Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Middle East talks fail


Khaifa - UN post called Israel 10 times before being hit
As the crisis in the Middle East worsens the day to day experience for civilians caught in the bombing becomes ever more difficult. One Lebanese girl, who only recently returned to Beirut after living in the UK, spoke exclusively to TVNewswatch. In an e-mail she says, “The situation here is very dangerous... I am in Beirut at the moment but my parents are in the South and that’s were the war mostly going on.” Her family has already been directly affected by the bombings. “My sisters’ houses are completely destroyed,“ she writes, “so now they are staying with us.” But her concerns are for those who aren’t so lucky. “Even worse, many innocent people are dying.” The daily air strikes on the capital, described by Israel as surgical and specific, are creating fear amongst those that are forced to remain. “Nothing is targeting my house in particular, but we can hear the bombs very close. I am very scared at the moment. I can't eat or sleep properly lately.” As many civilians caught in the war zone she hopes for a return to peace. “I hope this war will end soon,” she says. But her hopes for the future are uncertain. After the violence stops she adds that she wants to find a way of leaving Lebanon.

There has been a failure of brokering a peace deal in the Rome Summit which took place today [CNN]. Condoleeza Rice indicated that no move forward could be made until Hezbollah halted its missile attacks. Dr Rice said, “We have to have a ceasefire that is sustainable”. The Lebanese PM insisted that Israel should call an immediate ceasefire. But besides the talk there is little sign of any resolve. Kofi Anaan, still reeling from yesterday’s attack on a UN post which killed 4 observers, reiterated his consternation [BBC]. He corrected a reporter by saying that his statement said the attack was “apparently deliberately targeted”. Last night the Secretary General released a statement saying, "I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defence Forces of a UN observer post in southern Lebanon" . Several phone calls were made from the UN post to the Israeli authorities calling on the military to ‘be careful’ as missile strikes were hitting closer to the base. But after a day of bombardments, an Israeli missile made its mark. The Chinese Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing said he ‘strongly condemned’ the bombing [Xinhua News]. He said he felt sorrow for the victims and their families. "The Chinese side demands that all sides in the confrontation, especially Israel, take all measures to ensure the safety of UN peacekeepers." The Chinese victim, Du Zhaoyu, was among the four UN peacekeepers killed in the Israeli air strike. The other three dead UN observers were from Finland, Austria and Canada, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) confirmed. Yesterdays fatal incident is not isolated however. Four members of the Ghanaian battalion with UNFIIL were lightly injured Monday evening, when a tank round from the Israeli side impacted inside their position south of Rmaich. They were evacuated to the UNIFIL hospital in Naqoura and their condition is stable. There were six other incidents of firing close to UN positions from the Israeli side during the past 24 hours. Attacks against the UN were not confined to Israeli forces either. On Tuesday morning, Hezbollah opened small arms fire at a UNIFIL convoy consisting of two armored personnel carriers (APC) on the road between Kunin and Bint Jubayl. There was some damage to the APCs, but no casualties. The convoy was obliged to return to Kunin. And the fighting continues today. At least 119 Hezbollah rockets fell on Israel today, an increase on recent days. Meanwhile as Israel continues its land invasion they have suffered ‘heavy losses’ according to reports. Al Jazeera reported at least 13 dead on the Israeli side but no confirmation has yet been received from official sources. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

