Tuesday, January 15, 2008

20 dead in Middle East chaos

Bomb blasts and air strikes have left up to 20 dead in the Middle East today. The day started with a major incursion into Gaza by Israeli troops backed up by tanks and helicopter gunships. The violence left 17 Palestinians dead, mostly members of Hamas. But amongst the dead were at least 3 civilians according to Al-Jazeera. It was the deadliest attack by Israel this year, which has seen 46 Palestinians killed in the last 15 days. The strike by Israel was in retaliation for a series of missile attacks over recent weeks by Hamas militants.

No sooner than the attacks were over than revenge was being talked about by the militants. Already there have been a few rockets fired into Israel. The fallout from the strikes is likely to leave the peace process in tatters [CNN / BBC].

Later in the afternoon a US diplomatic car was targeted in a north Beirut suburb. The unknown assassin failed to kill the two Lebanese nationals who worked at the US Embassy according to a spokesman. However three Lebanese civilians were killed by the blast [CNN / BBC / Al-Jazeera].

Amidst the Middle East chaos Condoleezza Rice visited Iraq and declared that the situation there was improving [BBC]. The Secretary of State later flew to Saudi Arabia to join President Bush who is in the middle of a tour of the Gulf States. His focus today was on Iran as he made further comment over the country’s harassment of US warships.

Speaking tonight, Condoleezza Rice said she had discussed a number of international issues with the Saudi Foreign Minister. She spoke too of the improving situation in Iraq. “The Iraqi people are finding their way to make strides toward national reconciliation” she said. Moving on to events of the day she expressed outrage with regards the bomb attack in Lebanon. However she made no mention of the incursions by Israel into Gaza which may well destroy the Annapolis peace initiative.

Live coverage of her address was carried only by Al-Jazeera. Neither CNN, BBC 24 or Sky News showed pictures from Riyadh. In general Live coverage of Bush’s Middle East tour has been extremely poor. Only CNN showed a Live clip of Air Force One taxiing as it was about to leave the US for Israel. As he landed at Tel Aviv there was no LIVE coverage at all. Some press calls were shown. Only Sky showed his visit to Galilee Live. As he left Israel, Sky brought Live pictures as did the BBC, but only Sky showed him leaving the plane as he touched down in Kuwait. Bush was soon in the UAE and then Saudi Arabia. But apart from news bulletins there was little coverage of the last leg of the President’s trip including many of his speeches. To some extent President Sarkozy of France has drawn more media attention. He visited Saudi Arabia, without his new girlfriend, to discuss arms deals and sale of civilian nuclear technology. His comments today that even Iran should be allowed to develop peaceful nuclear power may be more of concern to President Bush. The US leader today reiterated his hostile stance against the regime saying that Iran must be confronted “before it is too late”..

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