27 Jan 06

Hamas won a crushing victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, it swept away Fatah's 40-year monopoly of power, presenting a challenge to western policy towards "terrorist organisations".

President Bush wanted democracy in the Middle East, but only if his team won. Read more about this at top writing service such as https://topwritingservice.com/ where everything will be described in detail and in understandable language.

Ironically, it was Israel that helped Hamas to power. They did everything in their power to humiliate Abbas, refusing talks, giving him nothing. It was in Israel's interest to ensure that Abbas became popular, not to stymie the Fatah government at every turn.
Abbas seemed helpless, nothing was changing, life just getting harder, Israeli roadblocks, missiles fired into the streets, poverty and hunger. Hamas offered hope, fight back, some dignity. This is what happened in Germany after WW1, not only was life hard, but the "winners" had taken away Germany's dignity. Hitler offered work, Hitler offered the restoration of German dignity.

Now wouldn't you have thought that lesson would have been learnt by now?
Monday January 30, 2006

Aya al-Astal a nine-year-old Palestinian girl wandered towards the fence along the border between the Gaza strip and Israel. The Israeli army later said Aya was behaving in a suspicious manner reminiscent of a terrorist - she got too close to the border fence - and so a soldier fired several bullets into the child, hitting her in the neck and blowing open her stomach.

Aya was the second child killed by the Israeli army last week. Soldiers near Ramallah shot 13-year-old Munadel Abu Aaalia in the back as he walked along a road reserved for Jewish settlers with two friends.

The two killings went unnoticed by the outside world amid the political drama, but they made their impact among Palestinians angered by demands from western leaders for Hamas to recognise Israel and renounce its armed struggle.
Some Palestinians see the demands as a rejection of a democratic election and as siding with Israel. Others see hypocrisy. They say Israeli soldiers killed twice as many Palestinians last week alone - both of them children - as the number of Israelis killed by Hamas all last year.
Hamas is responsible for the murder of more than 400 Israelis. But since it declared a ceasefire a year ago the group has killed one Israeli, according to the Israeli government's own figures.
"Hamas has kept the calm for a year. Israel is still killing our civilians," said the Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar. "Why is it that the Israelis can continue to kill our people, innocent people walking down the street, and there is no criticism from those who tell us we must give up our historic struggle against occupation? Why are they so afraid to criticise Israel but tell us what to do?"
Double Standard: Ehud Olmert, joined the US, Britain and other countries in calling on the Islamist group (which has killed hundreds of people in suicide bombings, just as Israel has killed hundreds of civilians in missile attacks and sniper shootings), to renounce violence and its goal of destroying Israel if it wants international recognition.

Hamas is accused of not recognizing Israel and using violence to achieve its goals, it is continually being told that it must recognize Israel and renounce violence, yet Israel does not recognize Hamas, and has never renounced violence to achieve its goals. Hamas officials have said they want to destroy Israel, Israel say they want to destroy Hamas. It would be best if both sides renounced violence and talked to each other.
25 June 2006

  A British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, Cook is writing regularly on events from there. A recent piece of his noted that just before the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted on June 25, Israel had abducted two Palestinians. Cook wrote: "Few readers of a British newspaper would have noticed the story. In the Observer of 25 June, it merited a mere paragraph hidden in the 'World in brief' section, revealing that the previous day a team of Israeli commandos had entered the Gaza Strip to 'detain' two Palestinians Israel claims are members of Hamas. The significance of the mission was alluded to in a final phrase describing this as 'the first arrest raid in the territory since Israel pulled out of the area a year ago.'"
"Israeli commandos had entered the Gaza Strip to 'detain' two Palestinians " The original piece in the Observer is at their website. A small paragraph somewhat down the page.
The full story here.

This is an interesting point, and the double standard again. Israeli forces continually abduct Palestinians, indeed there are thousands in Israeli jails/ compounds. Nor did it stop there. Shortly afterwards half of the Hamas parliament were kidnapped and taken to Israel, to be held as hostages.
Tuesday February 7, 2006
Israeli missile strike incinerates two militants

The Guardian

Israeli forces fired a missile at a car in the northern Gaza Strip last night witnesses said, killing two Palestinian militants. Paramedics and witnesses said the missile destroyed the car and incinerated the two men inside. They were identified as members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an offshoot of the Fatah movement.
Imagine the outcry in Israel if Hamas used missiles to kill Israeli politians/ army generals, or civilians. Yes, Hamas has continually killed Israeli civilians of all kinds, hundreds, and this is wrong, utterly wrong. Everyone condemns this, but many accepts that it is okay for Israel to murder Palestinians. Israel would say they are only trying to kill "terrorists" but they usually kill more Palestinian civilians than "terrorists". If killing civilians makes one a terrorist, then the Israelis are better terrorists than Hamas.
Monday February 27, 2006 12:01 PM
Israel Won't Hold Peace Talks With Abbas

Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel said Monday it will not hold peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas because he is powerless to enforce agreements while the Islamic militant group Hamas controls his government, signaling a hardening of Israel's position and a growing rift with the United States.
The United States and European Union have suggested they will keep working with the moderate Abbas even after a Hamas government takes office in coming weeks.
Of course they will not negotiate. Remember when the Road Map was first proposed, they had 14 core objections, with many more in reserve. They have no desire to negotiate, when they are slowly but surely getting what they want. Negotiations, would only give them less.

Tuesday February 28, 2006
The Guardian

The European Union announced yesterday that it would pay £94.5m in emergency aid to the Palestinian Authority, which is on the verge of financial collapse.

Brussels insisted that only a small part of the money (£11.9m) would go directly to the caretaker Palestinian government, pending the formation of a Hamas-backed government, which Europe says it will not fund unless the group renounces violence and recognises Israel. The money would cover the authority's "basic needs": health, education, wages and energy bills.
  If some relief were not coming, lawlessness would follow. The Marshall Plan was a great success, this is not a Marshall Plan, but maybe an M... Plan. American politicians had some foresight after WW2, without the Marshall Plan another dictator would have arisen. What has happened to those thoughtful American planners? Now all we have George W Bush and Condo Rice; only clones need apply.
  Friday March 10, 2006 5:16 AM
Israel to Draw West Bank Borders by 2010
Associated Press Writer

  JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel will determine its border with the West Bank in the absence of talks with the Palestinians, and then build a wall and move all settlers to the Israeli side, acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview published Friday.

 On Thursday Olmert said Israel will draw its final borders by 2010, for the first time setting a deadline for what is expected to be a unilateral large-scale West Bank pullback.

Olmert, in comments carried by the Yediot Ahronot daily Friday, also threatened to assassinate incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas if he is involved in terrorism - a threat made Tuesday by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.
   The borders would be drawn to Israel's satisfaction without negotiations with Palestinians. Olmert, like all other Israeli leaders does not want a "partner", and will always find a way to discredit any Palestinian negotiators. Why? Because it is obvious to the whole world they are stealing land by force. They feel they will get more land, if they make a unilateral declaration about where the borders are, rather than talking with the victim. The only problem is, it is hardly likely to bring long-term peace.

   It is hard to recall any other leader calling for the assassination of incoming Prime Ministers. Okay, yes JFK had some assassinations done, but what goes around (sometimes) comes around. It is does not sound like Olmert is making much of an attempt to solve problems without recourse to violence.

Hamas are no better, it is just that Hamas are condemned for what they say, while Israeli leaders are considered "realistic".
March 17, 2006
By Steven Erlanger, Jerusalem

THE Palestinian economy would be thrown into a deep depression, with incomes dropping by nearly 30 per cent, if Israel withholds revenues from a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and donor countries cut aid, according to a World Bank study.

The Palestinian economy would shrink by 27 per cent in 2006 — a one-year contraction comparable to the Depression in the United States. Unemployment would nearly double and two-thirds of the population would be living below poverty level.

The study, sent to donor countries on Wednesday, was sought to help guide their policies after Hamas' election victory on January 25.

The figures illustrate the policy dilemma of the United States and the European Union, which do not want to provide money to Hamas but also do not want to punish ordinary Palestinians for a democratic vote.

In Washington on Wednesday, James Wolfensohn, the Quartet's special Middle East envoy, warned that cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority would lead to chaos and "increased radicalisation of Palestinian society".

Mr Wolfensohn, who indicated that he is likely to step down from his post shortly, was testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He voiced concern over the expected failure to meet the Palestinian government payroll, which exceeds $US100 million ($A136 million) a month to pay 135,000 people. No one in the US or Europe is talking about making those payments in full once Hamas takes office.

"If you don't pay the civil servants, who themselves support 900,000 people," he said, "I'm afraid the frustration would reach a level where you couldn't contain it."

Well, surely this makes sense? Why punish people for voting for their candidate? Every time Israel or the US punishes the population, they turn towards radicals.
April 13, 2006
The Uber-Wardens
by Amira Hass

Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation are imprisoned in a thicket of physical, corporeal barriers of all types and sizes (checkpoints, roadblocks, blockades, fences, walls, steel gates, roads prohibited to traffic, dirt embankments, concrete cubes) and by a frequently updated assortment of bans and limitations. There are permanent bans, to which various periodic bans are supplemented. Even without recurrent nighttime raids by the army to arrest wanted men, even without the shelling that fails to stop the firing of Qassam rockets, life is completely disrupted.

The disruption of life and the bans are not reported as "news," because they are the routine. And this routine erodes any hope for a humane future.

Gazan natives are not permitted to be in the West Bank. Palestinians, including residents of Jericho, are not permitted to be in the Jordan Valley (except for those with official addresses there). It is prohibited to drive in a private car through the Abu Dis checkpoint (which divides the northern and southern parts of the West Bank). It is forbidden to enter Nablus by car. It is forbidden for Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem to enter West Bank cities (except for Ramallah). Citizens of Arab states married to Palestinians are prohibited from entering the West Bank.

These restrictions apply right across the West Bank. Village roads are bulldozed, blocked by concrete, checkpoints are everywhere. It is all part of Israel's control of life in the West Bank.
Monday April 17, 2006 9:31 PM
Palestinians: Tel Aviv Bombing Justified
Associated Press Writer

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - A Palestinian suicide bomber struck a packed fast-food restaurant during Passover on Monday, killing nine other people and wounding dozens in the deadliest attack in more than a year.

In a sharp departure from the previous Palestinian government's condemnations of bombings, the Hamas-led administration said the attack resulted from Israel's "brutal aggression.'' The bloodshed and the hard-line stance could set the stage for harsh Israeli reprisals and endanger Palestinian efforts to secure desperately needed international aid.

Israel said it held Hamas responsible for the attack - even though another group claimed responsibility - and Israel's security chiefs were meeting later Monday to discuss what action to take. Security officials said a ground operation in Gaza was not being considered.

The attack occurred just two hours before Israel's newly elected parliament was sworn into office, and Prime Minister-designate Ehud Olmert said Israel would react to the bombing with appropriate means.

Islamic Jihad, which has close ties to Israel's arch enemy, Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack, the first in Israel since the Hamas Cabinet took office 2 weeks ago.

The blast came amid a sharp increase in fighting between Israel and the Palestinians across the Gaza border. Militants have fired barrages of homemade rockets at Israel, and Israel has responded with artillery fire. A 17-year-old Palestinian in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya was killed Monday in the shelling, Palestinian officials said.

Israel decided to blame Hamas, because it suited them politically, rather than blame the real culprits. These suicide bombings, ghastly as they are, do nothing to solve the problems, only exacerbate them. Israel, then responds as they have always done, (with little thought for the final result). Tit for tat. Killing for killing. Forever and ever. Each blames the other, forever and ever. An eye for an eye, until the whole world is blind. Amen.
May 27, 2006

Abbas gives Hamas peace plan ultimatum
By Wafa Amr, Ramallah, West Bank

PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas has given the Hamas-led Government an ultimatum to back a Palestinian state that implicitly recognises Israel or face a referendum on the proposal.

A referendum would amount to a confidence vote that could bring to a head the growing power struggle between Mr Abbas and the Islamist militant group, which has a charter that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Hamas, which beat Mr Abbas' Fatah group in January elections, has refused to bow to pressure from Western countries to soften its stand on Israel despite an aid boycott that has brought the Palestinian Authority to near collapse.

Mr Abbas gave leaders of Hamas and his own Fatah movement 10 days to accept a proposal agreeing to a peace settlement if Israel withdraws from all of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, occupied since the 1967 Middle East war.

The proposal was drawn up in an Israeli jail by senior prisoners from factions including Hamas and Fatah.

"If you do not reach an agreement, I would like to tell you frankly that I will put this document to a referendum," Mr Abbas said on the first day of a two-day "national dialogue" designed to resolve differences between the factions.

If an agreement is not reached on the proposal, the referendum would be held in 40 days' time, Mr Abbas said.

This was a good move. There should have been international support for Abbas, perhaps some easing of the financial choke hold. Something to give him more support, and less to Hamas.
Wednesday May 31, 2006
Palestinian Rockets Land in Israel
Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP) - Palestinian militants fired homemade rockets at an Israeli town near the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, and Israeli media reported that one landed near the home of Israel's defense minister.

The violent Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for firing the three Qassam rockets, including two that hit residential areas in the border town of Sderot, home to Defense Minister Amir Peretz. The Israeli military confirmed the assault.

Paramedics treated two residents for shock, and Israel responded with artillery fire at Gaza.

Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired hundreds of crude rockets at Israeli border towns in more than five years of fighting. Israeli has launched air strikes at rocket squads, but has been unable to stop the barrage.