UN workers killed in Israeli strike


Tuesday in Lebanon ended with Israel hitting a UN compound in Khiam killing 4 UN workers. It puts into jeopardy any peacekeeping force that is to be discussed on Wednesday. The four dead were from Austria, Canada, China and Finland.
Having completed her tour of Lebanon and Israel, Condoleeza Rice is expected in Rome where discussions are to take place as to the implementation of a peacekeeping force. Two countries not invited are Iran and Syria. Iranian officials have already indicated their disapproval of being excluded from the ‘peace talks’. Another sticking point is the number of troops needed and which counties might supply them. The risk to them would undoubtedly be high. In 1983 a peacekeeping operation was hit by a terrorist attack in Beirut killing 241 US marines and 58 French paratroopers. Headlines in many papers in the UK lead with concerns as to where the conflict may be heading. And yesterday King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia expressed his concern of the threat of a wider conflict. "Saudi Arabia warns everybody that if the peace option fails because of Israeli arrogance, there will be no other option but war," state-owned media quoted the king as saying. "No one can predict what will happen if things get out of control," said the statement from the king. "The Arabs have declared peace as a strategic choice ... and put forward a clear and fair proposal of land for peace and have ignored [Arab] extremist calls opposing the peace proposal ... but patience cannot last forever." The king was referring to an Arab peace initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia and adopted in a 2002 Arab summit, which offers Israel a comprehensive peace in return for land it seized in a 1967 Middle East war. Earlier this week Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal held London talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair ahead of a visit to Washington.
“I think we both agree that the real solution is to have Lebanon come back to its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “For that to happen there must be a first step, which is a ceasefire to stop the bombing that is happening.” But so far there has been “All Talk, No Action” as one Lebanese paper put it to its readers. The death toll rises meanwhile. So far more than 150 dead in Gaza, nearly 300 in Lebanon and nearly fifty dead in Israel. And after a day of continued statements of Israel’s resolve in continuing the fight, Hezbollah tonight broadcast a speech from the spiritual leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. In the speech he vowed to strike beyond Haifa, hinting at striking Israel’s capital Tel Aviv. Posted by Picasa

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

First Britons escape Lebanon


Escape - Britons return to high petrol prices

The evacuation of British nationals began this evening as navy warships neared the Lebanese coast. But as the first 180 of several thousands left the country, many thousand Lebanese were left to an uncertain future. By air, sea and land other nationals left in unprecedented scenes. France has 14,000 left stranded and the US also has over 25,000 citizens caught in the warzone. As French, British, Italian and US warships sat off the coast ready to evacuate their citizens to safety, other nationals had to make their own way to escape the violence. By car, four wheel drive vehicle and even on foot, thousands are fleeing towns and cities across Lebanon. There has been continued criticism of the slow pace in which Britain reacted, and in comparison with some countries Britain’s effort is indeed somewhat tardy.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have also been slow. Condoleezza Rice today spoke to the Egyptian leader, but has put off any visit to the region. And tonight Channel 4 news revealed that George W Bush had not yet spoken to Israeli leaders since the conflict began. Only rhetoric has filled the airwaves of local and International TV broadcasts. The strongest criticism has been focused on Israel’s ‘disproportionate’ attacks against its ‘enemy’. The UN has several times requested Israel to react to Hezbollah’s provocation with a measured response. But the bombings continue. And both sides are standing their ground each side blaming the other for initiating the conflict. Depending how far one looks the blame can shift to either side, but the build to Israel’s attacks on Gaza and subsequent attacks on Lebanon start in mid June.
On the 9th June a missile attack on a Gaza beach killed many civilians [BBC]. Eyewitnesses described the carnage in which 7 died including three children [BBC]
The Israelis said an investigation would be launched and later said it was ‘not Israel’s fault’ [BBC]. Again it was not long before each side blamed the other [BBC] and the following day Hamas’ military wing withdrew its self imposed ceasefire [BBC]. In a statement on its website, the Izzedine al Qassam Brigades said Israeli "massacres" had spurred the decision.
The US based human rights watch group later said Israel’s explanation about the beach bombardment was ‘not credible’ [BBC]
On the 24th June Israel ‘kidnapped’ two men said to be members of Hamas [BBC]. The following day Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier and killed two others [BBC] Hamas initially said it had knew nothing about the soldier, but urged any captors to keep him alive and treat him well. Hamas who had also declared an end to an unofficial truce with Israel, later said the operation was a response to recent deaths of civilians and the targeted killings of two militant leaders. The raid was claimed by the military wing of the ruling Hamas party, Ezzedine al-Qassam, the Popular Resistance Committees and a group calling itself the Palestinian Army of Islam. The rest is history.

