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« Reply #315 on: July 14, 2006, 09:25:01 PM »

 Israel considers Emergency Government
In an emergency cabinet meeting held late Wednesday Israel considered calling for the establishment of an emergency government as the fighting in Lebanon escalates.

Political sources say the prime minister has not made it clear if he will ask Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman to join, but may do so if the situation worsens. Knesset Members from a number of different parties have urged him to do so in this security situation.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not ruled out the possibility, but said that now is not the time to deal with political, parliament and coalition interests.

It is believed that Olmert will ask Netanyahu and Lieberman to join the government until the military operation in Lebanon ends. Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 2 that he would consider joining if asked.

The only other time an emergency government was formed was in 1967 during the Six Day War. Levi Eshkol, prime minister at the time, formed such a government.

Israel considers Emergency Government
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« Reply #316 on: July 14, 2006, 09:29:22 PM »

EU's Solana to make snap Middle East trip
07/13/06 03:25 pm (GMT)
BRUSSELS (AFX) - European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana is preparing to make a snap visit to the Middle East to try to help ease an upsurge of violence there, his spokeswoman said today.

"I follow with the utmost concern the situation in the Middle East," he said in a statement, referring to the ongoing Israeli air strikes in Lebanon in retaliation for the killing and capture of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.

"He has been in contact with all sides and is getting ready to go," said spokeswoman Cristina Gallach, declining to forecast when he will leave or exactly where he will travel to.

Solana was in London Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair. He has also had talks with UN chief Kofi Annan, the EU's Finnish presidency, as well as Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese officials, Gallach said.

"I am in permanent contact with the different parties and with the secretary general of the United Nations," said Solana. "Following these contacts I envisage going to the region."

Earlier the EU's executive arm voiced shock and dismay at the violence, and urged both sides to show restraint.

"The commissioner is very alarmed at the escalation of violence between Lebanon and Israel," said Emma Udwin, spokeswoman for EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

One official at the European Union's executive arm referred to Israel's "disproportionate" use of force in response to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

"Israel is within its rights to defend its territory, but I have always said it is not useful to practice the disproportionate use of force," said EU aid and development commissioner Louis Michel, stressing he was speaking privately.

EU's Solana to make snap Middle East trip
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« Reply #317 on: July 14, 2006, 09:31:03 PM »

Lebanon asks Security Council to impose cease-fire with Israel
By Haaretz Staff and Reuters

Lebanon urged the United Nations Security Council on Friday to quickly impose a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon, but Israel said it was trying to end a terrorist occupation of its neighbor and insisted the Beirut government secretly backed its actions.

Lebanese Foreign Ministry official Nouhad Mahmoud and Israel's Ambassador Dan Gillerman addressed an emergency session of the 15-nation council as Israel intensified attacks on Hezbollah targets and civilian installations and Hezbollah fighters fired more rockets across the border into Israel.

Hours earlier, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Israel would not end its military operation in Lebanon until the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for disarming Hezbollah and the deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon.

The council afterward issued only a brief statement welcoming Annan's decision to send a team to the region to encourage restraint. Council members said they would not rule out further action next week.

Mahmoud said Israel's action was aimed at "bringing Lebanon to its knees and subverting it by any means."

"I need not explain to you who is the victim and who is the aggressor," he said, asking for a "comprehensive, immediate cease-fire, a lifting of the air and sea blockade imposed upon Lebanon and... an end to Israeli aggression."

Gillerman, however, said Lebanon government had brought the Israeli actions on itself, by allowing Hezbollah to remain armed and keep de-facto control over southern Lebanon, from which it could cross the border to seize two Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

"Lebanon is today occupied by terror," he said. He accused Hezbollah of comprising "an axis of terror" along with the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Syria and Iran, which he said support Hamas and Hezbollah.

He urged Lebanon to free itself from the axis by extending its authority across all its territory.

Many Lebanese shared his view of the crisis, he said.

Addressing Mahmoud, Gillerman said: "You know deep in your heart that if you could, you would be sitting here right next to me right now because you know that we are doing the right thing and that if we succeed, Lebanon would be the beneficiary."

Bolton said Washington was working with the parties to the conflict and other concerned leaders "to help restore calm and achieve a resolution to this crisis."

He called on Hezbollah to release the two captured soldiers, urged Lebanon to disarm all militias on its soil, and told Syria and Iran to end support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

But Syrian Abassador Bashar Jaafari, speaking to reporters outside the council chamber because he had not been invited to the urgent session, said Washington's veto Thursday of a resolution drafted by Arab nations calling on Israel to immediately end a separate two-week military incursion in Gaza "gave Israel a green light to go ahead."