This firing of homemade Qassam rockets is not useful. The good thing about them is they rarely kill anyone, hurt anyone, or destroy anything. They are more symbolic than anything. They are sending a message: We will not surrender our land to your army.
Yes, Israel has pulled civilians out of Gaza, but they still occupy Gaza. The borders of Gaza are cut off by Israeli forces, the airport is closed (the runway dug up by Israeli bulldozers), planes are not allowed into the Gaza airspace, the fisherman cannot go past a certain point. Fuel, medicine, food cannot enter unless Israel permits. Gaza is still a prison controlled by Israel. No one can go into or out of Gaza unless Israel says so. The Israeli army though, comes and goes at will, just as you do in an "occupied territory".
Saturday June 10, 2006
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
The Guardian

A barrage of Israeli artillery shells rained down on a busy Gaza beach yesterday, killing seven Palestinians, three of them children. The attack put further strain on the 16-month truce between Israel and the governing Hamas movement.

Witnesses described several explosions that also injured dozens of other people who lay on the beach, screaming and pleading for help. Some ran into the sea for fear of more shells hitting the sands at Beit Lahia, in the north of the Gaza strip.

Among the dead were three children, aged one, three, and 10. Their sister was swimming and survived.

The beach was packed with picnicking families enjoying the Muslim day of rest, and the explosions landed among them, scattering body parts along the dunes. Television footage showed a woman and a child laying dead on the sand, and another child screaming in agony while a lifeless man was carried away by an ambulance crew.

Associated Press reported that a tearful man held the limp body of what appeared to be a girl or young woman. "Muslims, look at this," he shouted.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, called the killings a "bloody massacre" and demanded international intervention.

"No doubt what's going on in Gaza is a bloody massacre against our people, our civilians, without discrimination," he said. "I call upon the international community, the UN security council, the quartet [the EU, the US, Russia and the UN], to put an end to this Israeli killing policy."

The prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader and a political opponent of Mr Abbas, went further, calling the deaths a "war crime". He urged Jordan and Egypt, both mediators in past Israeli-Palestinian talks, to intervene.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said that the attack showed "the Zionist occupation insists on killing ... and does not distinguish between civilian children and freedom fighters".

But the most furious reaction of all came from Hamas's militant wing, which called off its 16-month ceasefire with Israel and threatened revenge attacks. "The earthquake in the Zionist towns will start again and the aggressors will have no choice but to prepare their coffins or their luggage," the military wing said in a statement. "The resistance groups ... will choose the proper place and time for the tough, strong and unique response." There was no immediate comment from the political wing of Hamas.

The Israeli army said it "regretted" the deaths and called a halt to the shelling. It offered help to get the survivors to Israeli hospitals. The shells that hit Beit Lahia beach were the latest of more than 6,000 fired into the Gaza Strip by Israel over the past two months. One possibility is that they had fallen short when being fired at areas on the outskirts of Beit Lahia used by armed Palestinian groups to launch rockets into Israel.

"The military definitely would not target a beach full of people," said an army spokesman. The military said that although many of the shells fired yesterday were from Israeli gunboats, it believed the explosives that hit the beach were from army artillery. Israel said it has fired thousands of artillery shells into the Gaza Strip in response to armed Palestinian groups such as Islamic Jihad firing hundreds of homemade rockets into Israel. Israeli shells have killed about 15 civilians this year, including five children. The Palestinian rockets have not claimed any lives but have wounded several Israelis.

Human rights groups have described the persistent Israeli shelling as a form of collective punishment, particularly after the military changed its rules to allow shells to explode within 100 metres of a built-up area.

On Thursday an Israeli air force attack killed one of the most prominent Palestinian leaders in the area - the head of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, Jamal Abu Samhadana.

The aggressive tit for tat approach from both sides is unworkable. The US would normally be able to see this, but they have allowed themselves to be blinded by loyalty to Israel, even when it is not in Israel's long-term interests.

  A true friend will tell you when you are building a catastrophe, and try and correct you, not encourage you into folly. The same applies to Hamas' friends, Syria and Iran.

Of course Israel is never going to get much cooperation from Syria while they refuse to return the Golan Heights. If you seize the territory of another country, it is going to be hard to have a meaningful relationship.
June 11, 2006

Nidal Al-mughrabi, Gaza

ISLAMIC militant group Hamas has called off a 16-month truce with Israel after Palestinians said Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip killed 10 people, including three children.

Hamas, which has run the Palestinian Government since March, spearheaded a suicide-bombing campaign during a Palestinian uprising that broke out in 2000.

  No, of course they shouldn't have called off the truce. But like Olmert they had just come to power and were trying to show they were "tough on crime". Yes, this is all too common in Middle East, shoot first, talk later ... over the bodies.
Tuesday June 13, 2006
Associated Press Writer

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Hundreds of Palestinian security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas went on a rampage against the Hamas-led government, riddling the parliament building and Cabinet offices with bullets before setting them ablaze in the most serious violence since Hamas won January elections.

The riots Monday cast doubt on renewed calls for Palestinian unity by leaders of Abbas' Fatah movement and Hamas, raising new fears the Palestinians were headed toward civil war.

It also coincided with heightened violence with Israel following a blast on a Gaza beach that killed eight civilians, and prompted Hamas to call off a 16-month truce.

Palestinians say an Israeli artillery shell fired at militants' rocket-launching operations caused Friday's explosion.

Also Tuesday, an Israeli air strike against a car carrying militants along a main road in Gaza City killed nine Palestinians, including two school children, hospital officials said. The Israeli military said the militants were on a mission to launch rockets at southern Israel. Palestinian witnesses said the missiles missed the militants' car.

Abbas, a moderate who was elected separately last year, has been locked in a bitter power struggle with Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and has refused to disarm its militia, despite punishing cutoffs of international funding. The dispute, which has spilled over into militias loyal to both sides, has focused largely on control of the powerful security forces.

Why does Hamas miliatry wing fire those useless sky rockets at Israel? Because it is all they have to fight back with. Israel has never stopped assassinating Hamas officials, mostly with missiles (which usually kill civilians as well). What can Hamas do to Israel? Not much, get out the sky-rockets again. They rarely hurt anyone unless it is a direct hit, but at least they know it infuriates Israel.

June 23, 2006

Chris McGreal, Jerusalem
HAMAS has made a significant political climbdown by agreeing to sections of a document that recognise Israel's right to exist and call for a negotiated two-state solution.

In a bitter struggle for power, Hamas is bowing to an ultimatum from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to endorse the document drawn up by Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails or face a national referendum on the issue. That vote could strip the Islamist group of power if it loses.

But final agreement on the paper, designed to end international sanctions against the Hamas Government that have crippled the Palestinian economy, has been slowed by wrangling over a national unity administration and the question of who speaks for the Palestinians.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee and a lead negotiator on the prisoners' document, said Hamas had agreed to sections calling for a negotiated and final agreement with Israel to establish a Palestinian state on the territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.

Hamas is prepared to accept those parts of the document because they think it is a way to get rid of a lot of its problems with the international community.

Hmm, it seems the Americans and the Israelis did not hear about this development. They would rather proclaim that there is "no partner for peace". Surely this was an important development? No, Israel dismissed it as "an internal matter".
Monday June 26, 2006

Conal Urquhart in Tel Aviv
The Guardian

Israel has warned Hamas that it will pay a "deadly price" for a daring raid on Israeli positions yesterday in which militants killed two soldiers and kidnapped a third.

Members of Hamas played a leading role in the pre-dawn attack, in which gunmen took Israeli forces by surprise and raised the prospect of a major escalation of violence.

Israeli officials also told Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, that they held him responsible and expected him to remain in Gaza until he secured the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier.

It was provocative to carry out this raid. But wait ... a few days before Hamas captured the Isralei soldiers, a team of Israeli commandos entered the Gaza Strip and captured two Palestinians, who are still being held.

The original piece in the Observer is at their website.

   In fact Israel has kidnapped not hundreds of Palestinians, but thousands. Some eight or nine thousand are in Israel, and some have been there for many years.

Monday June 26, 2006 11:31 AM

JERUSALEM (AP) - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday said he has ordered the army to prepare a "broad'' military operation against militants in the Gaza Strip following the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.
"It should be clear that there will be no immunity to those who are holding him,'' Olmert said in a speech at a business conference in Jerusalem.
Olmert also said he holds the entire Palestinian leadership for the safety of the soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Shalit was seized in a cross-border raid early Sunday. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed in the attack.
This is a consistent view of Israel: collective punishment. Everyone is to be held responsible for what renegades do. The Palestinian Hamas officials seemed to have no control over those who carried out the kidnapping. But worse still: the Fatah government have been arguing, and fighting with Hamas over policy. So what does Israel do: lump Fatah and Hamas in the same basket. It's all the same to them, they are all faceless Arabs.

   The other point is this: it is one thing to capture a soldier, whose business is fighting and killing, but a worse crime to capture a civilian.
June 28, 2006 - 5:33PM

Israel sent troops and tanks into the Gaza Strip before dawn today and attacked key targets from the air in a major offensive aimed at freeing a teenage soldier captured by Palestinian fighters.

Much of the Gaza Strip was plunged into darkness after Israeli war planes hit a power station and two bridges in a series of night-time raids aimed at blocking movement across the territory by militants.

Flames poured into the night sky from the power plant and the sound of shelling and gunfire from combat helicopters could be heard as ground forces moved into southern Gaza where the missing serviceman was believed to be held.

"We are using all forces that we can by land and by air in order to get him home,'' Israeli army spokeswoman Noa Meir said of the kidnapped soldier, 19-year-old Gilad Shilat.

It was the first major ground offensive against Gaza since Israel pulled settlers and troops from the impoverished coastal strip last year in a highly controversial operation that ended a 38-year occupation.

No casualties have so far been reported in the incursion, which followed intensive mediation efforts to free Shilat after his abduction in an attack on Sunday that also killed two Israeli soldiers and two militants.

Israel massed thousand of troops on the Gaza border as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ruled out any negotiation with the kidnappers, holding the Hamas-led government and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the safety of the serviceman.

The offensive followed a landmark agreement yesterday between Palestinian factions on a political initiative that implicitly recognises Israel's right to exist, a historic shift in policy by Hamas which has long advocated the destruction of the Jewish state.

Israel dismissed the deal, however, as an "internal matter''.

Perhaps that should be repeated: The offensive followed a landmark agreement yesterday between Palestinian factions on a political initiative that implicitly recognises Israel's right to exist, a historic shift in policy by Hamas which has long advocated the destruction of the Jewish state."

Israel dismissed the initiative.


Israeli forces arrested more than 60 Hamas politicians in the West Bank and bombed targets in the Gaza Strip today to increase pressure on Palestinian militants to release an Israeli soldier held captive since Sunday.

There were no casualties in the Israeli attacks but a confrontation between the army and Palestinian factions became more likely as Israeli forces prepared to enter areas of northern Gaza.

Israel reoccupied areas of southern Gaza yesterday and bombed bridges and an electricity plant to force Palestinian militants to free the abducted soldier. The electricity supply for half of Gaza has been cut and all supplies of fuel and food have been halted.

Palestinian fighters have prepared bombs and barricades in anticipation of the army's advance into populated areas. Corporal Gilad Shilat was captured by gunmen from Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees on Sunday. His captors want to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners but Israel insists it will not negotiate for the freedom of the 19-year-old.

Kidnapping elected 64 officials is about as serious aggressive act that a country could take. Like everything else it is an over-reaction. An extreme reaction. Surely Israel should not be that concerned about the taking of one prisoner, why they have done this themselves to 9,000 Palestinians.
June 30, 2006 - 12:13PM

Israel bombarded Gaza with air strikes today in a widening military effort to secure the release of an abducted Israeli soldier amid an Egyptian report that the ruling Palestinian party has approved his freedom.

Israeli warplanes roared over Gaza striking at various targets, including the office of Palestinian Interior Minister Saeed Seyam, which caught fire after it was hit in the intensifying military operation to free 19-year-old Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by gunmen on Sunday.

Reports of a gunbattle in northern Gaza trickled in as an Egyptian newspaper reported that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Hamas, the ruling Palestinian party, had told him they have given conditional approval for Shalit's release.

Three militant groups, including an armed wing of Hamas, have claimed responsibility for the attack during which Shalit was abducted.

Egypt's al-Ahram newspaper also said Mubarak told it in an interview that although Hamas has given conditional approval, a handover agreement with Israel has not yet been reached. "There were Egyptian communications which included a number of Hamas leaders and resulted in initial positive results in the form of a conditional approval by Hamas to turn over the Israeli soldier as quickly as possible to avoid escalation," the newspaper paraphrased Mubarak as saying.