The conflict has also brought wider repercussions for motorists. Oil prices have risen dramatically and in Britain many motorists are paying in excess of £1 per litre [BBC]. The UK government has responded by saying that they will freeze the tax on fuel for the foreseeable future [Guardian]. Any widen conflict will have widespread repercussions throughout the entire globe. Posted by Picasa

Asia - Storms and Tsunamis kill hundreds


Over 300 have died in a natural disaster in Indonesia. A tsunami measuring over 20 metres struck the coast after a series of earthquakes hit the area around Java. The first quake hit at 08:19 local time on the 17th July [Monday] measuring 7.7 [BBC]. Three further tremors exceeding 5.5 on the Richter scale hit the area throughout the day and two earthquakes hit early Tuesday. At least 100 are missing and hundreds more have been displaced. China has also suffered many losses after heavy floods swept across many central provinces. CNN reported over 100 missing whilst Sky reported 185 dead. It is one of the worst rainy seasons China has seen in many years [BBCPosted by Picasa

Exodus - Thousands flee war torn Lebanon


Described as a ‘major major escalation’ by an Israeli spokesman, a Hezbollah missile hit Haifa on Thursday. Israeli rockets hit the Foreign Ministry in Gaza but the new front in Lebanon has become the new focus of attention. The UN criticised Israel’s use of air attacks to destroy the infrastructure within Gaza creating what has been described as a humanitarian crisis in the making. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Observer to the UN, said, “When you destroy electrical power and cut of water you are collectively punishing the whole population.” However a resolution put forward at the UN was vetoed by the United States and the continued Israeli bombardment of Lebanese towns has forced thousands to leave the country. British, French and Canadian nationals were amongst hundreds being evacuated by their respective country’s airforce and navy. It has been described as the biggest evacuation since Dunkirk. There are up to 23,000 British citizens in Lebanon, and only 66 have as yet been evacuated. Many evacuees have arrived in Cyprus which is struggling to cope with the large influx of people as they arrive at the height of the tourist season. The struggle to get pictures out of the country is as difficult as it is to remove stranded foreign nationals. Sky News broadcast pictures from Haifa and Jerusalem using conventional satellite technology whilst pictures coming from Beirut were relayed via satellite phone. But there is not saturation coverage usually associated with such big stories. Newspapers are for the most part, placing the coverage of this building crisis to its inside pages. One exception being the Independent which has heavily criticised the Israeli bombardment. Robert Fisk described what he was seeing in the Lebanon as an ‘outrage’. In Monday’s Independent he described the destruction of apartment blocks as Israeli missiles rained down on the city. Some strikes could indeed be described as terrorist targets, but the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis is mounting. But there are targets which many might not consider ‘legitimate’ targets. Power stations, ports, airports, sewage plants, roads, railways and bridges have also been hit. This has further complicated the evacuation of the many foreign nationals still trapped in the country. Most of the French nationals have been safely removed from Lebanon after a ferry was chartered and swiftly docked in Beirut. But Britain has been criticised for dragging its feet in its evacuation effort. Sky News reported that six warships were moored off the coast but a decision was still being awaited as to when stranded Britons might be transported out of the war torn capital.

World leaders have debated a possible solution to the violence at the G8 summit held in Moscow. UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan has suggested a significant multi-nation force be sent to quell the continuing fighting. But there has been little support for such a move. In fact a ‘private’ chat between George W Bush and Tony Blair brought little comfort to those who might seek a quick solution [BBC]. In the unguarded speech, caught by broadcast microphones, President Bush said to the Prime Minister, “What about Kofi Annan - he seems all right. I don't like his ceasefire plan. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything sorts out.... But I think...”, Tony Blair interjected, “Yeah the only thing I think is really difficult is that we can't stop this without getting international presence agreed. I think what you guys have talked about which is the criticism of the [inaudible word]. I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is, but you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral.” As the chat continued, the frankness between the two world leaders became clear. “You see the irony is what they [the UN] need to is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's all over...”, Bush said to Blair [BBC]

Menzies Campbell, the British Liberal Democrat leader, said he was “depressed and pessimistic” as the conflict escalated. The conflict has killed over 200 in Lebanon as Israeli war planes bomb the country for the seventh successive day. Israel too has suffered casualties. At least 24 have died in Hezbollah missile attacks. But just as Hezbollah attacks increase the resolve of the Israeli government, so too does the continued attacks by Israel increase the support for Hezbollah. And so the conflict continues with little sign of any solution and with an increased danger of a wider Middle-East conflict. Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 14, 2006