"Unfortunately, the behavior of the American delegation is not the behavior of a big power, responsible for maintaining peace and security," Jaafari said. "It is about degrading [a] deteriorating situation and encouraging Israel to go ahead with its aggression against Syria and maybe someone else in the area - who knows." (Click here for more quotes from the meeting)

During their conversation earlier in the day, Annan informed Olmert that he was sending a UN team to the region. Olmert said he would cooperate with the team only if its objective would be to return the soldiers abducted by Hezbollah and the full implementation of Resolution 1559.

Sources in Jerusalem stated Thursday that as a condition for a cease-fire, Israel would demand that Hezbollah outposts be removed from the Israel-Lebanon border and that a buffer zone be created on the Lebanese side of the border. According to the sources, the aim of Operation Just Reward is to alter the balance of power between Israel and Hezbollah.

Sources in Jerusalem believe it will be difficult to demand the implementation of resolution 1559 as a condition for a cease-fire. Israel will also demand the release of the two soldiers abducted by Hezbollah earlier this week.

Lebanese Minister for Social Affairs Mila Mawad said Thursday that the government was preparing to announce its cease-fire proposal to Hezbollah and Israel, under which Hezbollah would be required to free the soldiers. The proposal does not mention the release of Lebanese prisoners.

When asked by a reporter why Lebanon does not disarm Hezbollah, Mawad said the organization was brought into the government to grant its members the feeling they are Lebanese.

Israel believes Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah did not intend to ignite such a dramatic escalation when his fighters kidnapped two Israel Defense Forces soldiers and killed eight others on Tuesday.

The move was apparently intended return to the spotlight to Hezbollah's campaign for the release of Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese national jailed in Israel for the killing of a Nahariya family.

Lebanon asks Security Council to impose cease-fire with Israel
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« Reply #318 on: July 14, 2006, 09:34:45 PM »

Missile hits Egyptian boat off Lebanon-Israel
Sat Jul 15, 2006 1:04 AM BST253


JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A missile fired at an Israeli naval vessel off Lebanon early on Saturday missed the target and hit an Egyptian boat instead, the Israeli army said.

"There has been another attempt to attack an Israeli naval vessel. It missed our ship and instead hit a different ship, an Egyptian vessel," an Israeli army spokeswoman said.

Missile hits Egyptian boat off Lebanon-Israel
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« Reply #319 on: July 14, 2006, 09:36:20 PM »

World condemns Israeli raids

Much of the world is lining up against the ferocity of Israel's military assault on Lebanon, issuing outright condemnations and pleas for restraint amid fears of a regional conflict.

DavidWilliams

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Much of the world is lining up against the ferocity of Israel's military assault on Lebanon, issuing outright condemnations and pleas for restraint amid fears of a regional conflict.

Alarm mounted after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered his armed forces to intensify the offensive after rockets fired by Lebanon's Hezbollah - the "Party of God" - hit towns in northern Israel, killing two people and wounding 50.

Israel had already imposed an air and sea blockade on its northern neighbor, shut the only international airport by bombing its runways and damaged the main Beirut-Damascus highway.

It also is threatening to eliminate Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. "Nasrallah decided his own fate," Interior Minister Roni Bar-On declared on public radio. "We will settle our accounts with him when the time comes."

As the civilian death toll in Lebanon mounted above 60 and Israeli warplanes hit buildings, roads and Beirut airport again, French President Jacques Chirac, who was supposed to be celebrating Bastille Day, questioned whether Israel was seeking Lebanon's destruction.

"One may well ask if there isn't today a kind of wish to destroy Lebanon - its infrastructure, its roads, its communications, its energy, its airport. And for what?

"I find honestly - as all Europeans do - that the current reactions are totally disproportionate."

The reaction came after Hezbollah guerrillas seized two Israeli soldiers on the Lebanon-Israel border Wednesday, leading to Israel's first ground incursion since it ended its occupation of the south of the country in 2000.

Unlike Chirac, US President George W Bush was not about to criticize the scale of the Israeli assault, instead blaming Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas for sparking the latest crisis in the Middle East. But Bush did telephone Lebanon Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to say he would pressure Israel to limit damage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was meeting with Bush before hosting a summit of Group of Eight powers in St Petersburg, said he would formally place the Middle East crisis on the agenda.

"I consider that all sides implicated in this conflict should immediately stop military action," Putin said.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi recognized Israel's "legitimate concerns" but went on to "deplore the escalation in the use of force, the serious damage to Lebanese infrastructure and the civilian casualties of the raids."

