tisdall and Patrick Wintour Wednesday July 19, 2006 The Guardian The US is giving Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah before weighing in behind international calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon, according to British, European and Israeli sources. The Bush administration, backed by Britain, has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting initiated at the UN security council, the G8 summit in St Petersburg and the European foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels. “It’s clear the Americans have given the Israelis the green light. They [the Israeli attacks] will be allowed to go on longer, perhaps for another week,” a senior European official said yesterday. Diplomatic sources said there was a clear time limit, partly dictated by fears that a prolonged conflict could spin out of control. US strategy in allowing Israel this freedom for a limited period has several objectives, one of which is delivering a slap to Iran and Syria, who Washington claims are directing Hizbollah and Hamas militants from behind the scenes. George Bush last night said that he suspected Syria was trying to reassert its influence in Lebanon. Speaking in Washington, he said: “It’s in our interest for Syria to stay out of Lebanon and for this government in Lebanon to succeed and survive. The root cause of the problem is Hizbollah and that problem needs to be addressed.” Tony Blair yesterday swung behind the US position that Israel need not end the bombing until Hizbollah hands over captured prisoners and ends its rocket attacks. During a Commons statement, he resisted backbench demands that he call for a ceasefire. Echoing the US position, he told MPs: “Of course we all want violence to stop and stop immediately, but we recognise the only realistic way to achieve such a ceasefire is to address the underlying reasons why this violence has broken out.” He also indicated it might take many months to agree the terms of a UN stabilisation force on the Lebanese border. After Mr. Blair spoke, British officials privately acknowledged the US had given Israel a green light to continue bombing Lebanon until it believes Hizbollah’s infrastructure has been destroyed. Washington’s hands-off approach was underlined yesterday when it was confirmed that Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, is delaying a visit to the region until she has met a special UN team. She is expected in the region on Friday, according to Dan Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the UN. The US is publicly denying any role in setting a timeframe for Israeli strikes. When asked whether the US was holding back diplomatically, Tony Snow, the White House’s press spokesman, said yesterday: “No, no; the insinuation there is that there is active military planning, collaboration or collusion, between the United States and Israel – and there isn’t... the US has been in the lead of the diplomatic efforts, issuing repeated calls for restraint but at the same time

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putting together an international consensus. You’ve got to remember who was responsible for this: Hizbollah... It would be misleading to say the United States hasn’t been engaged. We’ve been deeply engaged.” Steven Cook, a specialist in US-Middle East policy at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, said: “It’s abundantly clear [that US policy is] to give the Israelis the opportunity to strike a blow at Hizbollah... “They have global reach, and prior to 9/11 they killed more Americans than any other group. But the Israelis are overplaying their hand.” Israel is already laying the ground for negotiations. “We are beginning a diplomatic process alongside the military operation that will continue,” said Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, yesterday. “The diplomatic process is not meant to shorten the window of time of the army’s operation, but rather is meant to be an extension of it and to prevent a need for future military operations,” she added. Moshe Kaplinsky, Israel’s deputy army chief, said the offensive could end within a few weeks, adding that Israel needed time to complete “clear goals”. Israeli officials said fighting could begin to wind down after the weekend, if Hizbollah stops firing rockets. A peace formula is also beginning to emerge: it includes an understanding on a future prisoner exchange, a deployment of the Lebanese army up to the Israeli border, a Hizbollah pullback, and the beefing up of an international monitoring force. For the first time, Ms Livni suggested Israel might accept such a force on a temporary basis. There were signs of differences of emphasis between the Foreign Office and Downing Street over the conflict. Kim Howells, a Foreign Office minister, explicitly called for the US to rein in Israel. “I very much hope the Americans will be putting pressure on the Israelis to stop as quickly as possible.” he told the BBC. “We understand the pressure the Israeli government is under, but we call on them to look very carefully at the pressure ordinary people are under in southern Lebanon and other parts of Lebanon too... We want to stop this as quickly as possible”. Israeli airstrikes killed 31 yesterday, including a family of nine in Aitaroun. More than 230 civilians in Lebanon have been killed in the past week. An Israeli man was killed by a Hizbullah rocket in Nahariya in northern Israel, bringing the total of Israeli civilian deaths to 13. The army said 50 missiles were fired yesterday at northern Israel, injuring at least 14 people. Flashpoints