Diana pictures outrage British press


After nearly 9 years, controversy continues to surround the death of Princess Diana. The car crash on 31 August 1997 has been blamed on the paparazzi who were alleged to have ‘chased her to her death’, the fault of a Henry Paul whom it has been alleged was drunk, and even a deliberate assassination by British secret service. There has been no definitive proof of any of the above, but the publication of pictures taken on the night are proving too much to bear for many. The Italian magazine Chi, this week went to press with a large reproduction of a black and white photograph showing Diana in the car as she lay dying [BBC]
The banner read ‘World Exclusive’ [Exclusiva Mondiale] and described it as the Ultimate Photo [L’Ultima Foto]. It is not the first time photographs from the crash have been published. Soon after the crash, a German magazine also published a series of pictures, prompting many UK stores to pull the magazines from the shelves. And many British newspapers have demanded similar action after Chi hit Italian news-stands this week.
Mohammed Al Fayed, whose son Dodi was also killed in the crash, described the publication of the photograph as ‘vile’, whilst the editor of Chi magazine, Umberto Brindani, described it as ‘tender’ and ‘touching’. He said he published the picture simply because it had not been seen before. "In my opinion it is not a picture which is offensive to the memory of Princess Diana," he said, "She is not dead in the picture but looks as if she is a sleeping princess." The Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera also reproduced the front cover of the magazine in its coverage of the story, and the Spanish magazine Interviu also published the picture, though not on its website. The Diana Memorial Fund said the photograph’s publication was “in very poor taste." The photo and autopsy are lifted from a new French book, out this year. Even its author Jean Michel Caradec'h admitted snaps from the 1997 Paris crash were "shocking pictures that should not have ended in the public domain". Three paparazzi who photographed the dying princess were convicted in France of breaching her privacy. They were each fined €1. Former Met chief Lord Stevens has carried out an inquiry into her death with his initial findings expected later in summer [BBCPosted by Picasa

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Iran, Syria and Lebanon to blame say Israel


The escalation of violence in the Middle East is making the prospect of a peaceful resolve ever more distant. Overnight Israeli planes bombed Lebanon’s only international airport at Beirut, Israel citing that it was a transit point for arms and ammunition. As the bombardments against the militants continue, many civilians are also being caught up in the cycle of violence. The BBC reported that more than 80 Palestinians had died in Gaza since the recent Israeli incursions began. Although some militants had been dispatched by these raids, many civilians and police had also died. In one attack yesterday an air attack targeting a Hamas leader killed nearly an entire family in an adjacent building. The Hamas militant was said to have escaped with minor injuries. In the overnight raids on Lebanon at least 27 were reported killed [BBC]. Israeli warships have now imposed a blockade around Lebanon but their actions have only strengthened the resolve of Hezbollah and Hamas who have stated that Israel are ‘deluded’ if they believe such actions will free the captured soldiers. Israel has also suffered casualties in their attempt to free the three military personnel. Yesterday’s raids saw the deaths of 8 Israeli soldiers and at least one civilian was killed after a rocket fired by Hezbollah targeted the coastal town of Nahariyah.
Lebanon has insisted that it has no control over the Hezbollah guerrillas [Fox News] but Israel have said that not only the Lebanon, but also Syria and Iran were allied in the war against Israel [Fox News]. Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa denied his country had a role in either of the abductions and instead blamed Israel. "For sure, the occupation (of the Palestinian territories) is the cause provoking both the Lebanese and Palestinian people, and that's why there is Lebanese and Palestinian resistance," he said. There has been no word from Iran or Syria. But support for Israel’s stance came from the White House late Wednesday. A statement read "The United States condemns in the strongest terms this unprovoked act of terrorism, which was timed to exacerbate already high tensions in the region and sow further violence. We also hold Syria and Iran, which have provided long-standing support for Hezbollah, responsible for today's violence. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers."
The Al Manar television station in Beirut was also targeted by Israeli planes in an attempt to silence the voice of Hezbollah. But the station remained on the air early Thursday. Six were injured in the raid and at least one employee according to Al Manar Television spokesman Ibrahim Moussawi who spoke to CNN on Thursday morning. The reaction of the world’s media is mixed. The BBC reported. Whilst Austria’s Die Presse said it was right to react to Hezbollah’s “provocation” but The Spanish daily El Pais said the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in Lebanon by the pro-Iranian Islamist group Hezbollah has stirred up "the hornets nest again". Die Presse also acknowledged the dangers of Israel’s ‘invasion’ of the Lebanon. The paper said the actions only help "prophets of the apocalypse" such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Die Tageszeitung in Germany said the "pointless escalation" of violence showed that the international community should intervene. "Today we are paying the price for the fact that the US, Europe and the UN did not force Israel and the Palestinians to make concessions a long time ago", the paper said. Spain’s El Pais also called on US and the EU to take “more drastic measures than simple calls for calm”.Speaking in Germany, President George W Bush said, “There are a group of terrorists who want to stop the advancement of peace…We were heading towards a peace-map and the terrorists stepped in to stop it”. “The terrorists [Hamas and Hezbollah] don’t want peace,” he added. Other leaders have also made statements. Angela Merkel of Germany said the kidnapping of the soldiers was “not acceptable”. Bush adding that it was, “a sad situation when there was a chance of two state solution and then we see kidnappings and …quite frankly it’s pathetic, and Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorist attack.” He continued by saying, “Syria must be held to account for its involvement with Hezbollah”. But he said he was concerned over the weakening of the Lebanese government. “Democracy in the Lebanon is a foundation for peace in the area”, he said. But he reiterated Israel’s right to protect itself from terrorist attacks. Not all leaders have been so reserved. The French Foreign Minister has called Israel’s reaction “disproportionate” [Reuters]. "For several hours, there has been a bombardment of an airport of an entirely sovereign country, a friend of France ... this is a disproportionate act of war," Philippe Douste-Blazy told Europe 1 radio station. But besides the rhetoric and statements, little progress has been made in trying to resolve the situation. The Arab League is set to meet in order to find a solution. But the war of words may do little to stop the war on the ground. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hezbollah draws Lebanon into Israeli conflict