Also in Rome, Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano said: "The Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign country."

Iran, which with Syria backs Hezbollah, called for action from the United Nations.

The international community "must intervene to stop this crime," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said during a visit to Greece.

And Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim state, joined the condemnation of Israel, with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono saying the world community must "take concrete steps to prevent an escalation."

World condemns Israeli raids
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« Reply #320 on: July 14, 2006, 09:39:29 PM »

Hezbollah Chief Vows 'Open War' War Against Israel
By VOA News
14 July 2006
   

The head of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has vowed "open war" against Israel after surviving an Israeli airstrike on his home and office in Beirut.

In an audio message Friday, Hassan Nasrallah said Israel would feel Hezbollah's response at all levels - to the northern Israeli city of Haifa and beyond.

He also hailed an attack on an Israeli naval ship off the Lebanese coast.  An Israeli spokesman said the ship was lightly damaged, although the Arab television network al-Jazeera is reporting the Israeli military is searching for four people missing from the warship.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack urged American citizens to assess their own personal security situation and consider leaving Lebanon when conditions permit.  He said, however, no U.S. officials have left the country because there is currently no way for them to leave.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has pledged to continue the offensive until Hezbollah guerrillas are disarmed and two captured Israeli soldiers are released. 

Lebanese officials say more than 60 people have been killed in Israeli attacks.  Israel says eight Israeli soldiers and four Israeli civilians have died in Hezbollah rocket attacks since Wednesday, when Hezbollah captured the two Israeli soldiers.

Israel's military chief of staff said Friday that the two soldiers seized by Hezbollah and a third captured in June by Hamas near the Gaza Strip are alive and doing reasonably well.  He did not reveal the source of his information.

Syria and Iran are the main supporters of Hezbollah.  The Syrian ambassador to London said Friday that Syria has asked Hezbollah to stop firing rockets at Israel.

Hezbollah Chief Vows 'Open War' War Against Israel
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« Reply #321 on: July 14, 2006, 09:41:37 PM »

Syria says fully backs Hizbollah against Israel

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis 17 minutes ago

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria will support Hizbollah and Lebanon against Israel's attacks on the country, the ruling Baath Party said on Friday, defying the Jewish state and its chief ally Washington.

"The Syrian people are ready to extend full support to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes," said a communiqu� from the party's national command issued after a meeting.

It said Israel and the United States "are trying to wipe out Arab resistance in every land under occupation" and that President Bashar al-Assad was aware of the seriousness of the situation in the region.

The national command is the highest echelon of the Baath Party, which has been in power since 1963. The party considers the issue of Arab rights and regaining land occupied by Israel central to its legitimacy.

Assad, who is shaped by his late father's lifetime of struggle with Israel, was not at the meeting.

He has resisted Israeli and American pressure to abandon support for Hizbollah, whose war of attrition was instrumental in forcing Israel to withdraw from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday Syria must pressure of Hizbollah to release two soldiers it captured on Wednesday.

The cross-border operation sparked reprisals from Israel, including strikes that killed scores of Lebanese civilians.

Israel has kept up attacks on Hizbollah targets and devastated an array of Lebanese civilian installations, despite world criticism of its tactics.

The European Union has expressed concern that the confrontation between Hizbollah and Israel could spread to Syria and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi talked with President Bashar al-Assad over the phone on Friday.

It was the first such high-level contact between the Syrian leader and a Western official since last year's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Harir, which worsened Syria's relations with Europe.

Diplomats in Damascus said Syria was confident it would emerge from the crisis with a stronger position compared with the isolation it has been under since the Lebanese-Saudi billionaire turned politician was killed.

"The situation is dangerous but look at how many people are contacting Syria now," one Western diplomat said. "Damascus is back as a main player."

Syria says fully backs Hizbollah against Israel
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« Reply #322 on: July 14, 2006, 10:40:00 PM »

Italian PM discusses Lebanon situation with Syrian president Assad

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi talked with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the phone on Friday regarding the EU's concerns that the Israel-Lebanon confrontation could spread to Syria.

It was the first such high-level contact between the Syrian leader and a Western official since last year's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Harir, which worsened Syria's relations with Europe.

Italian PM discusses Lebanon situation with Syrian president Assad
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« Reply #323 on: July 14, 2006, 11:06:27 PM »

Israel pounds Lebanon as world scrambles to avoid war
Nayla Razzouk
AFP
July 14, 2006

BEIRUT --  Israel pounded Lebanon for the third straight day on Friday, targeting Hizbullah's power base and the airport in relentless attacks that have killed about 60 people and left world powers scrambling to avert all-out war in the region.