It seems Israel had another agenda; exchanging the captured soldier was not it.
Friday June 30, 2006

Chris McGreal
The Guardian

The terminology alone reflects the gulf of views over the plight of Corporal Gilad Shalit. To Israelis, the teenage soldier was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists and is a hostage just as much as foreigners held in Iraq. To Palestinians he is a prisoner of war - a legitimate target as a soldier in the uniform of an army that has killed dozens of civilians in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks - and a bargaining chip. Then there is the difference of scale. In the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, where the Israeli military dropped leaflets on Wednesday night warning its 42,000 residents that an assault was coming and to keep out of the way, they are baffled at the lengths Israel is going to over one man. "Don't Israelis understand how many Palestinians are sitting in their prisons just for resisting the occupation?" said 60 year-old Khalil Naim, who has lost count of the number of Israeli attacks on his town in recent years. "For me, he [Cpl Shalit] is military. What was done was right. They have thousands of our prisoners in their prisons. The mistake will be if they are not behaving well with him. We want them to feed him and not hurt him." Just as Israelis feel strongly about the fate of each soldier, Palestinians identify with the mass of security prisoners in Israeli jails, in part because so many families are affected. Israel holds about 9,000 Palestinian prisoners. One thousand of them are detained without charge or trial, and often exist in a Kafkaesque world of having to prove their innocence without ever being told what it is they are accused of. Most of the remaining prisoners were tried by military courts that consider secret evidence. In the turmoil of claims, Israel describes Cpl Shalit as a hostage because his captors want to exchange him for hundreds of Palestinian women and youths held by Israel. But the Palestinians have learned to have long memories on these issues and are swift to point out that Israel's supreme court legalised hostage-taking in 1997 when it ruled that the government could hold "bargaining chips" - captured Lebanese - to swap for Israeli prisoners of war in Lebanon. The decision was reversed five years later, but many Palestinians view their own prisoners as bargaining chips. The military characterises Cpl Shalit's capture - in a raid in which Palestinian militiamen tunnelled into Israel and killed two other soldiers - as an act of war because Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip last October. But the Israelis themselves crossed the border just a couple of days before the corporal was taken to apprehend two Palestinian militiamen. In Beit Hanoun people say they would hardly notice that the military and Jewish settlers are gone. The army has dropped thousands of shells during the past two months in response to Palestinian rockets that killed fewer Israeli civilians in five years than the military killed in a single airstrike earlier this month. In the past three weeks alone Israel has killed at least 27 Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories, including nine children and a pregnant woman. Many of them died in Gaza in botched air force missile attacks against Palestinian militiamen. To Ibrahim Naim, Khalil's 70-year-old brother, who used to make uniforms for the Israeli army, it seems as if Israel is allowed to give itself great licence to kill and arrest while the rest of the world denies the right of Palestinians to defend themselves or fight back. "The whole world says what Israel is doing is for self-defence. But when the Israelis come here and kill women and children, who says anything? Which is worse? To take a soldier prisoner or to kill children?" he said.

Well that again shows the double standards Israel has, they are holding 9,000 Palestinians as hostages, breaking any number of international laws, but the capture of one Israeli soldier (not even a civilian) is seen as a earth-shattering event.

Here is an extract from The Guardian, Friday November 14, 2003

In the late 80s, Unit 504 went in search of another kind of prisoner; men who could be held hostage and exchanged for captured Israeli soldiers and airmen. In 1989, the Israelis seized Sheikh Abd al-Karim Obeid, a spiritual leader to Hezbollah. Five years later, they snatched Mustafa Dirani, a leading Shi'ite fighter. Both were taken directly to Facility 1391.

The [Israeli] soldiers who grabbed Obeid also abducted his bodyguards, members of his family and Hashem Fahaf, a young man who happened to be visiting the sheikh to seek his blessing and who found himself locked up for the next 11 years, initially at [secret prison] 1391.

Fahaf was never accused of any crime, but he was refused access to a lawyer and any other contact with the outside world. For the first few years, the Israelis denied they were even holding him. In April 2000, the Israeli supreme court finally ordered Fahaf's release. The government said it had been holding him and another 18 Lebanese as hostages - or "bargaining chips", as Israeli officials prefer to call it - in the hope of winning the release of an airforce navigator, Colonel Ron Arad.

Let us all hope that Israeli prisoners will not be treated the same way Israel treats its captured hostages.
Saturday July 1, 2006

Chris McGreal in Gaza City
The Guardian

The Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, emerged from hiding yesterday to accuse Israel of hindering efforts to win the release of a captive teenage soldier by arresting his cabinet ministers, blowing up important infrastructure and threatening a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Mr Haniyeh, who went to ground after eight of his fellow Hamas ministers and 20 MPs were detained by the army in the West Bank on Thursday, told supporters at a Gaza City mosque he was working to free 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit who was captured a week ago and is being held by Palestinian militias including Hamas.

"This Israeli military escalation complicates matters and makes it more difficult," he said. "The aggression must stop in order not to make the situation more complicated." Mr Haniyeh says he does not have direct control over the members of Hamas's armed wing or other groups who are holding Cpl Shalit. He also said the arrest of a third of his cabinet would not bring down his administration.

"When they kidnapped the ministers they meant to hijack the government's position, but we say no positions will be hijacked, no governments will fall," he said. "There is an unholy alliance against the Palestinian people which wants to humiliate them and destroy the government. No concessions will be made. "We believe the aggression on our people goes beyond the issue of the captured soldier," he said. Earlier yesterday, an Israeli missile destroyed the offices of the Hamas interior minister in Gaza City, the latest of a series of targets that have included power plants, bridges and roads. The military described the ministry as "a meeting place to plan and direct terror activity". The army has fired hundreds of artillery shells into northern Gaza, some of them on the edge of towns such as Beit Hanoun.

  The Israeli intention seems to be to remove the Hamas government, although it was elected by the people. Like the US, they believe in democracy as long as the people elected are subservient to their wishes.
Sunday July 2, 2006

Negotiators 'near deal' in secret talks as Israel launches helicopter strike on Palestinian leader's HQ
Conal Urquhart in Gaza City
The Observer

Palestinian militant sources claimed last night that they were close to reaching an agreement in negotiations over the release of an Israeli soldier. They want a guarantee that Israel will free prisoners at a future date in return for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. Palestinians say they accept that Israel will not free any prisoners immediately, but insist they will give up the 19-year-old soldier only in return for a commitment for a future release. Because they have no confidence in Israeli assurances, they stipulate that it must make a commitment to a third party such as Egypt. Israel would also be expected to end its attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The news came as an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile at the Gaza City office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Yesterday the three groups holding Shalit said they would free him if Israel released 1,000 Palestinian women, children and humanitarian cases from prison. Mark Regev, of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, rejected the demand, saying that Israel would make no deals. There has been energetic diplomacy to prevent the situation descending into a bloodbath. Ghazi Hamed, spokesman for the Hamas government, said Egypt, Turkey and other governments were mediating and making progress. 'Israel says it will not agree to a simultaneous release, but it will agree to release prisoners in the future. We are looking for a third party, possibly Egypt, to accept a guarantee from Israel that it will respect that they will release prisoners at a later date,' he said.

Well, why didn't they go through with it?
Sunday July 2, 2006

The brutal reaction to Corporal Shalit's kidnap has implications far beyond the Middle East
Will Hutton
The Observer

In a conflict as long-standing and bloody as the one in the Middle East, both sides know the rules and the impact of their actions on their enemies. The Palestinian factions, including Hamas militants, which captured Corporal Shalit last Sunday, will have known that Israel would respond fiercely, but also how the reaction would undermine Palestine's emerging common front. And Israel, in turn, knew precisely the impact of its incredibly disproportionate response, both on its enemies and on the political balance within its own society.

Which is why, whatever the outcome, last week was so depressing. The calculations have been made by those opposed to any long-term deal. Israel's destruction of Gaza and illegal political detention of members of the Palestinian government and parliament were to teach Hamas a lesson. But it was not the lesson Hamas needs right now as it gropes its way towards political reality and acceptance of Israel's right to exist. Israel is now less safe than it was. It has betrayed its own deep hunger for a settlement and peace.

Israel has frequently resorted to the doctrine of disproportionate response: not an eye for an eye, but 10 or 20 Palestinian deaths for every Israeli loss. Twelve years ago, Yitzhak Rabin sealed off the West Bank to allow Israeli special operation units to rescue kidnapped Corporal Waxman. That operation ended in his death, but even by those standards, what happened last week was extraordinary.

Gaza, unlike the 1994 West Bank, is supposed to be a semi-autonomous sovereign territory. By bombing its main power station, Israel has deprived most of Gaza of electricity, including water-pumping stations. Sealing off access to water and food can only inflict acute discomfort on the people there; already, frailer Palestinians are dying.

Even more extraordinary were the overnight raids that led to the detention and arrest of eight cabinet members of a sovereign government, including its finance minister, 30 members of parliament and up to another 30 officials. Israel threatens to put some or all on trial for terrorism.

In any other context, this would be a declaration of war.

It is breathtaking, but this is the Middle East. The Hamas government has not yet renounced its commitment to the elimination of Israel or to the use of terrorism. Missiles from Gaza are regularly fired at Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has committed to withdraw Israel from parts of the West Bank, regarded by the Israeli right and Zionist fundamentalists as the ultimate sell-out (even if Israel simultaneously confiscates compensating land). Olmert needed to show that he was no pushover.

But disproportionality on such a scale is self-defeating. It casts Israel as the rogue state and Palestinians as victims. These are not the actions of a government that wants to be a 'partner for peace'.

Worse, it suggests that Israel will find it impossible to accommodate a just settlement.

Every parent, manager and successful politician knows the importance of achieving ends by consent and that entails respect. Subjugation, repression and humiliation do not work as strategies. Yet Israel, overwhelmingly the more powerful player, is governed by an attitude that would not survive days in a family, factory or political party.

Worse, it trashes encouraging developments. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas challenged Hamas to recognise that the only way out of the conflict was a two-state solution, in effect, recognising Israel and its gains in the 1967 war, or he would call a national referendum. Hamas backed down, knowing he would win, and reached a national unity pact with Mr Abbas's Fatah. The basis for resuming negotiations was being put in place.

The dark interpretation of Israel's reaction in Gaza is that it does not want a politically viable negotiating partner in Palestine. It suits Israel to characterise Hamas as terrorist fundamentalists who are beyond the pale. Thus it can proceed with its unilaterally imposed settlement, wall and land grab, in turn fanning the flames of Palestinian extremism.

We all have a stake in breaking this vicious circle. The best response to the rise of Islamic terrorism would be a just settlement in the Middle East. Israel's actions are linked by a bloody thread to the next terrorist attack on us, now more likely. Britain, with the EU and US, was right to insist that the incoming Hamas government had to recognise Israel and to back that demand with sanctions.

Now that Hamas signals changes, we must be no less uncompromising about condemning Israeli action. The mealy-mouthed reaction of the G8 that we have 'particular concerns' is pathetic. What happened last week was an international disgrace. We need to say so. We hold Hamas to account for its words and actions. The same applies to Israel.

This gets to the heart of the matter.
Monday July 3, 2006 12:16 AM


Associated Press Writer

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stepped up pressure on the Palestinian government Sunday, telling his military to "do all it can'' to free an abducted soldier and hinting Israel might arrest more Hamas leaders.

Coming just hours after an Israeli airstrike blasted offices of the Palestinian prime minister, Olmert's threat signaled the government was losing patience with diplomatic efforts to end the crisis and preparing for a possible escalation of its military offensive.

Israel shelled northern Gaza early Monday, slightly wounding one person in a house on the outskirts of the town of Beit Hanoun, Palestinians said. The military confirmed artillery was fired in the area.

The Israeli military said its aircraft also hit a building in Gaza City used by the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement. There was no immediate word of casualties in the strike early Monday.

Israeli aircraft, gunboats and artillery have pounded Gaza since troops and tanks took up positions in the south of the coastal strip on Wednesday. The operation is aimed at pressuring Palestinians to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier abducted a week ago. Five Palestinian fighters had been reported killed, four of them on Sunday.

Wouldn't a prisoner exchange have been better? Perhaps there is a lot of pride involved in this. Israeli leader speak and act like Palestinians are sub-human (hmmm, I've heard that before somewhere) and it would be beneath their dignity to negotiate with terrorist scum. Better to "bomb them to the conference table."
July 6, 2006


Israel does not act by the standards it expects of the Palestinians, writes Maher Mughrabi.

we might understand how it can be that Israel does not recognise the presence of its troops and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an occupation, and why it was that when former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon used the O-word [occupation]to describe what was happening in Gaza, he was forced to rephrase by his own attorney-general.

If Israel recognised that the West Bank and Gaza were occupied, rather than "disputed", two things would follow. First, the Geneva Convention would apply fully to those territories, making it illegal for settler families to move into them and for thousands of Palestinian men, women and children to be taken out to face indefinite "security detention" in Israeli jails. Second, instead of simply talking about a "viable Palestinian state", Israel would have formally acknowledged the existence of a separate entity west of the River Jordan.

There was a time when Arab governments pretended to themselves that Israel did not exist — its name was never mentioned in the media or official pronouncements. The rest of the world saw this as absurd. Yet in recent times, spokesmen for the Israeli Government have warned the European Union that funding to help the Palestinians should not give the democratically elected Hamas Government "recognition or legitimacy", while at the same time insisting that the Palestinian Authority must be held "responsible" for the capture of Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit. Which is it to be?

Israel's withdrawal from Gaza is another phantom pregnancy. That people still express surprise over such a unilateral move's failure to produce peace is baffling, given that even the bitterest divorce is not only negotiated but also subject to independent legal arbitration. As the blockade of Gaza and subsequent military incursion demonstrate, Israel may have abandoned the prerogative of settlement, but it retains that of collective punishment.

Hamas, meanwhile, has limited itself to de facto and not de jure recognition of Israel because it understands that the sovereignty which stands in need of recognition is not Israeli but Palestinian. Or, to put it another way, the question is not "is Israel?" but " where is Israel?"

Is Hebron in Israel or not? Is the town of Ariel, or the arable land of the Jordan Valley? If so, then what does "viable statehood" for Palestinians mean, and where is it expected to take place?

Until recently, former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn was the man the international community assigned to such questions. He had the decency to seem puzzled by Western powers who poured billions of dollars into building Palestinian institutions only to cut them off after a democratic election. "It would surprise me if one could win by … starving the Palestinians," he said in May, "and I don't think anyone in the Quartet believes that to be the policy."