A growing conflict builds between paramilitary groups aligned to the Palestinian cause and the Jewish state of Israel. On Wednesday Hezbollah rebels captured two Israeli soldiers near the Lebanon border during skirmishes. Several Israeli soldiers were killed as Israel mounted incursions into Lebanon. Israel has called the Hezbollah actions an “Act of War” and there looks to be no end in sight in this tit for tat military action. UN Secretary Kofi Annan condemned the Israel attack on southern Lebanon and requested them to withdraw, calling on them to show restraint. He also made a request that Hezbollah return the captured soldiers saying that it did nothing to diffuse the tense situation between all side [BBC]. Israeli planes targeted a bridge in southern Lebanon later in the day killing two civilians according to some reports [CNNPosted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

India - Trains hit by rush hour bombs


India’s evening rush-hour has been struck by a series of terrorist bombs. At least 6 blasts have hit commuter trains at Mira Road, Borivili, Jogeshwari, Khar, Matunga, and Bhayander in Mumbai, western India. Airports have been placed on high alert and western rail systems have been shutdown. The first blast occurred at around 18:20 local time swiftly followed by a series of synchronous blasts at the other five locations. At least 15 were reported dead at Matunga and the death toll is likely to rise well into three figures.
CNN have been showing pictures and reports from it’s sister station CNN-IBN whilst Sky News in the UK, first to break the news, were showing censored pictures from Star News. BBC 24 finally broke the news and also showed pictures from Star News television. There are further reports of a 7th explosion near Santacruz. BBC broke away from coverage after a few minutes leaving only CNN and Sky to continue bring viewers repeated images of the unfurling disaster. It is the latest in a string of terror attacks that have hit the continent in the last few months. Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 07, 2006