Lebanon is virtually cut off from the outside world after Israel imposed an air and sea blockade on its northern neighbor, forced the closure of Beirut international airport, and bombed the main highway to neighboring Syria.

"War Comes Back to Lebanon," was the stark headline in the English-language Daily Star newspaper.

The international community was struggling to contain the conflict, issuing urgent appeals for restraint and sending envoys to the region to avoid another full-scale war in the turbulent Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had ordered the army to intensify the offensive after a barrage of rockets hit towns in northern Israel, including the Mediterranean port city of Haifa, killing two people.

Israel has pointed the finger of blame at Hizbullah's main backers - Syria and Iran - and on Friday an Israeli minister threatened to eliminate the Shia fundamentalist movement's chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

In a wave of strikes on Friday, Israeli jets hit an airport hangar and fuel tanks, pounded Hizbullah's command headquarters in the Shia-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut and a Palestinian guerrilla base in eastern Lebanon, as well as bridges and roads.

Police said that four people were killed on Friday, bringing to 61 the death toll in Lebanon since Israel unleashed what the military has called "Operation Just Reward."

In one of the strongest statements from a world leader on the conflict, President Jacques Chirac of France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, said that Israel appeared to "wish to destroy" Lebanon.

Lebanon said that US President George W. Bush had called Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to voice support for his government and pledged to "exert pressure on Israel to limit damage inflicted on Lebanon."

In northern Israel, where the army ordered about half-a-million Israelis in northern towns into bomb shelters, a volley of about 40 rockets was fired on the towns of Safed and Nahariya and nine people were injured.

World powers are due to discuss the crisis at the Group of Eight meeting starting on Saturday in Moscow after the deadliest violence between Israel and Lebanon in a decade opened up a dangerous new front in the Middle East conflict following the massive Israeli onslaught against Gaza.

The latest crisis was triggered when Hizbullah guerrillas seized two Israeli servicemen in a deadly attack on the volatile Lebanon-Israel border on Wednesday, leading to Israel's first ground incursion since it withdrew in 2000.

The abduction came less than three weeks after a similar raid by Palestinian militants, including members of the ruling Islamist movement Hamas, on the Gaza border that resulted in the capture of an Israeli corporal.

Washington - which regards Hizbullah as a terror group - said that Israel, its closest Middle East ally, had the right to defend itself but urged restraint while several European powers openly criticized the scale of the Israeli offensive as disproportionate.

Envoys from the United Nations and the European Union are being urgently despatched to the region to try to defuse the escalating crisis while the Security Council is to meet on Friday and Arab foreign ministers on Saturday.

UN chief Kofi Annan has said that he was "profoundly worried" by the conflict while the Vatican said that it "deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign nation."

Israel has pointed the finger of blame at Syria and Iran, saying that its two arch-foes formed an "axis of terror" along with Hizbullah and Palestinian militant group Hamas, the target of its offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Israel issued a direct threat against Nasrallah, Hizbullah's military mastermind who has said that the two captured soldiers would only be released in a prisoner exchange.

"Nasrallah decided his own fate," interior minister Roni Bar-On said. "We will settle our accounts with him when the time comes."

In a sign that the Lebanon assault was far from over, Olmert authorized the army "to press on with its operation and hit more targets" after a late-night meeting with top defense officials.

After a barrage of rocket attacks against towns in northern Israel that left two dead and 50 injured, two rockets fired from south Lebanon also penetrated deeper than ever inside Israel, hitting its third largest city of Haifa.

Hizbullah, which has threatened to avenge the "massacres" of Lebanese by Israel, denied, however, that it was involved the Haifa attack.

Bush also said on Thursday that Syria's President Bashar Al Assad, who was forced to end 29 years of military domination in Lebanon last year, should be held to account over the escalation of violence.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, already locked in an international standoff over its suspect nuclear program, warned that Israel would receive a "stinging response" from the Islamic world if it committed any aggression against Syria.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, however, indirectly accused Hizbullah of "adventurism" over its capture of the Israeli soldiers.

With Lebanon's airport shut and Israel blockading its ports, thousands of tourists, mostly Gulf Arab nationals, fled across the border to Syria and a number of foreign governments issued travel warnings.

Lebanon has been mired in its own political crisis since the murder of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri in 2005 and is still rebuilding after the devastating 1975-90 civil war.