Yet it was precisely the decision of the EU and the US to declare a Palestinian Authority governed by Hamas untouchable that gave Israel renewed financial and political power over the lives and deaths of Palestinians, culminating in the mass kidnapping of Hamas MPs and ministers.

The Gaza power plant destroyed by Israel was insured by an arm of the US Government, and there has been plenty of media speculation as to whether (and, given its sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, how) it will pay out.

But the greater question is when will the US and its allies feel the need to provide some sort of cover for the basic human rights of Palestinians and their own investment in Palestinian governance.

Over the years, many people have agonised over one-state and two-state solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But if Palestinian self-determination is ever to become a reality, and Palestinian and Israeli calls for justice in the face of terrorism are to be tackled in a non-partisan way, then everyone involved in this conflict must have access to a common standard of rights.

It is time for the world to commit itself to a one- status solution.
Maher Mughrabi is a staff writer.

Friday July 7, 2006

Conal Urquhart in Gaza City
The Guardian

An Israeli minister said Israel was prepared to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the freedom of an Israeli soldier held captive for almost two weeks.

It was the first public admission that Israel was willing to contemplate a prisoner exchange to free Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured during a raid on Israeli positions near Gaza on June 25.

Avi Dichter, the minister of public security, told a conference today: "The release of the soldier Gilad Shalit is a must ... Israel will need to, after some time, release prisoners as a reciprocal gesture. Israel knows how to do this. Israel has done this more than once in the past."

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told reporters Israel had agreed to withdraw from Gaza and free some prisoners in return for Cpl Shalit's freedom.

The minister said that the release of Palestinian prisoners would be conditional on the cessation of Palestinian attacks on Israel. Mr Dichter's comments suggest an acceptance of the proposals of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, to resolve the crisis.

Israel has killed about 40 Palestinians in Gaza to secure the release of Cpl Shalit and halt the firing of rockets at Israel. But despite the attacks, the main efforts in freeing the soldier have been made by foreign diplomats outside Israel and Gaza.

Okay, a swap, just like it has been done in the past. But wait ... why not destroy Hamas and Gaza first?
Wednesday, July 12, 2006. 8:29am (AEST)


Israeli troops have crossed the border into the central Gaza Strip, expanding an offensive aimed at bringing home a captured soldier and ending rocket fire by militants.

The Israeli army has confirmed that ground troops and armoured vehicles entered the central Gaza Strip.

Residents said the soldiers were conducting searches in a village east of the town of Deir el Balah and had moved about 150 metres into the territory.

Israeli forces had already entered parts of northern and southern Gaza.

Israel has vowed to pursue its offensive until Palestinian militants free Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured in a June 25 raid across the border, and stop firing rockets into the Jewish state.

Israel has rejected calls from the governing Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, to negotiate for the release of Cpl Shalit.

Militants, including the armed wing of Hamas, demand that Israel free prisoners in exchange.

Almost 60 Palestinians, at least 20 of them civilians, have been killed in the offensive and Israel has faced criticism from the European Union and United Nations.

Israel withdrew troops and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip almost one year ago after 38 years of occupation.

Well, in theory they withdrew. But they still control all the borders, the air space, waterways.
Wednesday July 12, 2006
Conal Urquhart in Gaza City, Chris McGreal in Jerusalem and agencies
The Guardian

Israeli tanks and troops today invaded southern Lebanon after Hizbullah captured two soldiers and killed several others. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, described the capture of the soldiers an "act of war" by Lebanon, with today's developments compounding the ongoing political crisis over an abducted Israeli soldier being held in Gaza.

Palestinian militants holding Corporal Gilad Shalit have demanded that all Palestinian women and young people held in Israeli jails be freed in exchange for his release.

The Bush administration blamed Syria and Iran for today's kidnappings and violence, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the two soldiers.

Hizbullah said it would not release them until Israel agreed to set free all Arab prisoners.

Its capture of the soldiers is a huge political embarrassment to Mr Olmert, coming only weeks after the seizure of Cpl Shalit last month.

He will be concerned that Hamas and Hizbullah could start working together to demand the release of prisoners as a condition for freeing the missing soldiers.

Several Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting after Mr Olmert ordered his forces into Lebanon in an attempt to rescue the abducted soldiers.

"These are difficult days for the state of Israel and its citizens," he said. "There are people ... who are trying to test our resolve. They will fail, and they will pay a heavy price for their actions."

The crisis facing Israel was compounded when its air force killed a family of nine, dropping a 550lb bomb on a house in a residential area of Gaza City early today. Nabil Abu Salmiah, a lecturer at the Islamic University - who has been described by Israel as a Hamas activist - was killed, along with his wife and their five daughters and two sons.

Five of the dead children were aged between four and 11, and the other two were in their teens.

The deaths will be a severe embarrassment to Israel, which has killed around 40 civilians, many of them children, in missile and shell attacks over recent weeks.

Witnesses said the only members of the family to survive were two sons, one thrown out of the house by the explosion and another rescued from the rubble, and the eldest daughter, who was married and lived elsewhere.

The air strikes happened as the Israeli army entered new areas of the Gaza Strip.

Scores of tanks and armoured personnel carriers took up positions around Deir al Balah and Khan Yunis in central Gaza, blocking movement between the two halves of the strip.

Israeli troops killed at least 12 Palestinians, including one policemen and two militants, in four separate incidents in the central Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical officials said.

Mr Olmert has been pursuing a drawn-out strategy to win the release of Cpl Shalit - who is being held by Hamas's military wing and other groups - and to end Palestinian rocket attacks.

He has initiated a series of assaults on the Gaza Strip, put Gaza's 1.4 million residents under pressure with the destruction of the only power station and other infrastructure, and arrested members of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian government and MPs.

Why would anyone think that: " Five of the dead children were aged between four and 11, and the other two were in their teens:

The deaths will be a severe embarrassment to Israel, which has killed around 40 civilians, many of them children, in missile and shell attacks over recent weeks.

They have not been embarrassed by killing UN observers, or 900 Lebanese civilians. All in a day's work for the Israeli army. Nor would such killings worry Hamas or Hizbollah. But of course we have come to expect that from them, they are terrorists, although not as good at killing civilians as Israel.
Wednesday July 12, 2006 11:46 PM


By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel bombed and shelled southern Lebanon and sent ground troops over the border for the first time in six years Wednesday after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers. The fighting killed eight Israeli soldiers and three Lebanese.

Hezbollah's brazen cross-border raid opened a second front for the Israeli army. The army is now fighting Islamic militants in both Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, where it is looking for another soldier who was captured more than two weeks ago by Hamas-linked militants.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the Hezbollah raid an "act of war'' by Lebanon and threatened "very, very, very painful'' retaliation. The Cabinet, meeting in the wake of the military's highest daily death toll in four years, decided to continue the army operation and call on the international community to disarm Hezbollah, according to participants.

Residents of northern Israeli towns were ordered to seek cover in underground bomb shelters as Hezbollah, an anti-Israel guerrilla group that essentially runs southern Lebanon, launched rockets across the border throughout the day.

Two Lebanese civilians and a Hezbollah fighter also were killed in the border violence, and at least 23 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. Still, jubilant Hezbollah supporters and Palestinians in Lebanon fired guns in the air and set off firecrackers at the news of the soldiers' capture.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said he would free the Israeli soldiers only in a prisoner swap, adding that he was open to a package deal that would include the release of the soldier held in Gaza.
Even after the assault and destruction of Gaza had not returned their captured soldier, they go ahead with the same unsuccessful method. If they really wanted their soldiers back, they would do what they have done many times before and carry out a swap.

Consider: Israel causes many of their own problems: they capture Lebanese and Palestinians and hold them captive as hostages for as long as 11 years. When Hamas and Hezbollah use the same methods (on a smaller scale) they are outraged. Outraged!

In the 1950s Israel used car bombs in Egypt. Hamas and Hezbollah adopted similar tactics 30 years later. For years Israel has abducted and held Palestinians (and others) as hostages, bargaining chips, and as "warnings" (this will happen to you). Assassinations are an Israeli specialty, one day they must expect others will employ the same tactics. And guess what, they will be outraged, OUTRAGED, that terrorist scum would employ their own methods. Ahh, imitation, they should feel proud.

The Israeli government decided today to press ahead with its military operations in Lebanon, concentrating on targets associated with the Hezbollah militia, including the bombing this evening of the headquarters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Israeli officials said.

They said that the Israeli strategy is to diminish or destroy the power of Hezbollah, which has created “a state within a state” in southern Lebanon, and to ensure that the Lebanese army replaces Hezbollah on the border with Israel, as demanded by the United Nations.

In response to a new barrage of rockets today, said Isaac Herzog, a member of the Israeli security cabinet, “We’ve decided to put an end to this saga and to change the rules of the game whereby a terrorist organization that is part of the Lebanese government can push the region to the abyss.”

Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, a member of the general staff, said: “We want to put Hezbollah out of business. We want to force the Lebanese government to take responsibility and deploy along the border and dismantle Hezbollah, which if it is allowed, will prevent any stabilization and peace process in the Middle East.”

Mr. Nasrallah, who was unhurt in the bombing of the apartment building that serves as his home and headquarters, said in a statement: “To the Zionists, you wanted an open war and you will have it.” He promised “to reach Haifa and even farther,” and said that Hezbollah had destroyed an Israeli naval ship off Lebanon. Israel reported that a ship had sustained “light damage.”

As Israeli warplanes bombed the Beirut airport to tighten the sea, air and land blockade of Lebanon, they also hit targets in the city’s Shia suburbs, where Hezbollah has its headquarters, television and radio stations. Israel also bombed Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, where the group crossed the border into Israel on Wednesday to kill eight Israeli soldiers and capture two others.

Hezbollah rockets continued to fall on Israel, with more than 90 hitting northern Israel, wounding at least 60 people, the Israelis said, especially in Nahariya and Safed. Two more Israelis, a grandmother and her 5-year-old grandson, were killed and 10 were wounded, including three other children, when a rocket fell on their house in Meron. Two Israelis died on Thursday. In total, more than 300 rockets have hit Israel, killing four people and wounding more than 150.

Hezbollah has between 10,000 and 12,000 rockets of varying ranges and types, General Nehushtan said, most of them provided by Syria and Iran.

Five Lebanese died in the airstrikes today, bringing the death total there over the last three days to 66, with more than 200 wounded, according to the Lebanese police.

Israel has called the attack by Hezbollah on its soldiers in Israeli territory an act of war, and said that it is holding the government of Lebanon, which includes Hezbollah ministers, to be responsible.

Israel hopes that the Lebanese government, pressed by the international community, will move its army into southern Lebanon. But Israeli officials say they believe that their campaign against Hezbollah is popular with many Lebanese, who believe their own government is too weak to take on Mr. Nasrallah.

Israel has also been buoyed by the mild reaction of Arab governments, who have not come to Hezbollah’s defense — not even Syria and Iran. Israel was also pleased by a statement from the Saudi government on Thursday that blamed Hezbollah for adventurism and called on it to end the crisis.

“A distinction must be made between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventures taken by elements inside Lebanon and those behind them without recourse to the legal authorities or consulting and coordinating with Arab nations,” said a statement published on the official news agency SPA. “These elements should bear the responsibility for their irresponsible actions and they alone should end the crisis they have created.”

Mr. Olmert has said that he has no intention of negotiating a prisoner exchange with either Hezbollah or Palestinian militants in Gaza who entered Israel and captured another soldier June 25. Israel is engaged in a simultaneous military effort in Gaza, from which it withdrew its settlers and troops a year ago, in what one Israeli official described as a “war on terrorism that is making a point on two fronts” against Hamas and Hezbollah, both semi-state actors that are not following the rules of sovereign states.

Until now, the Israeli officials said, the Lebanese campaign, largely limited to airstrikes and naval shelling, has been largely limited “to infrastructure, not too dramatic, and the Hezbollah neighborhood” in southern Beirut, which was leafleted first to ask residents to leave. Airstrikes, the most intense over Lebanon since the 1982 war, have been carried out against Hezbollah rocket and ammunition stores, launching sites, barracks and buildings.

It is hard to understand how such intelligent people as the Israelis can be so obtuse when it comes to dealing with other people. They have claimed to know the Lebanese people inside out. And so they should after what is it ... 4 or 5 invasions. They expected the Lebanese government to oppose Hezbollah; anyone knows that was not possible. Half the army are supporters. What little army there is, since the country is still rebuilding after the last Israeli invasion.

  It would have been in Israel's interest to assist the Lebanese army, or government ... not to attack and weaken them. And how could they expect the Lebanese army to fight Hezbollah when they have destroyed roads, bridges, and bombed Lebanese army barracks? Israel attacked the Lebanese infastrure, thereby causing the Lebanese not to want to attack Hezbollah, but to hate Israel.

Where did all these Muslims in Lebanon come from? Uhh... Israel/ Palestine. The Israelis drove them out of Israel in 1948 and refused to allow them to return home. That's why they are in Lebanon. But driving people from their homes does not usually bring peace.

Israel always seems to find ways of alienating people. If only they could truly remember what happened to them in the Second World War, and have some sympathy for the dispossessed.
Wednesday July 12, 2006
By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel bombed and shelled southern Lebanon and sent ground troops over the border for the first time in six years Wednesday after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers. The fighting killed eight Israeli soldiers and three Lebanese.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the Hezbollah raid an "act of war'' by Lebanon and threatened "very, very, very painful'' retaliation. The Cabinet, meeting in the wake of the military's highest daily death toll in four years, decided to continue the army operation and call on the international community to disarm Hezbollah, according to participants.