Britain remembers 7/7 victims


A US report has uncovered a terror plot to bomb the Holland Tunnel in Lower Manhattan, New York [Daily News]. This news released on the same day that Britain commemorates its first anniversary of a terror attack that left 52 dead. On the 7th of July 2005 four suicide bombers detonated their explosives on London’s transport network, three underground trains and a London bus. But the legacy is that Britain’s preparedness for another attack has moved forward very little. A report from the London Assembly has already highlighted a catalogue of failures on the day. Communications failure, lack of command structure and shortage of medical supplies being just some of the many problems faced by London’s emergency services. Calls for a public enquiry have also been resisted strongly by the UK government, Tony Blair insisting there would be “little more to learn” from such an enquiry. A similar enquiry into the 9/11 terror attacks in the USA was also fiercely resisted by George W. Bush, but after much pressure from the media, senators and families of the victims he conceded. The result – a 567 page bestseller which outlined a number of failures and put forward many recommendations. It seems unlikely that the UK will follow suit in providing the public with such a document. The UK has a very different way of recording events. After the US terror attacks many publishers and news organisations released books in commemoration of the events. The New York Times published “A Nation Challenged”, a large hardback book showing in depth coverage, analysis and photographs. Even the NYPD [New York Police Dept] published a book, “Above Hallowed Ground”, a document of the police’s roll that day. One book reproduced more than 1000 photographs taken by professionals and members of the public. The images reflect many different emotions of the day, hope, despair, love, strength and resilience. “Here Is New York” also raised money for the victims of 9/11.
In the UK there were no commemorative books covering the events of the 7/7 attacks. Britain’s reaction is far more muted. But there are shows of defiance as seen in Alfie Dennen’s website We’re Not Afraid, set up as a response to the bombings and inspired partly by the reaction of the Spanish who marched in defiance of the terrorist following the Madrid bombings of 11th March 2004.
However many Londoners would prefer to forget or move on. Tragic though the events of 7/7 were, many express a fateful view, “When your time is up, your time is up”, one commuter told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Indeed many more people die on Britain’s roads, or from cancer, AIDS and countless industrial accidents. But terrorism is preventable, to a degree. Intelligence failures have highlighted the problem Britain faces in attempting to protect the country from further attacks. Some of the bombers had already shown up on intelligence files but little action was taken. Even US intelligence warned MI5 about their concerns of Mohammad Sidique Kahn but no action was taken [The Times]. Although MI5 has always denied knowing that Mohammad Sidique Khan was a potential danger, the CIA is alleged to have discovered in 2003 that he was planning attacks on American cities. The disclosures are made in a book by the award-winning author Ron Suskind that is serialised today in The Times. The claims contradict evidence from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director-General of MI5, to the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee that Khan had never been listed as a terror threat before the attack
There have been successes however. The Metropolitan Police have, they say, thwarted many terror cells and possible terror attacks. Some trials are indeed ongoing.
But as Britain marked the day with two minutes silence, there were many mixed emotions for the families of the 52 dead and the 770 injured, many of whom have received little, if any, compensation. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 06, 2006

7/7 bomber video released on anniversary


A video showing Britain’s first suicide bomber, Shehzad Tanweer, has surfaced on the internet and been shown on Al-Jazeera television. BBC News 24 also broke with the news at 13:15 GMT and showed a short segment in which Tanweer explains his actions against the British people. He was responsible for the Aldgate station bombing which killed 7 people on the 7th July 2005. In the video Tanweer says, “To the non-muslims, you British, you voted for a government which is responsible for the oppression and killing of brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya”. He added a statement saying, “It’s only the beginning”. CNN and Sky News have yet to show the video and Tanweer’s family have, according to the BBC, refused to make a comment. The video over shadows many special commemorative programmes set to saturate television and radio broadcasting tomorrow, the 1st anniversary of the 7/7 terror attacks on London’s transport system. It will also leave a bad taste in the mouth for many. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

North Korean missile tests - 'a provocative act'


It wasn’t just fireworks that filled the sky on America’s Independence Day. The 4th of July was also marked with the launch of space shuttle Discovery, continued missile launches from both sides in the Gaza stand-off, and at the end of the day the first test firing of North Korea's long range missile. After yesterday’s test of the Taepodong-2 long-range missile, the world has reacted angrily. Japan has threatened sanctions and both Japan and South Korean’s military have been placed on high alert. Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said that dialogue was needed to solve the crisis. The US administration has confirmed that NORAD was ready to intercept the missiles if necessary. Sandy Berger [Natl Security Adviser] speaking on CNN’s Larry King, said he was not surprised by the test firings and said the US needed to react with a stern response. John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, said, “We’ve been running an arms race with North Korea and we’re still losing”, but added, “we need to re-evaluate our objectives”. Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, said she was very concerned about North Korea’s motives, besides the missile tests apparently failing. The US military today confirmed that a total of 7 missiles were fired, 1 Taepodong-2 long-range missile and six short to medium range missiles. Republican Duncan Hunter, [R] Calif. Chmn Armed Services Cmmte, told Larry King he expected that it would only be a matter of time before North Korea could hit the US and “we need to be prepared”.