The Lebanese government - which includes two Hizbullah ministers but is led by anti-Syrian politicians - denied any involvement in the Hizbullah action and demanded a "complete and immediate ceasefire."

Israel also pressed on with its air assault on Gaza but withdrew ground troops from the center of the territory after the United States vetoed a UN resolution calling on Israel to halt its military operations there.

The air force carried out at least two overnight raids, hitting the house of a Hamas MP, while ground artillery and naval gunboats pounded the territory.

At least 76 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed since Israel launched its assault on Gaza, which the United Nations has warned is causing a humanitarian crisis in one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

Israel pounds Lebanon as world scrambles to avoid war
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« Reply #324 on: July 15, 2006, 02:57:27 AM »

Experts say war is clear, but Syria, Iran in question

Timothy M. Phelps, Newsday
WASHINGTON - A new Middle East war is under way, experts here say, with the next, imminent step very likely to be another Israeli invasion and at least temporary occupation of southern Lebanon.

The only question, the experts say, is whether Syria will get involved in the fighting -- considered a serious possibility -- and how the conflict will affect the international faceoff with Iran over its nuclear program.

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon was in the midst of lunch with reporters Thursday when he was handed a note saying Haifa, a major city far from Israel's borders and largely immune from its modern conflicts, had been struck by a rocket. Israel, he declared, is now at war -- a war that he said cannot end until Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza no longer have the ability to attack Israelis.

For two days, Israel and President Bush have been pointing at Syria and Iran as the culprits behind the dramatic series of events that started with the June 25 kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in Gaza, escalated with the kidnapping of two more soldiers who were taken into Lebanon on Tuesday and led to the Israeli bombing of Lebanon and the missile attack on Haifa on Thursday.

For once, they get no argument from experts on the Arab world, many of whom say Iran and Syria must have given at least tacit support to Hezbollah and maybe Hamas. Some say the two countries were the likely instigators.

Hezbollah, a well-armed Shiite militia and social-service provider supported by the majority of Lebanon's largest ethnic group, gets considerable logistical support from Syria and major funding and direction from Iran.

Hamas, a Sunni Palestinian militia with a social-services network -- upgraded to the official government of the Palestinian Authority by elections in January -- has close ties to Syria and murkier ties to Iran. The most militant Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, lives and operates openly in the Syrian capital.

"I think those are the right places to focus," Judith Kipper of the Council on Foreign Relations said of Syria and Iran. The question she and other regional experts are scratching their heads over is: Why now?

The Israeli-Lebanese border, deceptively peaceful looking as it meanders through a forested nature preserve on the Israeli side and lush rolling hills in Lebanon, had been relatively quiet except for a few minor flareups since Israel pulled out of Lebanon six years ago.

Some think the quiet was the problem for Hezbollah, which became the only Arab group ever to defeat Israel when it forced the Israeli withdrawal by a war of attrition against Israeli soldiers. It may be, some experts say, that Hezbollah, under pressure to disarm, was losing its reason for being and felt pressed to stir things up.

Edward Walker, who served as the top Middle East official in the State Department at the time of the Israeli withdrawal and now runs the Middle East Institute in Washington, suggested that Syria may have wanted this week's escalations as a bid to create a crisis under which it could regain power in Lebanon, from which it was forced to withdraw its troops last year. The pro-Western Lebanese government now in place has been unable to consolidate power.

Iran, Walker said, may have wanted to cause a diversion from the pressure by the United States and Europe over its nuclear program -- and to send a message that the consequences of attacking Iran would be far ranging.

Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said that Israel is planning to invade Lebanon. Walker agreed that was likely.

Kipper pointed out that the last invasion, in 1982, caused Israel endless grief as Hezbollah became adept at picking off Israeli soldiers and then melding back into the Lebanese landscape.

"Israel can't go home without making a war now in both Gaza and Lebanon," Kipper said. But Hezbollah has already proved itself to Israel to be an extremely disciplined enemy, she said.

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« Reply #325 on: July 15, 2006, 02:59:47 AM »

 Israel pulls out of central Gaza
Israeli troops have withdrawn from central Gaza after the army said it had "completed" a two-day mission there.

Forces remain in other parts of the Gaza Strip, and are continuing a separate offensive against Lebanon.

There was fresh violence overnight as the troops withdrew from central Gaza. Sixteen Palestinians, mainly militants, died there in the two-day operation.

On Thursday, the United States vetoed a UN resolution calling on Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza.

Washington's UN ambassador, John Bolton, said the resolution laid disproportionate blame on Israel for the current crisis.

