Monday, July 24, 2006

Civilian death toll rises in Middle East conflict

A severely burnt Lebanese boy lies in hospital
after a 'phosphorus bomb' attack - Israel deny use
of such bombs

Thousands left the Lebanon on Friday and Saturday in a continuation of what was described by Prime Minister Blair as the biggest evacuation of civilians since Dunkirk. But thousands remain. Families torn apart through nationality issues. Others left to fend for themselves, their governments unwilling or unable to send help. Robert Fisk, in his inevitable polemic style, wrote in the Independent on Friday that the evacuation was more like Munich. “For these mighty craft had not arrived to save Lebanon, to protect a nation now being destroyed by America's ally, Israel, Lebanon whose newly flourishing democracy was hailed by our leaders last year as a rose amid the dictatorships of the Arab world. No, they were creeping through the dawn after asking Israel's permission to help their citizens to flee. These great warships had been sent here by Western leaders (Jacques Chirac excepted) too craven, too gutless, too immoral, to utter a single word of compassion for Lebanon's suffering.”
The suffering continues, and it is mostly civilians who suffer. On both sides civilians have been killed. But the death toll in Lebanon has exceeded 300 in 12 days of intensive strikes. Convoys of civilians attempting to flee the southern town have been targeted by Israeli plane, apparently mistaken for the enemy. Sewage plants, power stations, bridges, roads, milk factories and ambulances have all been targeted. Many parts of Beirut have been badly hit and created a displacement of over half a million people. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who helped broker the 1978 Camp David Israel-Egypt accords, said that Israel’s reaction to the kidnapping was likely to only make new enemies. The former security adviser to President Carter also urged diplomacy and talks in order to solve the crisis. Writing in Time magazine, Brzezinski says, “The experience of the U.S. in Iraq, and the total experience of Israel in its several conflicts with its Arab neighbors, including its ongoing repression of the Palestinians, cumulatively demonstrates that even overwhelming military power cannot produce acceptable and lasting political outcomes.” As the fighting intensifies and the death toll mounts, Israel risks creating a new generation of Arabs that hates Israel with a passion. As abhorrent and despicable as Hezbollah’s actions of kidnapping two soldiers are, the indiscriminate and disproportionate reaction may backfire. Hezbollah are a force to be contended with. Terrorist or not [the US and Israel regard it as a terrorist organisation, however the EU do not list it as such], their support is strong. They effectively forced the withdrawal of Israel once before. Hezbollah was "inspired by the success of the Iranian Revolution" and was formed primarily to combat Israeli occupation following the 1982 Lebanon War. After 18 years of conflict and heavy casualties, Israel withdrew in 2000. But the continuing detention of what Hezbollah regards as prisoners of war by Israel, has precipitated this recent conflict. Hezbollah follows the distinct Shia Islamic ideology developed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Hezbollah not only has armed and political wings but also boasts an extensive social development programme. The civilian wing also runs hospitals, news services, and educational facilities. Throughout most of the Arab and Muslim worlds, Hezbollah is highly regarded as a legitimate resistance movement. The Lebanese government confirmed it as a legitimate resistance against occupation. The resistance against occupation will once again continue as Israel today crossed the Lebanese border into the country. Miri Eisin, Israeli government spokesperson, speaking on Larry King Live, said she was resolute in continuing the offensive against Hezbollah which she described as a terrorist organisation. But already there have been sigificant military casualties. At least 37 Israeli soldiers have died in clashes so far and more than 360 injured. And as Condoleezza Rize lands in Beirut to broker a peace initiative, an Israeli helicopter has come crashing down near to the border, allegedly by a Hezbollah rocket. Posted by Picasa

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