31 Lebanese killed in Israeli air raids. Nine members of one family were killed and four wounded in a strike on their house in the village of Aitaroun. Five were killed in other strikes in the south and two in the Bekaa Valley. An attack on a Lebanese army barracks east of Beirut killed 11 soldiers and wounded 30. A truck carrying medical supplies was hit and its driver killed on the BeirutDamascus highway. Hizbollah says one of its fighters was killed. One man killed as he was walking to a bomb shelter in Nahariya, northern Israel. The army said Hizbollah fired 50 missiles, hitting the port and railway depot at Haifa, as well as the towns of Safed, Acre and Kiryat Shmona. Hundreds evacuated from Beirut in helicopters and boats. HMS Gloucester arrives to start evacuation of Britons. The Orient Queen, a cruise ship capable of carrying 750, sets out from Cyprus, escorted by a US destroyer.

State Department: No Free Evacuations for Dead Americans, Either
By Paul Kiel - July 18, 2006, 2:55 PM Alive or dead, Uncle Sam doesn’t give any free rides.

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Earlier I noted that the State Department, in stark contrast to the Canadian government, is requiring U.S. citizens caught in Lebanon to pay for the cost of their evacuation. (Rep. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has since weighed in, saying that this was no time “for quibbling over payment for evacuation.”) I called up the State Department to ask about the policy. “We are not standing there with a cash box asking people to pay before they get on the boat,” spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus told me. But if they don’t pay (by check, no cash or credit cards accepted), or sign a form promising to pay, they don’t go. It’s the law: “Reasonable commercial air fare” shall be charged to all evacuees. What if they’re dead? Same deal, she said. No freebies, even if you’re not around to enjoy it. Hironimus said that she didn’t know the exact fee being charged. Evacuees are signing promissory notes. Those citizens will find out how much they owe when they get the bill in the mail. And if a U.S. citizen is killed waiting to evacuate – or because they stayed behind, unable to promise their government they could pay? “We arrange with their families,” Hironimus said. “We discuss their choices, but it’s paid for by the families.” In any case, the spokeswoman assured me, no one would get left behind.

US War Hawks Smell Blood
By Jim Lobe WASHINGTON – Seeing a major opportunity to regain influence lost as a result of setbacks in Iraq, prominent neoconservatives are calling for unconditional US support for Israel’s military offensives in Gaza and Lebanon and “regime change” in Syria and Iran, as well as possible US attacks on Tehran’s nuclear facilities in retaliation for its support of Hezbollah. In a Weekly Standard [hardline pro-Zionist magazine] column titled “Our war”, editor William Kristol called Iran “the prime mover behind the terrorist groups who have started this war”, which, he argued, should be considered part of “the global struggle against radical Islamism”. He complained that Washington recently had done a “poor job of standing up and weakening Syria and Iran” and called on President George W Bush to fly directly from the “silly [Group of Eight] summit in St Petersburg... to Jerusalem, the capital of a nation that stands with us, and is willing to fight with us, against our common enemies”. “This is our war, too,” said Kristol, who was also a founder and co-chairman of the recently lapsed Project for the New American Century (PNAC). [In which it was stated that the US will pursue global military domination and
that the US populace wouldn’t likely agree so a “new Pearl Harbor event” would offer them the opportunity…]

Echoed Larry Kudlow, a neo-conservative commentator, at the Standard’s right-wing competitor, the National Review: “All of us in the free world owe Israel an enormous thank-you for defending freedom, democracy and security against the Iranian cat’s-paw wholly owned terrorist subsidiaries Hezbollah and Hamas. “They are defending their own homeland and very existence, but they are also defending America’s homeland as our frontline democratic [Israel is no democracy – as horrible as a democracy is – the US was founded as a Republican form of gov’t] ally in the Middle East,” according to Kudlow, who, like Kristol and other like-minded polemicists, also named Syria, “which is also directed by Iran”, as a promising target as the conflict expands. The two columns are just the latest examples of a slew of commentaries that have appeared in US print and broadcast media since Israel began bombing targets in Lebanon in retaliation for Hezbollah’s fatal cross-border attack last Wednesday. They appear to be part of a deliberate campaign by neo-conservatives and some of their right-wing supporters to