"Passage would have undermined the credibility of the Security Council, which itself must be seen by both sides as an honest broker in the Middle East conflict," he said.

Ten Security Council members voted in favour of Qatar's motion, while four abstained.

Two-pronged effort

The Israeli forces moved back over the border from central Gaza after holding a swathe of territory around the town of Khan Younis for two days.

The incursion was part of a two-pronged effort which Israel says is aimed at rescuing captured Israeli soldier Cpl Gilad Shalit, and reducing the number of rocket attacks by militants against Israeli towns.

The troops had "currently completed their activities in the area", the army statement said.

Before the withdrawal, a Palestinian was killed when Israeli troops shelled a vehicle that the army said was approaching its forces. Palestinian security sources said the vehicle had been reversing away when it was fired on.

Elsewhere, Israeli warplanes fired on a bridge and a Hamas office in Gaza, while witnesses said Israeli bulldozers destroyed a large part of the main central road.

"It's like an earthquake hit the road," Palestinian resident Khamis Othman told the Associated Press.

Despite withdrawing from central Gaza, the Israeli military said operations would continue elsewhere in Gaza.

Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire, and says it will not enter into negotiations for Cpl Shalit's release - despite reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had held secret meetings with Israel's domestic spy chief, Yuval Diskin, in Jordan to broker an end to the crisis.

Militants holding the Israeli soldier say their action is in retaliation for Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Dozens of Palestinians, including civilians, have died since Israel launched its assault on Gaza.

The developments in Gaza come against a backdrop of an escalating crisis in Lebanon, where Israel has retaliated after the capture of two soldiers by the Hezbollah militia.

Israel pulls out of central Gaza
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« Reply #326 on: July 15, 2006, 03:02:09 AM »

Attacks show enemies intend to exterminate Israel

Next June will mark the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. For four decades, we have been told that the cause of the anger, violence and terror against Israel is its occupation of the territories seized in that war. End the occupation and the "cycle of violence" ceases.

The problem with this claim was that before Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza in the Six Day War, every Arab state had rejected Israel's right to exist and declared Israel's pre-1967 borders -- now deemed sacred -- to be nothing more than the armistice lines suspending, and not ending, the 1948-49 war to exterminate Israel.

But you don't have to be a historian to understand the intention of Israel's enemies. You only have to read today's newspapers.

Exhibit A: Gaza. Just last September, Israel evacuated Gaza. It declared the border between Israel and Gaza an international frontier, renouncing any claim to the territory. Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory in history. Yet the Gazans continued the war. They turned Gaza into a base for launching rocket attacks against Israel and for digging tunnels under the border to conduct attacks like the one that killed two Israeli soldiers on June 25 and yielded a wounded hostage brought back to Gaza. Israeli tanks have now had to return to Gaza to try to rescue the hostage and suppress the rocket fire.

Exhibit B: South Lebanon. Two weeks later, on July 12, the Lebanese terror organization, Hezbollah, which has representation in the Lebanese parliament and in the Cabinet, launched an attack into Israel that killed eight soldiers and wounded two, who were brought back to Lebanon as hostages.

What's the grievance here? Israel withdrew from Lebanon completely in 2000. It was so scrupulous in making sure that not one square inch of Lebanon was left inadvertently occupied that it asked the United Nations to verify the exact frontier defining Lebanon's southern border and retreated behind it. This "blue line" was approved by the Security Council, which declared that Israel had fully complied with resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Lebanon.

Grievance satisfied. Yet what happens? Hezbollah has done to South Lebanon exactly what Hamas has done to Gaza: Turn it into a military base and terrorist operations center from which to continue the war against Israel. South Lebanon bristles with Hezbollah's 10,000 Katyusha rockets that put northern Israel under the gun. Fired in the first hours of fighting, just 85 of these killed two Israelis and wounded 90 in Israel's northern towns.

During the last six years, Hezbollah has launched periodic raids and rocket attacks into Israel. Israeli retaliation has led to the cessation of these provocations -- until the next time convenient for Hezbollah. Wednesday was such a time. One terror base located in fully unoccupied Arab territory (South Lebanon) attacks Israel in support of another terror base in another fully unoccupied Arab territory (Gaza).

Why? Because occupation was a mere excuse to persuade gullible and historically ignorant Westerners to support the Arab cause against Israel. The issue is, and has always been, Israel's existence. That is what is at stake.