Margaret Becket, Britain’s foreign secretary, said the missile tests were “provocative”. Described as an unstable part of the world by a BBC correspondent, it was suggested the tests could start an arms race [BBC] with Japan and increase tensions with Japan and China. China is North Korea’s closest ally. The UN Security Council is to be convened soon but consensus between 15 countries is likely to be difficult to achieve. CNN’s David Roth said the tests certainly got the world’s attention, and “a few senators were likely upset at having the World Cup interrupted by this news”. Senator Jon Kyl, [R] Arizona, described Kim Jong-il's action as a “temper tantrum” and said that the US should pressure China to force North Korea to attend the negotiating table. As yet there has been no official word from China. North Korea also remains silent and no statement has yet been released by Kim Jong-il or his government.

CNN broke into the re-broadcast Larry King Live in order to inform viewers that a seventh missile at 17:22 local time [08:22 GMT]. It was unclear what type of missile it was according to Atika Shubert, CNN’s Tokyo correspondent, who also said that there was a small dip on the stock market but compared to recent financial scandals it was not that significant. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

North Korea tests Taepodong-2 - US officials report


Described by one US government source as a “provocative act designed to get attention”, North Korea has tested three Taepodong-2 long-range missiles. CNN broke the news in the last hour and saturation coverage continues. BBC 24 and Sky continue with sports coverage of the World Cup football match of Italy’s win against Germany. The missiles were said to have landed near to the Japanese island of Hokkaido . The reaction by the American administration is likely to be hostile. The UN will also be discussing the issue in New York tomorrow. Russia, China and Japan, as well as the US are also expected to hold talks on the issue soon. The US military confirmed that the first missile launched at 14:34 ET [18:34 GMT] followed shortly thereafter by a second. A third missile was fired over an hour later at 16:03 ET [20:03 GMT]. All of the missiles appeared to fail less than a minute into each missile launch. And in the latest reports a NORAD official talking to CNN’s Kyra Phillips confirmed a fourth missile, believed to be a short range missile has been launched in the last fifteen minutes [approximately 18:15 ET, 22:15 GMT]. Posted by Picasa

Discovery makes a successful launch


Space Shuttle Discovery has made a successful launch. STS-121 took off at 18:38 GMT [14:38 EDT] and within minutes was in orbit. It is the first launch to occur on America's Independence Day, July 4th. It is set to take new supplies to the International Space Station [ISS]. Besides cracks found in the insulating foam NASA decided to go ahead with the launch, saying that the parts of foam were too small to do damage. The shuttles are due to be retired by 2010, but NASA are hoping to make a further 16 missions from the remaining three shuttles before that time. Posted by Picasa

Shuttle Discovery ready for launch


Space shuttle Discovery looks set to blast off within 2 hours after NASA gave the go ahead. This is despite engineers finding a hairline crack in the insulating foam on the main external fuel tank [NASA]. The crack had threatened to scrub the mission of STS-121 whih had already been put back twice due to bad weather. The shuttle is due to take off at 18:38 GMT/UTC/ZULU [14:38 EDT local time] from Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida [NASA - Shuttle main page / NASA TVPosted by Picasa