That crisis began June 25 when Palestinian militants dug a tunnel out of the Gaza Strip and attacked an army position inside Israel, seizing Cpl. Gilad Shalit and demanding the release of 1,500 prisoners held by Israel. Although Israel has made prisoner exchanges in the past, Olmert ruled out any negotiations for Shalit's return, saying that would only encourage more kidnappings.

Instead, Israel unleashed an offensive against Gaza, sending in troops, firing artillery and carrying out airstrikes on militant targets in an effort to force the Palestinians to free Shalit.

In an attempt to assassinate top Hamas fugitives Wednesday, Israel dropped a quarter-ton bomb on a home in Gaza City, killing a couple and seven of their children, ages 4-18. Hamas said its leaders escaped harm, but militants took over the intensive care unit of a hospital, barring reporters.

Palestinian security officials said Mohammed Deif, leader of Hamas' military wing and No. 1 on Israel's wanted list for more than a decade, was among the wounded - suffering severe back injuries that could paralyze him. At least 14 other Palestinians were killed in separate Israeli attacks Wednesday.

Israel and Lebanon have a history of conflict, punctuated by a full-scale Israeli invasion in 1982, and its 18-year occupation of a buffer zone in southern Lebanon that was intended to prevent attacks on Israel. The United Nations certified that Israel's 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon was complete, but Lebanon laid claim to a sliver of border territory, still held by Israel, that the U.N. said was actually part of Syria.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria and branded a terror group by the U.S. and Israel, used the dispute to justify cross-border attacks. But the fighting Wednesday was by far the worst since Israel withdrew six years ago, and it threatened to escalate.

"This is a terrorist attack and it is clearly timed to exacerbate already high tensions in the region and sow further violence,'' U.S. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said. "We also hold Syria and Iran - which directly support Hezbollah - responsible for this attack and for the ensuing violence.''

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.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for restraint. "We would not want to see an expansion, an escalation, of conflict in the region,'' he said.

He also condemned ``without reservations the attack'' by Hezbollah fighters. Annan at first said he condemned the violence in southern Lebanon, but his aides later said he meant Hezbollah's cross-border attack into Israel.

Hezbollah fighters began their attack Wednesday by firing a barrage of rockets at communities in northwestern Israel. The guerrillas then crossed the border and launched a surprise attack on two Israeli Humvees, killing three soldiers, wounding two and capturing the two others, the Israeli army said.

Israel quickly sent armored vehicles over the border on a rescue mission, but one of the tanks rolled over a large mine, killing the four soldiers inside and sparking a battle that killed another soldier, the army said.

It was the single highest number of Israeli military deaths on one day since the army's offensive in the West Bank town of Jenin on April 9, 2002, which left 14 soldiers dead.

Israel also sent warplanes deep into southern Lebanon - targeting bridges, roads and Hezbollah positions. One blast hit a major junction along the main north-south coastal highway, wrecking the road and wounding two people. Two civilians were killed in the attacks, Lebanese officials said. Another airstrike targeted a Palestinian guerrilla base south of Beirut, Lebanese security officials said.

Israeli artillery and gunboats fired into the area as well. The military said it attacked 40 targets to stop Hezbollah from moving the soldiers. It did not say how many ground troops were involved, but witnesses said dozens entered southwestern Lebanon.

Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz warned that the assault would widen, Israeli TV reported. If the soldiers are not returned, he said, the military would target infrastructure and "turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years.''

It hardly makes sense to attack Lebanon, when they knew that Hezbollah, were a "state within a state" and Lebanon had no control over Hezbollah. Had they limited their fighting to the South, and not tried to punish everyone things would have been different. But collective punishment is an Israeli specialty, even though it is against Geneva regulations. Regulations - Smegulations, who cares!
Saturday July 15, 2006

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb in Beirut
The Guardian

The capture of three Israeli soldiers by the Lebanese resistance movement, Hizbullah, to bargain for prisoner exchange should come as no surprise - least of all to Israel, which must bear its own responsibility for the abductions and is using this conflict to pursue its wider strategic aims.

The prisoners Hizbullah wants released are hostages who were taken on Lebanese soil. In the successful prisoner exchange in 2004, Israel held on to three Lebanese detainees as bargaining chips and to keep the battle front with Hizbullah open. These detentions have become a cause celebre in Lebanon. In a recent poll, efforts to effect their release attracted majority support, much more even than the liberation of Shebaa Farms, the disputed corridor of land between Syria and Lebanon still occupied by Israel.

The domestic significance of these hostages is ignored by those who choose to reduce the abductions to an act of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Indeed Israel's media are aware of recent attempts to capture soldiers, including a botched attempt a few months ago in which three Hizbullah fighters were killed. Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, confirmed the attack took five months to plan. Its timing was probably a coincidence. It would seem, though, Hizbullah exerts some influence over the fighters in Gaza - those who captured Corporal Shalit were at the very least inspired by Hizbullah.

The regional significance of the abductions has also been misconstrued. To suggest Hizbullah attacked on the orders of Tehran and Damascus is to grossly oversimplify a strong strategic and ideological relationship. Historically there has been an overlap of interests between Syria, Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. Together they form a strategic axis - the "axis of terror" to Israel - that confronts US-Israeli designs to redraw the map of the region.

But the nature of that relationship has changed much over the years. Since Syrian forces left Lebanon, Hizbullah has become the stronger party. It has never allowed any foreign power to dictate its military strategy.

It is ironic, given Israel's bombing of civilian targets in Beirut, that Hizbullah is often dismissed in the west as a terrorist organisation. In fact its military record is overwhelmingly one of conflict with Israeli forces inside Lebanese territory. This is just an example of the way that the west employs an entirely different definition of terrorism to the one used in the Arab world and elsewhere, where there is a recognition that terrorism can come in many forms.

The attempt to frame Hizbullah as a terrorist organisation is very far from political reality in Lebanon, from public opinion across the Arab and Islamic world, and from international law.

· Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is assistant professor of political science at the Lebanese-America University.


Published: July 20, 2006
BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 19 — The deadliest day yet in the deepening two-front Middle East crisis claimed more than 70 lives on Wednesday in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and northern Israel, with no immediate cease-fire in sight.

“The country has been torn to shreds,” a desperate Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, said at a meeting he had called of foreign diplomats, including the American ambassador.

“Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions?” he asked in a bitter and emotional speech. “Can the international community stand by while such callous retribution by the state of Israel is inflicted on us?”

Here in the Lebanese capital, bombs and rockets fell throughout the day. Israeli military officials said a wave of aircraft had dropped 23 tons of explosives on a suspected Hezbollah bunker in the south. The attack appeared to be part of the ongoing effort to kill Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah said no members had been hurt in the attack.

In the first land combat in Lebanon during the conflict, two Israeli soldiers were killed and nine wounded when they were set upon by Hezbollah guerrillas near Naqura. A tank that came to rescue them met with fierce shelling.

Small groups of Israeli commandos have been slipping in and out of southern Lebanon to assess damage and, presumably, locate targets. At nightfall, Israeli tanks and artillery on their side of the border stepped up their barrages, commanders said, for fear that Hezbollah fighters might mount an incursion into Israel.

Two loud explosions boomed over Beirut as about 1,000 American citizens boarded a chartered cruise ship, the Orient Queen, for Cyprus in an evacuation that has left the Lebanese even more concerned about what might lie ahead.

The weak government is unable to deal with the crisis. Despite the hopes raised by the so-called Cedar Revolution, which ended nearly three decades of Syrian control, the government remains trapped in the sectarian straitjacket of a system that apportions political offices by religion.

Mr. Siniora has not spoken directly to Sheik Nasrallah since the war broke out eight days ago; their dealings are through the Shiite speaker of Parliament, Nabil Berri, who is loyal to Syria.

At the United Nations the Americans, who have signaled that they will give Israel more time to continue the bombardment of Lebanon to weaken Hezbollah’s military power, opposed a French proposal for a Security Council resolution calling for a lasting cease-fire.

“It is very hard to understand from the people calling for a cease-fire how you have a cease-fire with a terrorist organization like Hezbollah,” John R. Bolton, the American ambassador, told reporters.

Sounding an alarm about humanitarian conditions in southern Lebanon — where Israeli bombs, rockets and shells have pounded villages, roads and bridges, much of the population has fled and supplies are running short — the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, said the fighting might amount to war crimes.

“The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control,” she said. Ms. Arbour is a former war crimes prosecutor.

The violence on Wednesday sprawled over both sides of the border. Two Israeli Arab brothers, ages 3 and 9, were killed as they played outside in Nazareth, the Galilee town where Jesus spent his boyhood, hit by one of roughly 120 rockets Hezbollah launched into Israel.

Israeli weaponry rained down on Lebanon throughout the day and into the night, killing 63 people by nightfall, Lebanese authorities said. Most of the dead were said to be civilians; one Hezbollah fighter was killed, apparently in the Naqura firefight.

Homes in southern Lebanon received taped phone calls in Arabic warning that they needed to evacuate because strikes would hit house by house. The recording ended by saying it came from the Israeli Army. The Israelis also used a radio station near the border to broadcast warnings into southern Lebanon for residents to leave.

The radio warning also stressed that any truck, including pickups, traveling south of the Litani River would be suspected of transporting weapons or rockets, and could therefore be a target.

While much of the bombardment was directed at poor Shiite areas, the new emphasis on trucks — the Israelis have hit several carrying medical and relief supplies and even cement in recent days — brought the war home to one of Beirut’s wealthiest Maronite Christian areas on Wednesday morning.

Warplanes fired rockets into two red trucks carrying water-drilling equipment — apparently mistaken for rocket tubes — in a vacant lot, sending the well-to-do neighbors scrambling to their balconies and then, in several cases, loading their cars and heading for the mountains.

An Israeli Army spokesman, Capt. Jacob Dallal, told The Associated Press that Israel had hit “1,000 targets in the last eight days, 20 percent missile launching sites, control and command centers, missiles and so forth.”

Fierce fighting in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza left at least seven Palestinians dead. By 9 in the morning, the lobby at Al Aksa Hospital in nearby Deir Al Balah was jammed with cots holding as many as 60 wounded Palestinians, mostly militia members but also some children. The wounds appeared to be mainly shrapnel from tank fire.

In Nablus, on the West Bank, about 50 Israeli armored vehicles, including tanks and bulldozers, demolished a Palestinian security compound and a half-dozen other Palestinian government buildings in what the army said was a raid seeking militants. Three Palestinians were killed in the fighting; the army said they belonged to a cell activated by Hezbollah that was planning attacks.

“We have a forgotten war in Gaza and the West Bank,” said Saab Erekat, a Palestinian legislator and frequent spokesman. “We urge the international community to offer direct intervention to stop this Israeli military escalation.”

July 18, 2006

Robert Blecher
(Robert Blecher is a fellow at the Center for Human Rights at the University of Iowa and an editor of Middle East Report. He contributed this article from Jerusalem.)
"WAR," proclaimed the three-inch headline in Ma‘ariv, Israel's leading daily, the day after Hizballah launched its cross-border attack on an Israeli army convoy on July 12. With the onset of Israel's massive bombing campaign in Lebanon that evening, its aerial and ground incursions into Gaza were transformed into the southern front of a two-front conflict. But are the two fronts, in Lebanon and Gaza, part of a single war? Speaking in such terms risks misidentifying what really links Israel's actions on its northern and southern borders.

For many in Israel, the two fronts are conjoined in a war against a unified "axis of terror and hate created by Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas," in the words of Tzipi Livni, the Israeli vice prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, "that wants to end any hope for peace." Ben Caspit, one of Ma‘ariv's leading columnists, put it more colorfully: "Israel is dealing with radical, messianic Islam, which extends its arms like an octopus, creating an axis from Tehran to Gaza by way of Damascus and Beirut. With people like these there is nothing to talk about. The fire of a war against infidels burns in them." The only fitting response in this situation is a military one, claimed Ron Ben-Yishai in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, in order to "create a new strategic balance between us and radical Islam." This belief has wide support among Israelis: only 800 protesters showed up at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on July 16 against the escalating fighting. Such a showing pales in comparison to the 20,000 people who turned out when a similar coalition organized a protest at the outset of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

But radical Islam is not the defining or unifying factor that links the south with the north: Hamas and Hizballah have different bones to pick with Israel. Hamas' struggle is against occupation, and more specifically, about how to achieve a mutual cessation of hostilities and formalize, in one way or another, its right to govern the territories of the Palestinian Authority as the Palestinians' elected government. Hizballah's goals in the current fighting are more limited: to secure the release of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails while simultaneously flexing the movement's muscles to stave off pressure to disarm. By lumping together these different struggles, and tying them to Damascus and distant Tehran, Israel casts resolvable political disagreements as unfathomable, irrational hatred, thereby justifying its broad and violent offensive.

Hizballah, ironically, has engaged in a conflation of its own. In choosing the moment of Gaza's bombardment to launch its own attack, a cross-border raid that its leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah says was long planned, the Lebanese Shi‘i movement has subsumed the struggle against Israeli occupation within a larger regional drama. Displaying the rhetorical skills and military competence that Nasrallah and his movement are known for, Hizballah has confirmed its position as the only Arab force willing and able to stand up to Israel.