It was Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization that persuaded the world that the issue was occupation. Yet through all those years of pretense, Arafat's own group celebrated its annual Fatah Day on the anniversary of its first attack on Israel, the bombing of Israel's National Water Carrier -- on Jan. 1, 1965.

Note: 1965. Two years before the 1967 war. Two years before Gaza and the West Bank fell into Israeli hands. Two years before there were any "occupied territories."

But again, who needs history? As the Palestinian excuses for continuing their war disappear one by one, the rhetoric is becoming more bold and honest. Just last Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, writing in the Washington Post, referred to Israel as "a supposedly 'legitimate' state."

He made clear what he wants done with this bastard entity. "Contrary to popular depictions of the crisis in the American media," he writes, "the dispute is not only about Gaza and the West Bank." It is about "a wider national conflict" that requires the vindication of "Palestinian national rights."

That, of course, means the right to all of Palestine, with no Jewish state. In the end, the fighting is about "the core 1948 issues, rather than the secondary ones from 1967."

In 1967, Israel acquired the "occupied territories." In 1948, Israel acquired life.

Attacks show enemies intend to exterminate Israel
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« Reply #327 on: July 15, 2006, 03:12:45 AM »

Lebanon's Hizbollah, Israel head for showdown
By Lin Noueihed

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Residents on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border braced on Saturday for a dramatic spike in violence after Hizbollah's chief declared open war on Israel following its bombardment of his Beirut home and stronghold.

"You wanted open war. We are going to open war," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a call to Hizbollah's television.

"Look at it burn", he urged listeners, announcing an attack which set ablaze an Israeli warship that had earlier hit Beirut.

Israel confirmed four of its sailors were missing after the strike, part of the bloodiest bout of violence in Lebanon in a decade, started by an attack on Wednesday in which Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight.

The Israeli army was still searching for its missing as dawn approached. It said a civilian boat, possibly from Egypt, was also hit by a missile in the same attack that damaged its ship.

The violence in Lebanon coincided with an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip launched last month to try to retrieve another captured soldier and halt Palestinian rocket fire.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in Beirut following Nasrallah's speech, which raised morale among his supporters after Israel imposed an air, sea and land blockade on the country and launched air strikes on roads, bridges and airports that have killed a total of 67 people, almost all civilians.

The Iranian- and Syrian-backed group, which wants to trade its captives for Lebanese prisoners held in Israel, fired more rockets across the frontier on Friday, killing two Israelis.

Israeli air strikes destroyed Nasrallah's apartment building and a main Hizbollah office in southern Beirut but an Israeli army spokeswoman would not say if the intention had been to kill the group's charismatic leader.

The bitterness of the confrontation has raised fears it could spread, but Hizbollah did not immediately follow up Nasrallah's threat with any more attacks.

And unlike Israel's pre-dawn bombardment of the Lebanese capital the previous night, air strikes were confined to south Lebanon on Saturday, killing one civilian and wounding six in an attack targeting a gas station in the city of Sidon, medics and witnesses said.

Ten people were also wounded in another raid on a village located 15 km to the south of the city of Tyre, security sources said.

SYRIAN SUPPORT

Syria's ruling Baath Party said it would support Hizbollah and Lebanon against Israel's attacks. The pledge came despite the sometimes hostile ties that have prevailed between the neighbours since Damascus ended its 29-year military presence in Lebanon last year under local and international pressure.

"The Syrian people are ready to extend full support to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes," the ruling party said in a statement.

Israel's aerial assault has drawn mounting international criticism but the White House said U.S. President George W. Bush would not press Israel to halt its military operation.

Asked whether Bush had agreed to a request from Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora that he rein in the Israelis, White House spokesman Tony Snow said: "No. The president is not going to make military decisions for Israel."

He told reporters that Bush had spoken by telephone to Siniora and other Middle East leaders and that the U.S. president believed Israel had the right to protect itself, but should avoid civilian casualties and damage.

The violence is the fiercest since 1996 when Israel launched a 17-day blitz on Hizbollah strongholds in the south, four years before its troops ended their 22-year occupation of the area.

Israeli aircraft rocketed runways at Beirut's already closed international airport and bombed a flyover just to the south.

Israeli warplanes blasted the main Beirut-Damascus highway overnight on Thursday, tightening its blockade and bombing targets in Beirut's teeming Shi'ite Muslim suburbs.

Hizbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel have now killed four Israelis and wounded more than 150, causing panic.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said such salvos "cannot and will not be allowed to continue".

BEIRUT GOVERNMENT POWERLESS

Israel holds Lebanon responsible for the actions of Hizbollah, a political-military faction which has members in parliament and in the mainly anti-Syrian cabinet.