War on Terror death toll nears 50,000


The War on Terror has continued this last week on many fronts and seen over 100 dead and many more injured. The worst violence has been seen in Iraq with continued bombings, abductions and executions. Saturday saw one of the worst attacks in months with over 60 killed in a suicide bomb attack in a Baghdad market place. More bombings on Monday killed at least 8 [BBC]. And if the latest messages from Usama bin Laden are to give an insight as to the future, the attacks are likely to worsen and be specifically targeted against the Shi’ite population [BBC], seen my many insurgent groups as being in collusion with ‘occupying forces’. In his latest message bin Laden also praised the late leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and requested that the US return his body to his family. The two messages from the al-Qaeda leader were the 4th and 5th communiqu├ęs this year. There has not been any video seen of America’s Most Wanted terrorist since October 2004. The death of Zarqawi has had little impact on the violence a US ambassador to the country has admitted [BBC]. The week also saw further arrests, charges and allegations related to the abuse of prisoners and civilians. The worst case to be highlighted was that of the rape and killing of members of an Iraqi family by members of the 101st Airborne Division [BBC]. The civilian death toll has increased to nearly 40,000 according to an independent body which has monitored the conflict since it started in March 2003 [BBC]. The coalition has lost a total of 2,764 troops [icasualties.org] whilst the relatively newly formed Iraqi police force has lost 2,145. The casualty list also continues to rise in Afganistan with coalition deaths measured at 403 [icasualties.org]. Between both operations, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US has lost 2,853 personnel whilst the British have lost 125. Other coalition members have collectively lost 189 military personnel. The cost in lives in the global War on Terror has since and including the events of 9/11 has exceeded 47,000.

Iraq – 38, 353 civilians / 2,145 police / 2,764 coalition / 341 contractors = 43,603

Afghanistan – 403 coalition / unknown civilian casualties

11/09/01 NYC -2,986
11/04/02 Tunisia – 21
14/06/02 US Consulate, Karachi, Pakistan
04/07/02 LA Airport – 2
12/10/02 Bali, Indonesia – 202
12/05/03 US compound Saudi Arabia – 26
15/20/11/06 Turkey HSBC British Consulate - 57
11/03/04 Madrid - 192
07/07/05 London – 52
23/07/05 Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt – 88
09/11/06 Jordan hotels – 62

Total – 47,706

List of Terrorist Incidents Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Palestine - Government building hit by Israeli missile


The Hamas Parliament building has been hit in Gaza city by an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli army confirmed to CNN that 1 missile was fired at the government office. No casualties were reported. John Vause, CNN Correspondent, told viewers that there had been many airstrikes throughout the evening. His transmission was cut off due to communication problems. Posted by Picasa

China - Highest railway opens


The highest railway opened in Tibet today without a hitch. Over 5,000 metres above sea level at some points it runs over 1,000 km from Lhasa in Tibet to Beijing in Qinghai province. It is a feat of engineering and even the trains incorporate special air-conditioning systems in order to cope with the thin air in the high altitudes [BBC]. At Lhasa, in Tibet, the altitude is 3,600 metres above sea level and even the reporter covering the launch for CCTV-9 said she had experienced shortness of breath and that it had taken two days for her to adjust to the thinner air. The railway is likely to increase the tourist industry for Tibet significantly. But there are also worries that there will be a greater environmental impact from as a result of the increased human traffic [BBCPosted by Picasa

Weather may stop Discovery launch


Bad weather, rather than safety fears, looks set to delay the 2nd Space Shuttle launch since the disaster 2 years ago when Columbia burned up on re-entry in February 2003 [BBC]. Meteorologists are forecasting a 60% chance of cloudy skies and showers and the mission is likely to be put on hold. Birds, specifically Vultures, may a hazard to the launch of STS-121 according to a report on CNN. STS-121 has a number of tasks to complete as a part of its mission. Twenty-one biological and technical experiments are assigned to STS-121. In one experiment, researchers will study the effects of spaceflight on the immune system by measuring astronauts' white blood cell levels before and after the mission. A technical experiment will test a new coolant mixture that is expected not to freeze when auxiliary power is turned off, which happens with the current coolant -- water. Mission specialists Mike Fossum and Piers Sellers will also perform two 6.5 hour extra-vehicular activities (EVAs). They will test the shuttle's 100-foot robotic arm to see if it can provide a stable platform for working on hard-to-reach areas of the orbiter and replace broken parts of the space station's movable robotic arm. The risk of not completing the mission will only add to the debate to cut expenditure on the Space budget further. A catastrophic failure could shut down the whole shuttle program NASA administrator Michael Griffin suggested. "If we have a major unexpected piece of foam come off, then clearly we're quite vulnerable. It says that there is a lot about this that we still don't understand," Griffin said. Griffin has said he would move to shut down the program if there were another accident or serious problem with the shuttle [Reuters]. Discovery is set to launch at 19:49 GMT [15:49 EDT local time] from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, on Saturday 1st July [NASA]. Posted by Picasa