What links these conflicts, beyond Israeli fear-mongering and Hizballah's use of Palestine as a chess piece, is the future of limited withdrawals -- what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert calls "convergence" or "realignment" -- as an Israeli strategy for managing its conflict with the Palestinians. By this plan, advanced by Olmert's Kadima Party in the March election campaign, Israel would move its soldiers and settlers from much of the West Bank behind a unilaterally fixed "eastern border" for the Jewish state -- the walls and fences that Israel is building through the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Though the idea of convergence was initially popular, more and more Israelis, even some within Kadima, are growing skeptical. Public support for withdrawals in the West Bank had plummeted to just over 30 percent even before the present conflagration, and Kadima luminaries Livni, Shimon Peres and Meir Sheetrit all have expressed reservations recently. As the one-year anniversary of Gaza "disengagement" approaches, even the left-leaning Israeli press has begun to ask, as has Ha'aretz, "Was it a mistake?" The Israeli government, whose multi-partisan raison d'être is limited withdrawal, is under pressure to demonstrate the fruits of its approach. With its two-front war, the Israeli government has set out to prove emphatically that disengagement was not a mistake.


Hamas had little to lose on the eve of June 25, when a raid by its military wing and two other armed groups captured Cpl. Gilad Shalit and killed two of his fellow soldiers at the Kerem Shalom army post on the Gaza-Israel border. Ever since the Islamist party formed a government in March, it has been systematically denied the resources necessary for domestic governance and the ability to implement a foreign policy. The Israeli-US-European squeeze on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) limited the tools at the movement's disposal to damp down violence, and gave the movement even less incentive to use them.

Israel, the US and the European Union refused to accept the new Palestinian government as a negotiating partner, turning back the diplomatic clock to September 1, 1975, when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger committed the US not to talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization unless it renounced terrorism and accepted Israel's right to exist. This formula had been born in Israel one year earlier, when Labor Party members Aharon Yariv and Victor Shemtov put forward a formula calling for the Israeli government to negotiate with any Palestinian party that renounced violence and recognized Israel. Following the Palestinian elections, the Quartet, made up of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia, updated the Yariv-Shemtov formula for the twenty-first century. The putative international mediators added the requirement of accepting agreements previously signed by Palestinian representatives, including the 1993 and 1994 Oslo accords, and demanded that Hamas recognize Israel "as a Jewish state," a formulation absent from prior Israeli-Arab peace deals.

Frozen out of official negotiations, Hamas could only carry out public diplomacy. The movement sent up a number of trial balloons soon after its election in the form of comments to the press, op-eds in the Guardian and Washington Post, and on- and off-the-record remarks to international organizations. In February, Hamas politburo head Khalid Mashaal described the PA's foundation in the Oslo accords as "a reality," and said that "we do not oppose" the 2002 Arab League initiative offering Israel "full normalization" of relations in return for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a "just and agreed" solution to the refugee problem. Previously, Hamas had vehemently denounced both the Oslo agreements and the Arab initiative. But the US and Israel were not interested in pursuing what sort of avenues this newfound flexibility might open. Instead, the US and Israel boxed Hamas -- and themselves -- into a corner with stringent demands that were impossible for Hamas to accept.

Elements in the electorally defeated Fatah movement, as well as in the Bush administration, initially believed that stonewalling Hamas and starving the PA of funds would cause the new government to fall within three months. They were wrong, but in the meantime Hamas became as firm in its rejection of the externally imposed conditions as Israel, the US and the EU were in insisting upon them. Besieged from within and without, the movement's rate of political change, so rapid in the months leading up to and immediately following the election, grew sluggish. Pleas for Hamas to accept the 2002 Arab initiative unequivocally came to naught.

Likewise, Hamas filibustered President Mahmoud Abbas' proposal that it sign onto the "prisoners' document." Agreed upon by jailed members of all major Palestinian factions, including Hamas, this document called for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, implementation of Palestinian refugees' right of return, and the concentration of armed resistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These ideas were quite similar to what some Hamas leaders had proposed during their public diplomacy campaign, and Hamas, like forces on the Palestinian left, originally thought the prisoners' document could serve as the basis for national dialogue. Then, in May, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas preempted dialogue, and instead tried to use the document as a tool for wresting concessions from Hamas. Abbas vowed to slate a national referendum on the document's contents unless Hamas officially accepted them. This maneuver led the Hamas signatory, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Khaliq al-Natsheh, to remove his name. The eventual Fatah-Hamas reconciliation on the matter, signed by all parties several hours after the Kerem Shalom raid, has been overtaken, at least for the time being, by events on the ground.

Much was made, especially after Shalit's capture, about the divisions within Hamas regarding the prisoners' proposals, with some analysts going so far as to suggest that the raid itself was an attempt to scuttle a deal on the final wording. Indeed, in many quarters, especially in Israel, the Kerem Shalom operation was interpreted as a virtual coup of Hamas' external leadership against the internal, but the Islamist party has always been a big tent, with decisions made by consensus through its consultative council (majlis al-shura). The protracted process followed by Hamas might not be commensurate with the expectation of expeditious decision-making by the prime minister's office, but one should not mistake a deliberative style for internal rupture.

As the Israeli government continued its policy of targeted assassinations and ramped up shelling of Gaza in response to Qassam rocket fire, there was no countervailing force to pull Hamas away from renouncing the unilateral ceasefire it had honored, more or less, for the previous 18 months. Jamal Abu Samhadana, the founder and leader of the Popular Resistance Committees and head of a new Hamas-led PA security force, was assassinated on June 8, and the next day, seven members of the Ghalia family were killed on a Gazan beach—by an Israeli artillery shell, most believe, though an Israeli army report claims otherwise.

Hamas' armed wing, the ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, called off the truce, promising "earth-shaking actions," and the rate of rocket fire increased. The denouement is well-known: Israel replied with an aggressive campaign to smother the rocket fire, including a larger than usual number of "operational failures" that elevated the death toll among Palestinian civilians. The June 25 Observer (London) reported that the preceding day Israeli commandos had infiltrated Gaza to seize two Palestinians said to be members of Hamas. Hamas found itself under pressure to uphold the banner of Palestinian resistance, and the Kerem Shalom operation was launched.

Trading rocket fire was a losing proposition for Hamas, as it was simply used by Israel to justify aggressive retaliation. Shalit's capture, by contrast, held the potential to reverse the across-the-board rejection that Hamas had faced since January. Whether the seizure was planned in advance or resulted from an unexpected opportunity, this development offered the possibility of securing the release of Palestinian prisoners and reversing the political isolation of the Hamas-led PA by creating a precedent for negotiations. The Israeli government repeatedly proclaimed its refusal to negotiate, but did so through Egyptian intermediaries and Abbas' office. As this process broke down, Hamas once again turned to the press, with Prime Minister Isma‘il Haniyya pushing, on the pages of the July 11 Washington Post, a proposal for a comprehensive approach to resolving the conflict. In response, the Israeli government the next day hit an apartment building in Gaza with a half-ton bomb that failed to kill Muhammad Deif, a top Hamas bomb-maker, but did kill a family of nine.


Because of the bombing of bridges and power plants, the air and ground assault in Gaza -- dubbed Operation Summer Rains -- certainly seems to aim well beyond its ostensible goals of recovering Cpl. Shalit and stopping rocket fire. The ulterior motive, some analysts say, is to destroy the PA entirely. Successive Israeli governments have eschewed this option for fear of being left responsible for administering the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Israel has been unsuccessful in convincing the world that Gaza disengagement has ended its "occupation of the Palestinians" -- a declaration that has no standing in international law, as only territory can be occupied, not people. As the former head of Israel's Civil Administration told me in 2004:

If the PA collapses or folds, we will be in a very bad situation. The international community will not allow the situation here to become like it is in Sudan, and neither will we. Israel will have to take responsibility for supplying food, water, electricity, education. The problem is not the cost in money; it's a matter of the cost in human terms. We would have to build up the whole [structure of the] Civil Administration in the West Bank and Gaza again. It would mean that army officers would need to get involved in education and television and agriculture. It would mean stepping back 20 years or more, to how it was at the beginning of the occupation. That is a very big threat to Israel. We are trying not to reach this point. If Arafat [then still president of the PA] would say, "You wanted Ramallah, take Ramallah. You wanted Bethlehem, take Bethlehem. You wanted Nablus, take Nablus, I am not responsible anymore." If Arafat said that, we would be in a lot of trouble. We are lucky it hasn't happened.

Today, with the PA even weaker and internationally ostracized, Hamas is in no position to push the implementation of its political agenda. Nevertheless, the Israeli government may have decided that the Qassam rocket fire is a political liability that can only be overcome by a grand political accomplishment: toppling the Hamas-led PA while leaving the government structure intact, thereby facilitating the reemergence of Fatah on top. But this strategy is risky: it is not clear that the PA could survive the fall of Hamas. If Fatah could retake control, the Israeli government would then be faced with the prospect of negotiations, which would demand compromises of the sort that unilateral action forestalls.

Some wonder if the PA has already been fatally compromised by the siege it has been put under. As a former UN official with a long experience in the West Bank and Gaza puts it, "Of all the foreign and government types I talk to here, the people who seem to best understand how grim the situation is are in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The international community is marching toward the abyss with their eyes open. I think we may well have passed the point where the PA in its current form cannot be sustained, and some of the more enlightened voices in the IDF are the only ones who seem to understand that." The "international community" -- in reality, the US and the EU -- surely has not reached this conclusion. A European official involved with the Temporary International Mechanism -- a program to prop up the most critical Palestinian social services while bypassing the Hamas-led PA government -- deprecated his government's efforts, saying they were "hopelessly inadequate, risky and don't address the real issues." "The European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner came out and said in public that there should be such a thing," he elaborated, "so we had to scramble to put something together so she wouldn't look bad. There wasn't nearly enough planning for it. The program works around the PA, trying to identify beneficiaries to whom we pay allowances, a method that contributes toward further weakening the PA. Should the PA fall, it will be useful to have this mechanism in place to at least get some resources in, but the irony is that we ourselves will have helped create the situation."

Given today's reality in the West Bank and especially Gaza, one could argue that the PA has in fact already collapsed. With over 60 parliamentarians in Israeli jails, hardly any salaries being paid, and government services suspended owing to lack of money and the Israeli siege, there is little left of the PA beyond a national aspiration. Among Palestinians in the West Bank, the idea of simply dissolving the PA so as to force Israel to take responsibility -- or at least the blame, should Israel refuse to implement its responsibility for administering the occupation -- is growing in popularity. This idea first appeared in the wake of the Israeli incursion in the spring of 2002 and came to prominence when Mahmoud Abbas resigned as prime minister in 2003. The idea subsequently receded from the public square, an acknowledgment of how many livelihoods and services are dependent on the PA's continuation. But as the contributions of the PA to the Palestinian economy and society have dwindled over the past five months, the idea has begun to gain support among Palestinian legislators, both Hamas- and Fatah-affiliated, according to a well-informed academic source.


The increased aggressiveness of Israeli military action over the past months, and especially the last weeks, stems from a shakeup in the balance of power within the Israeli government. Among the most influential arms of the IDF is the Operations Department, which is possessed of a long-term vision that, in accordance with institutional interests, is premised upon the use of military power to achieve political goals. Representatives of this department, even before the disengagement from Gaza in the summer of 2005, complained that unilateral concessions would erode Israel's "deterrent capacity."

Ariel Sharon, then prime minister, was unmoved by this argument, since his long military career had taught him that the invocation of the ostensibly neutral notion of "deterrence" was a stratagem to force the treatment of political problems though military means. For years, he himself had used the same technique to inveigh against initiatives of the political echelon. Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, by contast, are inexperienced in military matters, and as a result, according to a source in Israeli military intelligence, they did not fully appreciate how the demand for "deterrence" can be used to shift the internal balance of power in favor of the military. When the Operations Department harped on the need to reestablish Israeli "deterrence," especially in the wake of the soldiers' capture, the civilian leadership was convinced to hew to the IDF's line. This subtle but crucial change brewing inside Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv explains something about the enormous extent of the destruction wreaked on Lebanon in the wake of Hizballah's cross-border raid.

Hizballah's gambit could cut two ways for Hamas. One the one hand, the operation elevates Palestinian concerns to a grander stage, putting their demands front and center before the international community. Since Nasrallah seems intent on linking the Palestinian and Lebanese prisoner issues through a "grand bargain," a resolution to the much more sticky and explosive conflict in the north will necessitate a prisoner exchange in the south as well. Hizballah is in a position to spring more Palestinian prisoners than Hamas by itself could ever have hoped to free. But on the other hand, Hizballah's move made the crisis in Gaza disappear from Western newscasts, as reporters rushed to cover the "northern front." It also upstaged Hamas. Egyptian President Husni Mubarak's mediation to secure Shalit's release could have set a precedent for Israel negotiating with Hamas, however indirectly, but Hizballah pulled the rug out from under Hamas and turned the soldier snatching tactic to Hizballah's advantage. Nasrallah's own moment of glory, according to this second explanation, may come at the expense of Hamas' push to force Israel to negotiate. Both streams of thought are reflected within Hamas' leadership, although more probably tend toward the former, hopeful that the limited widening of the conflict will pry open doors that otherwise would remain closed.

The Israeli government is doing its best to keep those doors firmly shut. As Tzipi Livni told the special UN team dispatched to the region on July 18, "The diplomatic process is not intended to reduce the window of opportunity for military operations, but will take place in parallel." Her statement affirmed that Israel will continue its attacks in Lebanon and Gaza even as it works to secure international support for returning its taken soldiers and implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1559. Omitted from Israel's diplomatic agenda is any attempt to deal with the political causes of the fighting, either in Lebanon or in Gaza. Endorsing instead the Group of Eight's statement that "extremism" lies at the root of the fighting, the Israeli government is pushing the disarmament of Hizballah in Lebanon and uprooting the "terrorist infrastructure" in Gaza -- both of which objectives have scant chances of success and enormous potential for provoking further violence -- instead of launching a different kind of diplomatic initiative: one that would work to establish a peace in which independent militias in Lebanon and Gaza would not be required.