The fragile Beirut government, too divided to disarm Hizbollah or extend its own control to the border, urged the U.N. Security Council to tell Israel to halt its onslaught.

It asked the Council to impose a ceasefire, but Israel said it was trying to free its neighbour from terrorist occupation and insisted the Beirut government secretly backed its actions.

Strong criticism of Israel came from France and the Vatican, as well as Egypt, Jordan and other countries.

In Gaza on Friday, Israel bombed offices of Hamas lawmakers, destroyed a bridge and fired a tank shell that killed a Palestinian. Palestinian gunmen blew a hole in the border wall between Gaza and Egypt, allowing hundreds of Gazans who had been stranded on the closed border for two weeks to enter the Strip.

Since the Gaza offensive was launched on June 28, Israel has killed more than 80 Palestinians, a majority of them militants.

Lebanon's Hizbollah, Israel head for showdown
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« Reply #328 on: July 15, 2006, 03:14:56 AM »

Mideast protests heat up in city
By BRETT CLARKSON

Hours after several hundred Jews rallied for Israel outside the Israeli consulate, a smaller group of protesters gathered there to condemn Israel for committing "crimes against humanity" and "terrorism" against the Lebanese and Palestinians.

The demonstration, organized by the Canadian Arab Federation, called upon the Canadian government to pressure Israel to stop its military raids and air strikes on Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

"We are opposed to terrorism by Israel," said Khaled Mouammar, national president of the Canadian Arab Federation, speaking to reporters outside the Israeli consulate at 180 Bloor St. W. yesterday afternoon.

Fares Badr, 52, spoke about his family in Lebanon, who live in a town 30 minutes outside Beirut called Mount Lebanon. Because the town is is surrounded by the main route connecting Beirut to Damascus, nearby bridges and highways have been bombed. The town of about 3,000 is completely isolated, he said, and his family is basically trapped.

"I'm constantly over the phone these past few days, 24/7," Badr said. "I'm very, very worried."

He said afterwards he was reminded of the Israeli-Lebanese conflict of 1982, when his two-storey house in Mount Lebanon was bombed to ashes by the Israeli air force.

"When the airplanes started going over the village, (we) moved from my house," he said, adding that nine people lived in the large home.

The Arab protesters were also joined by a group of Jewish women opposed to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Members of the Jewish Women's Committee to End the Occupation have quietly protested every Friday evening outside the Israeli consulate since October, 2000, when the second intifada started. Yesterday they joined the Canadian Arab Federation protest to show their solidarity with those opposed to Israel's recent military actions.

"As part of a growing international movement of Jews who refuse to sit silently while Israel commits crimes against humanity in our name, we call on you to condemn Israel's acts of aggression," said member Naomi Binder Wall, 67.

Mideast protests heat up in city
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« Reply #329 on: July 15, 2006, 03:17:46 AM »

Israel gives Syria ultimatum

London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat says Israel gave Syria 72 hours to stop Hizbullah’s activity, bring about release of kidnapped IDF troops. ‘Israel will not end military activity until new situation created that will prevent Syria, Iran from using terror organizations to threaten its security,’ newspaper quotes Pentagon official as saying
Roee Nahmias

The London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Saturday that “Washington has information according to which Israel gave Damascus 72 hours to stop Hizbullah’s activity along the Lebanon-Israel border and bring about the release the two kidnapped IDF soldiers or it would launch an offensive with disastrous consequences.”

The report said “a senior Pentagon source warned that should the Arab world and international community fail in the efforts to convince
Syria to pressure Hizbullah into releasing the soldiers and halt the current escalation Israel may attack targets in the country.”

Al-Hayat quoted the source as saying that “the US cannot rule out the possibility of an Israeli strike in Syria,” this despite the fact that the Bush administration has asked Israel to “refrain from any military activity that may result in civilian casualties.”

'Hizbullah made the same mistake'

The report also mentioned that President George W. Bush has repeatedly put much of the blame for the recent escalation on Syria.

“It is no coincidence that the Hizbullah operation comes at a time when the international community is working to impose sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear program and settle the score with Syria by establishing an international court to try those behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,” the Pentagon source said.

According to the source, Hizbullah made the same mistake as Hamas when it did not predict the ramifications of its actions and ignored the regional and international changes since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The source said that Israel has indicated that it “will not end its military activity until a new situation is created that will prevent Syria and Iran from using terror organizations, such as Hamas and Hizbullah, to threaten its security.”

Israel gives Syria ultimatum
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