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depict the current conflict as part of global struggle pitting Israel, as the forward base of Western civilization, against Islamist extremism organized and directed by Iran and its junior partner, Syria. This view was perhaps most dramatically expressed by the former Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, in an appearance on the National Broadcasting Co’s Meet the Press on Sunday when he described the conflict as “the early stages of... the Third World War”. The effort to frame the current round of violence as part of a much larger struggle - and Israel’s role as Washington’s most loyal front-line ally - recalls the neo-conservatives’ early reaction to the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Just nine days after September 11, Kristol and PNAC – whose charter members included Vice President Dick Cheney, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and half a dozen other senior Bush administration officials – released an open letter to Bush that called for the United States to retaliate not only against al-Qaeda and Afghanistan, but also against Israel’s main regional foes, beginning with Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat. In addition, the letter advised, “any war against terrorism must target Hezbollah. We believe that the administration should demand that Iran and Syria immediately cease all military, financial and political support for Hezbollah and its operations. Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these state sponsors of terrorism. “Israel has been and remains America’s staunchest ally against international terrorism, especially in the Middle East,” the letter asserted. “The United States should fully support our fellow democracy in its fight against terrorism.” While the Iraqi and Palestinian components of PNAC’s agenda were soon adopted as policy and in essence achieved, neo-conservative hopes that Bush would move on Hezbollah – as well as Syria and Iran – eventually stalled as US military forces became bogged down in an increasingly bloody and costly counter-insurgency war in Iraq. As the situation in Iraq worsened, neo-conservative influence in and on the administration also declined to the benefit of “realists” based primarily in the State Department who favored a less aggressive policy designed to secure Damascus’ and Tehran’s cooperation in stabilizing Iraq and strengthen the elected Lebanese government of which Hezbollah was made a part. In that context, the current conflict represents a golden opportunity for the neo-conservatives to reassert their influence and reactivate their Israel-centered agenda against Hezbollah and its two state sponsors. “Iran’s proxy war”, blazed the cover of this week’s Weekly Standard, which also featured no fewer than three other articles, besides Kristol’s editorial, underlining Iran’s sponsorship of Hezbollah and Hamas and the necessity of the US standing with Israel, if not taking independent action against Tehran and/or Damascus as recommended by Kristol himself. A major theme of the new campaign is that the more conciliatory “realist” policies toward Syria and Iran pursued by the State Department have actually backfired by making Washington look weak. “They are now testing us more boldly than one would have thought possible a few years ago,” wrote Kristol. “Weakness is provocative. We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak,” he went on, adding that “the right response is renewed strength”, notably “in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran [and] consider[ing] countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities”. The notion that US policy in the region has become far too flaccid and accommodating is echoed by a number of other neo-conservatives, particularly Michael Rubin, a prolific analyst at the hardline American Enterprise Institute and protege of Cheney confidant and former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle. In a companion Standard article, Rubin qualified recent State Department policy as “all talk and no strategy” that had emboldened enemies, especially Iran, to challenge Washington and its allies. In another article for the National Review on Monday, bluntly titled “Eradication first”, Rubin elaborated on that theme, arguing that diplomacy in the current crisis will only be successful “if it commences both after the eradication of Hezbollah and Hamas, and after their paymasters pay a terrible cost for their support. If... peace is the aim, it is imperative to punish the Syrian and Iranian leadership,” he wrote. Above all, according to the neo-conservatives, the US position in the region is now inextricably tied to the success or failure of Israel’s military campaign.

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In yet another Weekly Standard article, titled “The rogues strike back: Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah vs. Israel”, Robert Satloff, executive director of the hawkish, pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued that “defeat for Israel - either on the battlefield or via coerced compromises to achieve flawed ceasefires - is a defeat for US interests; it will inspire radicals of every stripe, release Iran and Syria to spread more mayhem inside Iraq, and make more likely our own eventual confrontation with this emboldened alliance of extremists."

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