Livni's statement to the UN team is an apt description of not only the Israeli government's strategy in its two-front war but also its convergence plan. Ariel Sharon, like his successors in the Kadima Party, convinced the Israeli public that "convergence" would pay diplomatic dividends by securing international recognition that the occupation had ended, even as it accorded the Israeli military the freedom to exact an even heavier price from those who might resist Israel's unilateral designs. Sharon foresaw that the diplomatic part of the plan would require military support to be successful, while military pressure upon the Palestinians was not sustainable internationally without a diplomatic component. The Operations Department might be stepping on the gas pedal in escalating the wars in Lebanon and Gaza, but a no-holds-barred assault of this nature was a long time coming.
UPDATED: 11:45 pm EDT July 20, 2006

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Israeli troops crossed into Lebanon Thursday to seek Hezbollah tunnels and weapons for a second straight day, and the country hinted at a full-scale invasion as civilians continue to flee the battle-scarred region.

Two Apache attack helicopters crashed in northern Israel near the Lebanon border early Friday, and the collision killed a pilot and injured three troops, according to Israel's military.
The Apache attack helicopters collided about 2½ miles east of the Israel-Lebanon border in the Galilee panhandle.
Israel has been conducting a large-scale military operation in Lebanon, involving large numbers of aircraft, including attack helicopters.
IU.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told the Security Council Thursday that while the guerrillas must stop their rocket attacks, Israel's response has been "disproportionate."

Annan condemned what he called the "excessive use of force," and is demanding Israel do more to stop attacks on civilians.

Lebanon's government is now "a hostage to the crisis," with Israeli actions only increasing support for Hezbollah, Annan said.

July 23, 2006

Paul McGeough, Beirut and Ed O'loughlin, Tyre

THE US is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, in a move likely to anger Arab governments and a sign there will be no early end to Israel's bombardment of Lebanon.

The shipment comes as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepares to visit Israel, which is massing troops on its border with Lebanon after the 11-day bombardment that has failed to stem waves of deadly Hezbollah missiles landing on its territory.

Although Israel said its troops were conducting only "limited thrusts" into Lebanon, the Israeli move gives rise to speculation that the war is about to enter a bloodier phase.

More Hezbollah rockets hit towns across northern Israel yesterday, injuring 10 people.

The rain of missiles and the Israeli build-up coincided with Dr Rice's new round of Middle East diplomacy that will take her to Israel but not Lebanon. And it will inject a new urgency into Canberra's evacuation of thousands of Lebanese-Australians trapped in the war zone.

Resisting international pressure for a ceasefire, Dr Rice said the conflict's root causes — in her view Hezbollah's armed presence on Israel's border and the role of its allies, Syria and Iran — had to be tackled first.

The US arms shipment was requested by Israel after it launched its air campaign in Lebanon two weeks ago. The New York Times reported that the munitions the US was sending to Israel were part of an arms sale approved last year that Israel was able to draw on as needed. It quoted US officials as saying the Israeli request indicated Israel had a long list of targets in Lebanon still to strike.
If Syria or Iran had sent more bombs to Hezbollah there would have been world-wide condemnation for an increasing the bloodshed.
By VOA News

Lebanese officials say Israeli warplanes have destroyed transmission towers for television stations and mobile phones in two parts of northern Lebanon.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the strikes in Fatqa and Terbol. Saturday's attacks were latest against Lebanese communications infrastructure since Israel began its offensive against Hezbollah militants in Lebanon 11 days ago.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops and tanks are massed along the Lebanese border as ground forces carry out attacks against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Israeli officials called the operations limited and say they are against targets that cannot be hit by airstrikes.

U.N. peacekeepers on the border say Israeli forces are still in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras near the border.

The Israeli offensive has been countered by frequent rocket attacks by Hezbollah, including in the port city of Haifa Saturday.

Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets over southern Lebanon on Friday, urging civilians to move north of the Litani River, about 30 kilometers north of the Israeli border.

In Beirut, President Emile Lahoud said the Lebanese army will defend the country and prove it is an army worthy of respect.

July 21, 2006

Israel is raining destruction upon Lebanon in a purely defensive operation, according to the White House and most of Congress. Even some CNN anchors, habituated to mechanical reporting of “Middle East violence,” sound slightly incredulous. With over 300 Lebanese dead and easily 500,000 displaced, with the Beirut airport, bridges and power plants disabled, the enormous assault is more than a “disproportionate response” to Hizballah’s July 12 seizure of two soldiers and killing of three others on Israeli soil. It is more than the “excessive use of force” that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan decries. The aerial assault dwarfs the damage done by Hizballah’s rocket attacks on Israeli towns. Entire villages in south Lebanon lie in ruins, unknown numbers of their inhabitants buried in the rubble and tens of others incinerated in their vehicles by Israeli missiles as they attempted to escape northward. As it awaits the promised “humanitarian corridor,” Lebanon remains almost entirely cut off from the outside world by air, sea and land. As of July 20, thousands of Israeli troops have moved across the UN-demarcated Blue Line. Yet virtually the entire American political class actively resists international calls for an immediate ceasefire, preferring to wait for an Israeli victory.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert set the tone immediately after Hizballah struck, branding the cross-border raid as “an act of war” whose consequences would be “very, very, very painful.” Moreover, Israel would hold the Lebanese government and the Lebanese nation as a whole responsible. Israel’s determination to inflict pain upon Lebanon was fanned on the fourth day of Israeli bombardment when Hizballah Secretary-General Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah likewise declared “open warfare,” and the Shiite movement’s militia stepped up rocket fire that has taken 15 Israeli civilian lives. Though the Katyushas and larger projectiles are much deadlier than the Qassams of Hamas, Israel faces no existential threat from the rockets on either front. It is in Lebanon, to paraphrase Israeli army chief of staff Gen. Dan Halutz, where the clock has been turned back 20 years.

The American broadcast media nevertheless labor to fashion symmetry where there is none. There is balanced treatment of the casualties on both sides. The Israelis forced into bomb shelters are juxtaposed with the Lebanese politely warned to flee their homes. For competing renditions of the day’s bloodletting, CNN’s avuncular Larry King turns first to nonchalantly windblown Israeli spokeswoman Miri Eisen and then to a program director from Hizballah’s al-Manar satellite channel, Ibrahim al-Musawi, who always seems to have one eye on the sky. The rock-star reporters who parachuted in to cover the story dispense dollops of confusion. CNN’s Anderson Cooper in Cyprus explained that, since Hamas members are Sunni and Hizballah members Shi‘i, they are “historic rivals.” MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson, sans bowtie to convey the seriousness of the occasion, wondered if Hizballah had rocketed Nazareth because its residents are all Christian, ignoring the images on the screen behind him from the attack victims’ funeral at a mosque.

The likes of Carlson can perhaps be forgiven for grasping at clash-of-civilizations straws. The White House’s immediate fingering of Iran and Syria as the masterminds of Hizballah’s self-described “adventure” substituted phantoms and bogeymen for real political causes. Israel was similarly quick to espy an “axis of Islamic terror” stretching to Damascus and Tehran. Former Speaker of the House and would-be presidential candidate Newt Gingrich went officialdom one better, declaring on NBC’s Meet the Press that the US and its allies are in “World War III.” A steady stream of Congressmen goes before the cameras to aver that Tehran and Damascus are pulling the strings.

No evidence, beyond leaked Israeli intelligence of secret meetings between Nasrallah and his alleged Syrian and Iranian puppeteers, has been presented for the thesis of broader conspiracy, let alone for the core proposition that Hizballah snatched the Israeli soldiers on orders from Bashar al-Asad and/or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Who else sees the hand of Iran, by the way? Saddam Hussein, admonishing Syria from his Baghdad jail cell not to “deepen its coalition with Iran, because Iranians have bad intentions toward all Arabs and they hope to do away with them.”) The fact that Hizballah’s arsenal includes missiles of Iranian and Syrian provenance is also adduced as proof. By this same logic, of course, Washington must be ordering every sortie of Israeli F-16s over Beirut and every demolition of Palestinian homes by Caterpillar bulldozers.

... But it is odd, to say the least, to hold the Lebanese government responsible for Hizballah’s initial cross-border operation. To the contrary, the evidence suggests that the Islamist party acted unilaterally, despite having representatives in the cabinet and in Parliament. This circumstance suggests that the raid should be interpreted as Hizballah muscle flexing on the domestic stage to ward off pressure to relinquish its arms to the Lebanese army, as per the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. Perhaps, having exchanged prisoners with Israel as recently as 2004, the movement miscalculated how Israel would react, and now they are getting more than they bargained for. Certainly, Lebanon is.

Whichever combination of these factors accounts for Hizballah’s action, the real question is what Israel hopes to accomplish by bombing the whole of Lebanon in reprisal. The strategy behind the assault, apart from blind retribution, is difficult to fathom. Even though Israeli jets buzzed Asad’s presidential palace after Hamas captured an Israeli soldier, and even though evidence of Syrian influence over Hamas is far wispier than its ties to Hizballah, Israel seems disinclined to draw Damascus into the fighting. “We’re not a gang that shoots in every direction,” an Israeli officer told Ha’aretz. Nor, despite bellicose talk of “root causes” and rumors of Iranian Revolutionary Guards firing from Hizballah launching pads, does Israel or the US appear prepared to do more than trade insults with Tehran. There is a risk of catastrophic escalation, but it is reasonable to hope it is not planned.

Rather, the stated objective (beyond the recovery of the captive soldiers) is the implementation of a UN resolution, an instrument of international diplomacy for which Israeli spokespeople have developed a touching new fondness. If the Lebanese government will not disarm Hizballah, then Israel will. If the Lebanese will not “exercise their sovereignty,” as Eisen demanded on CNN, then Israel will appropriate that sovereignty and exercise it in Lebanon’s stead. Perhaps because the US has its own history of invading Middle Eastern countries to “enforce UN resolutions,” the American media seem to regard Israel’s case as entirely sensible. One wonders how the media would have treated similar external intervention to impose UN Security Council Resolution 425, which called for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 1978, and, of course, was not honored until 2000, under the pesky fire of Hizballah.

But that is what-if history. Back in the present, says the tough-talking Israeli ambassador in Washington, David Ayalon: “We’ll have to go for the kill—Hizballah neutralization.” Thus far, independent assessments of “operational success” are bleak. On July 20, the Times of London quoted “a senior British official” as saying: “Our concern is that Israeli military action is not having the desired effect…. We are concerned that continued military operations by Israel will cause further damage to infrastructure and loss of civilian life which the damage to Hizballah will not justify.” The well-connected military affairs columnist for Ha’aretz, Ze’ev Schiff, penned a similarly pessimistic appraisal.

... Many European chanceries, like Annan, evoking rules-of-war distress at Israel’s “excessive use of force,” are calling for an immediate ceasefire. These calls were faint indeed amidst a week of air raids and the Group of Eight’s toothless tut-tutting about “extremist forces.” From Washington came the bright green go-ahead to keep on bombing. Asked how long Israel’s campaign could continue, a high-ranking US official told the Washington Post: “There’s a natural dynamic to these things. When the military starts, it may be that it has to run its course.”

So we arrive at the Bush administration’s breathtakingly cavalier stance and, again, the human cost of its decision to use Lebanon’s agony to tilt at Iranian and Syrian windmills. On July 15, by several accounts, US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton blocked Security Council discussion of the ceasefire resolution for which Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has pleaded in every available forum. Since then, despite blatant violations of principles of proportionality and growing international alarm about the internally displaced Lebanese, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledges only to work for a ceasefire “as soon as possible when conditions are conducive to do so.” The conditions, of course, grow less “conducive” the longer Washington’s green light glares.

Such signals to Israel are not unprecedented, of course, but in this case they are completely and rather shockingly public. The secretary of state has disagreed with the Egyptian foreign minister about the urgency of a ceasefire while standing before the same bank of microphones in Foggy Bottom. Making the Sunday talk show rounds on July 16, Rice again shopped an applause line from her June 2005 American University in Cairo address: “For the last 60 years, American administrations of both stripes -- Democratic, Republican -- traded what they thought was security and stability and turned a blind eye to the absence of democratic forces, to the absence of pluralism in the region.” This policy, she still claims, has been reversed. In reality, with its unabashed approval of Israel’s pounding of Lebanon, the Bush administration has reversed 60 years of basing US policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict on the premise -- however fictional in practice -- that the US seeks peace between the parties. Meanwhile, as Rice dithers over setting a date certain for a Middle East diplomatic mission, the US green light may actually exacerbate the carnage in Lebanon, since Israeli military commanders know that they will have limited time to accomplish their goals.

On July 19, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Tony Snow if Bush’s insistence that Rice not undertake shuttle diplomacy until Israel “defangs” Hizballah made the conflagration in Lebanon a US war as well as an Israeli one. Snow dissembled: “Why would it be our war? I mean, it’s not on our territory. This is a war in which the United States -- it’s not even a war. What you have are hostilities, at this point, between Israel and Hizballah. I would not characterize it as a war.”

It is a war, an unjustified war. Israel’s legal justifications -- protecting the sanctity of its borders and enforcing UN resolutions -- are disingenuous to the point of being dishonest, after Israel’s own years of ignoring the will of the international community and crossing and erasing boundaries with impunity. The US is the only international actor with the power to stop this war, and instead has chosen to encourage the fighting. So the US, too, will be held accountable by history.

July 17, 2006 09:18 AM

Viewed from Lebanon, the TV coverage of destruction in Israel seems wildly out of proportion compared with what is happening across the border.
Brian Whitaker

Most of the time in Beirut, the bombs come without warning. Occasionally, above the hooting of cars and other street noises, you hear the roar of an invisible plane. Then there's a loud bang, perhaps two of three in quick succession. Sometimes it's more of a muffled thud, and sometimes you hear nothing at all. Sound and blast travel in strange ways, especially when there are buildings around.

Judging by the TV over the weekend, the picture in Israel is rather different. There, at least, they have warnings of attacks and people try to take shelter.

Another difference in Israel is that Hizbullah's rockets are not very accurate. They seem to be aimed in a general direction, not at any specific target, and so, in a way, this makes them much more alarming because no one can be sure where they will land.

Israel, with its high-tech weaponry, on the other hand, is aiming at precise targets in Lebanon and often hits them with pinpoint accuracy.

Sometimes its choice of targets is difficult to understand. Why, for example, did the military send a helicopter specially to put out the light in Beirut's lighthouse? There are also serious questions about its attacks on civilian vehicles, one of which killed nine children on Saturday.

The result, though, is that in general Lebanon can be divided into areas that are vulnerable to attack and those which are comparatively safe. This may change, but in the meantime it is causing a huge upheaval as people flee to safer areas.

A further striking difference, when you compare the pictures from Israel and Lebanon, is that Israeli weapons are far more destructive than those of Hizbullah, though you might not realise that if you watch CNN - an issue that bloggers have begun to comment on.

Hezbollah rockets are spectacularly ineffective. For every 100 rockets launched they kill one person, and maybe destroy one room of a building or one car. Israel should be grateful that someone has diddled Hezbollah with these dud weapons. Imagine if they had US made cruise missiles or even WW2 V2 rockets. It is like some kind of trick, giving soldiers blank bullets and sending them into the front line.

  The media, and the Israeli spokesmen don't see it that way of course. This is a dangerous attack on Israel, they threaten the very existence of Israel. Nonsense; despite being told they carry explosives there is little sign of this. After they hit the ground, you can still see the body of the rocket. When they hit a house, only the room they hit is demolished.

On the other hand, there is no dismissing the power of the Israeli armaments, the damage they do, or the people they kill. It is also interesting to note that Israel always adds the number of soldiers killed into their totals, which is generally more than the civilians, whereas in Lebanon, they only count civilians. Israel is trying to maximise the damage inflicted by the rockets, while secretly the IDF laugh up their sleeves at these rockets. Oh yes, they do frighten people, and they do cause them to have to spend hours each day in underground shelters, but no one has been killed there, unlike the children and women killed in Lebanese basements. Better to spend some hours underground than have your home razed; a million people homeless. It is obvious to everyone, except perhaps Israelis, that the destruction in Lebanon is ten thousand times worse than in Israel.

Considering the harmlessness of these rocket attacks on Israel and the disproportionate attacks on Lebanon--disproportionate is not strong enough a word--let's say the mad-dog response, let us pose a question. If Hezbollah had sent three cruise missiles into three Israeli cities--would Israel have responded with nuclear weapons?

Jul 28, 2006

The UN Security Council adopted a statement on Thursday expressing shock and distress at Israel's bombing of a UN outpost in Lebanon that killed four unarmed UN peacekeepers.

The policy statement, which carries less weight than a resolution, was weaker than one proposed by China and other nations, after more than a day of negotiations and objections from the United States, which wanted to make sure Israel was not directly blamed for the attack.

China, expressing frustration at the delay, earlier warned the United States that its opposition to the statement could could jeopardize UN negotiations on a resolution ordering Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment. One of the peacekeepers killed on Tuesday was Chinese. The other three came from Austria, Canada and Finland.

The final draft adopted by the 15-member council eliminated wording "condemning any deliberate attack against UN personnel" as well as a call for a joint Israeli-UN investigation, which UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had asked for.

Instead, it called on Israel "to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into this incident, taking into account any relevant material from United Nations authorities."
It said the Security Council "is deeply shocked an distressed by the firing by the Israeli Defense Forces on a United Nations Observer post in southern Lebanon on 25 July, 2006, which caused the death of four UN military observers."

Israel has apologized and called the incident a mistake. UN officials said they asked Israel a dozen times to stop bombing near the post in the hours before it was destroyed.

Jane Lute, an American and an assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, briefed the Security Council that the outpost came under Israeli fire 21 times, including four direct hits.

After the statement was adopted, China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya said he was relieved action was taken even if the final draft was watered-down. He had previously said he was frustrated by the US position.

As usual the US springs to the defence of Israel, no matter what they have done. No one believes the US is an "honest broker". As for asking Israel to conduct and inquiry into the incident ... well add it to the Gaza Beach, enquiry, Qana bombing 1 and 2, and a dozen others. In every case Israel will pose as the innocent victim.

READ THE REPORT FROM ROBERT FISK, who went to Qana and answers questions about the Israeli justification for the attack.

4 August 2006

An Israeli military investigation into the Qana bombing, which killed at least 28 people, yesterday found that the air force did not know there were civilians in the building and blamed Hizbullah for using "human shields."

Independent International Inquiry Required

(Beirut, August 3, 2006) – The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) inquiry into the July 30 killing of at least 28 civilians in Qana is incomplete and legally misguided, and contradicts eyewitness testimony, Human Rights Watch said today. The findings underline the need for an independent international inquiry into what took place.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT - Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon

(Beirut, August 3, 2006) - This report documents serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Lebanon between July 12 and July 27, 2006, as well as the July 30 attack in Qana. During this period, the IDF killed an estimated 400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, and that number climbed to over 500 by the time this report went to print. The Israeli government claims it is taking all possible measures to minimize civilian harm, but the cases documented here reveal a systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians.



Israel is seeking to cast itself as the victim even as it expels the people of Lebanon and Gaza from their homes

Karma Nabulsi
Wednesday August 2, 2006  The Guardian

People walk the dusty, broken roads in scorching summer heat, taking shelter in the basements of empty buildings. In Gaza and Lebanon, in the refugee camps of Khan Younis, Rafah and Jabaliya, in Tyre and Beirut, in Nabatiyeh and Sidon, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children seek refuge. As they flee, they risk the indiscriminate wrath of an enemy driven by an existential mania that can not be assuaged, only stopped. Ambulances are struck, humanitarian relief convoys are struck, UN observers are struck. Warning leaflets are dropped from the sky urging people to abandon their homes, just as they were in 1996, 1982, 1978, 1967 and 1948. The ultimately impossible decision in Gaza and Lebanon today is: where does a refugee go?

In Beirut in July 1982, after surviving a bomb that destroyed a seven-floor apartment block next door to me, burying alive more than 40 people taking refuge in its cellar, some of us began to sleep on the roof; there is no refuge from this terror, there is only resistance. Fifteen of the 37 children killed in Qana on Sunday were disabled; their families could take them no further north, according to the Lebanese MP Bahia Hariri.

From June to August 1982, Israeli aircraft flying over Lebanon dropped "smart bombs" on children's hospitals in Shatila camp, Gaza hospital, Acre hospital and 11 of the country's orphanages, killing dozens of disabled children. They had nowhere else to shelter. The roofs had been painted with huge white crosses visible from the sky.

That war did not give Israel the security it claims to seek, and nor will this one. In 1948 Palestinians fled after hearing news of the massacres in villages by Haganah forces and receiving leaflets dropped from the sky telling them to run for their lives. This week their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are being killed with impunity in the refugee camps of Gaza, where they are trapped. Last Friday alone more than 30 Palestinians were killed, with no international condemnation and barely a mention in the press. In Qana they were also trapped. "We couldn't get out of our neighbourhood because there are only two roads leading out and the Israelis bombed them both several days ago," said Mohammad Shalhoub, a disabled 41-year-old survivor.

The US and Britain are claiming that no ceasefire is possible until there is an international force that will implement United Nations resolution 1559. Yet the Lebanese prime minister issued a seven-point plan in Rome last week, consistent with international law and agreed by all elected parties in Lebanon (including Hizbullah), that had as its first requirement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. It is implementation of the dozens of UN resolutions that Israel has flouted for more than 50 years with protection from the US - and now from Britain - that will stop this conflict.

The capture of a soldier from an occupying army in Gaza, and of two soldiers on the Lebanese border by local resistance, in an attempt to force the release of thousands of illegally detained Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners, should have been dealt with by Israel in the framework of the laws of war and with a proportional response. Instead, by launching this massive attack, Israel has destroyed the social and economic infrastructure of a sovereign nation, Lebanon, just as it is destroying the infrastructure of a democratically elected administration in occupied Palestine.

It is producing generations of refugees who will also resist. Power stations, bridges, key manufacturing and food factories in Lebanon are ruined, the entire industrial estate of Gaza pulverised. The ancient city centre of Nablus has been demolished. Whole villages in south Lebanon and sections of refugee camps in Gaza have been obliterated. These too are war crimes. If Britain will not stop Israel, nor condemn it, then under the Geneva conventions it is complicit in those crimes.

Before seeking the implementation of UN resolution 1559, which calls for the disarmament of Hizbullah, Britain must seek with more sincerity the implementation of UN security council resolutions 242 and 338, which demand the immediate withdrawal of Israel from lands illegally occupied in the 1967 war, including the Golan Heights, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. There is hardly a statesman or citizen in the world today who cannot see that it will take outside intervention to stop Israel inflicting this terror. Calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and working towards the implementation of all UN resolutions addressing this conflict, will restore to the international community - and Britain in particular - the legitimacy it has squandered by allowing months of war crimes to go by, witnessed but uncondemned and unconstrained.

Israel has failed to understand that it cannot expel a people and call itself the victim; that it cannot conquer its neighbours and treat any and all resistance to that conquest as terrorism; that it cannot arm itself as a regional superpower and annihilate the institutional fabric of two peoples without incurring the fury of their children in the years that follow.

· Karma Nabulsi teaches politics and international relations at Oxford University. She is the author of Traditions of War: Occupation, Resistance and the Law


The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the group are using civilians as human shields, thereby placing them at risk. Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. Hezbollah occasionally did store weapons in or near civilian homes and fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers, which are serious violations of the laws of war because they violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. However, those cases do not justify the IDF’s extensive use of indiscriminate force which has cost so many civilian lives. In none of the cases of civilian deaths documented in this report is there evidence to suggest that Hezbollah forces or weapons were in or near the area that the IDF targeted during or just prior to the attack.

By consistently failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, Israel has violated one of the most fundamental tenets of the laws of war: the duty to carry out attacks on only military targets. The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes.

... Human Rights Watch has separately and simultaneously documented violations of international humanitarian law by Hezbollah, including a pattern of attacks that amount to war crimes. Between July 12, when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight, and July 27, the group launched a reported 1,300 rockets into predominantly civilian areas in Israel, killing 18 civilians and wounding more than 300. Without guidance systems for accurate targeting, the rockets are inherently indiscriminate when directed toward civilian areas, especially cities, and thus are serious violations of the requirement of international humanitarian law that attackers distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians. Some of these rockets, Human Rights Watch found, are packed with thousands of metal ball-bearings, which spray more than 100 meters from the blast and compound the harm to civilians.

Published: August 20, 2006


By Steven Erlanger The New York Times

JERUSALEM Despite a cease-fire agreement, Israel intends to do its best to keep Iran and Syria from rearming Hezbollah and to kill the militia's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, says a senior Israeli commander.

International commitments to exclude the Hezbollah militia from southern Lebanon and to disarm it already seem hollow, said the commander, who had a well-placed view of the war and its planning and has extensive experience in Lebanon.

... Furthermore, he made it clear that Sheik Nasrallah remained a target as the leader of a group that Israel and the United States have labeled terrorist. "There's only one solution for him," he said. At another point, he said simply, "This man must die."

Mr. Nasrallah is regarded as a hero in much of the Muslim world. The pro-Syrian president of Lebanon, Émile Lahoud, praised him and Hezbollah this week for what he called their victory over Israel.

Israel feels that it has the right to assassinate anyone who is a potential threat to them. This is a sure way to may enemies. They feel righteous anger when Iranians make idle threats about them, but do not hesitate to threaten others. Assassination has become commonplace for Israelis, an accepted practice.

Prime minister says Israel is making all necessary preparations to handle with such a situation; warns that nuclear Iran also threat to Arab world and other western countries

Ronny Sofer
Latest Update: 12.01.05

VIDEO: In his first overt comment on Iran’s controversial nuclear activities, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Thursday that Israel would not tolerate a nuclear Iran, alluding to IDF preparations to deal with such a scenario.

“Israel, and other countries cannot accept a situation where Iran has nuclear arms. The issue is clear to us and we are making all the necessary preparations to handle a situation of this kind,” Sharon told journalists in Tel Aviv.



Jim Teeple
Washington 18 January 2006

Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert on Tuesday warned that Israel will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.

Israel's acting prime minister says Israel cannot allow what he described as "countries with hostile intentions" to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
We can guess what the "necessary preparations to handle a situation of this kind" are.

Bomb them with Nuclear weapons, of course! Israeli nuclear weapons.

It is well known that Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, acquired thirty years ago. So it is fine for Israel to have nukes, but God forbid anyone else should have them.

Not that there is any real evidence that Iran is making them, simply that it is suspected. Maybe they are. Quite frankly, any country that is called a part of an "axis of evil" by the USA should get busy acquiring them before the invasion.

One wonders at the logic of GW Bush. Acting in such an aggressive manner, is a sure way to make Iran start acquiring all kinds of weapons. They must assume they will either be invaded, bombed, or threatened with both.
Is this diplomacy?