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« Reply #30 on: July 15, 2006, 09:24:09 PM »

UN rejects proposal for ceasefire between Israel, Lebanon

The United Nation's Security Council rejected a proposal to call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon following the Israel Defense Forces' strikes in Lebanon and Hizbulla's rocket fire aimed at Israel, diplomats involved in the discussions reported.

The proposal was rejected due to the objection of the United States, which is a permanent member of the Security Council and has a veto right.

UN rejects proposal for ceasefire between Israel, Lebanon
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« Reply #31 on: July 15, 2006, 09:26:21 PM »

7 Media Workers Injured in 48 Hours of Fighting

Aaron Glantz, OneWorld US Sat Jul 15, 1:55 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO, Jul 15 (OneWorld) - At least seven media workers have been injured in less than 48 hours of fighting in Lebanon--all of them hurt by the Israeli military, a leading media watchdog group said Thursday.

According to Reporters Without Borders the count includes three employees of the Lebanese satellite channel New TV and four workers at the Hizbollah-controlled TV network al-Manar.

"So many journalists have been injured in the very early stages of this conflict, and we want to avoid dozens of journalists being injured or killed in the coming days and weeks," the organization's Washington representative Lucie Morillon told OneWorld.

"The more journalists that are injured the more difficult it is for us to know what's going on," she added.

Especially troubling to the watchdog group is the appearance that the injured news reporters were deliberately targeted by Israeli forces.

The three New TV workers--reporter Bassel Al-Aridi, cameraman Abd Khayyat, and assistant cameraman Ziad Sarwan--were injured when their vehicle was hit by shots fired from an Israeli helicopter as they crossed a bridge in the south of the country, where they had gone to cover the fighting. The attack took place while Israel was bombing bridges and other communications infrastructure.

New TV said despite being specifically demarcated as "press," the agency's vehicle sustained more damage than any other, "which suggests to us that it was a targeted attack against our vehicle."

While it has yet to comment on the injured New TV journalists, the State of Israel has admitted to specifically targeting the offices of Al-Manar, the television station owned and operated by Hizbollah.

Hizbollah's armed wing captured two Israeli soldiers during the week and most observers believe the group was behind more than 100 rocket attacks on Israel.

Three employees with Al-Manar sustained injuries Thursday when its premises in suburban Beirut were struck by a missile during an Israeli air raid. The station said its antenna was not destroyed and broadcasting was not interrupted.

"The Al-Manar station has for many years served as the main tool for propaganda and incitement by Hizbollah, and has also helped the organization recruit people into its ranks," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

But media and human rights groups say Israel has no right to target Al-Manar because it doesn't like the channel's content.

"While Al-Manar may serve a propaganda function for Hizbollah, it does not appear based on a monitoring of its broadcasts today to be serving any discernible military function," the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.

Israeli officials have refused to rule out attacks on any area of Lebanon, however. In addition to bombing Hizbollah bases, and the home of the head of the group, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the Israeli military has bombed Beiruit International Airport, imposed an air and sea blockade on Lebanon, and hit the main highway between Beirut and Damascus, virtually cutting off the country from the outside world.

"Nothing is safe in Lebanon, as simple as that," Israeli Brigadier General Dan Halutz told reporters in Jerusalem. Halutz said even the central Beirut could be targeted if Hezbollah rockets continue to hit northern Israel.

"In terms of international law there is such a thing as a legitimate military retaliation," disputed Yifat Suskind of the human rights group MADRE. "Israel was attacked by Hizbollah Wednesday morning. That was an irresponsible act and an illegal act and the targeting of Israeli civilians is a grave violation of international law. Those same laws also criminalize the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip and Lebanon."

"It is illegal to target civilians," she concluded, "whether one of the strongest militaries like Israel is doing it or whether an armed group like Hamas or Hizbollah."

7 Media Workers Injured in 48 Hours of Fighting
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« Reply #32 on: July 15, 2006, 09:28:38 PM »

Hizbollah ship attack shows Iran's Islamists' weapons link

An Israeli military source said on Saturday that an Iranian-made C802 radar-guided land-to-sea missile with a range of 60 miles (95 km) hit and badly damaged the ship. Two missiles were fired, the other sank an Egyptian merchant ship, the source said.
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« Reply #33 on: July 15, 2006, 09:30:31 PM »

Syria right behind Hizbollah
15 July 2006

DAMASCUS: Syria will support Hizbollah and Lebanon against Israel's attacks on the country, the ruling Baath Party said today, 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 communique 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.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday Syria must pressure of Hizbollah to release two soldiers it captured on Wednesday.
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The cross-borer 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 right behind Hizbollah
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« Reply #34 on: July 15, 2006, 09:31:49 PM »

12 Egyptians on board ship sunk by Hizbollah

tel aviv (Agencies)
Twelve Egyptian sailors were on board a Cambodian merchant ship sunk in a Hizbollah missile strike, an Israeli naval official said yesterday.
The Egyptian sailors survived the attack and were collected from the water by other passing ships, Brig. Gen. Noam Fieg said. The Cambodian ship was hit late on Friday when it was about 60 km from the Lebanese shore, Fieg added. Hizbollah was targeting Israeli warships off the Lebanese shore, one of which was hit in the missile attack, when the Cambodian ship was struck.
Meanwhile, three Egyptian workers were wounded and a fourth missing in a series of Israeli raids in Lebanon at dawn yesterday, including an attack near the home of pro-Syrian parliament speaker Nabih Berri.
Warplanes raided four gas stations across southern Lebanon, police said.
Three workers were wounded and a fourth was missing after an explosion at a fuel station near the southern coastal city of Sidon close to the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain Al Helweh, they said.
Black smoke billowed into the sky as flames engulfed the station.
Later, Israeli warplanes bombarded a bridge on the Awali River at the northern entrance of Sidon which had already been destroyed in previous strikes since Israel launched its massive offensive on Lebanon on Wednesday.
Lebanese troops opened up anti-aircraft batteries in response.

12 Egyptians on board ship sunk by Hizbollah
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« Reply #35 on: July 15, 2006, 09:38:32 PM »

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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« Reply #36 on: July 15, 2006, 09:40:08 PM »

 War Exposes PA-Hizbullah-Iran Connection
23:13 Jul 15, '06 / 19 Tammuz 5766
by Hana Levi Julian and Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

A source within the Palestinian Authority revealed Friday that Fatah and Hamas factions are allied with Hizbullah terrorists. The connection is not new, said the source, who asked to remain unnamed.


IDF sources added that Iran manufactured and supplied Hizbullah with the long-range rockets that have been hitting Haifa and other areas since Thursday.

"The Lebanese resistance movement, Hizbullah, and now its General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, have affirmed commitment to aiding the Palestinians against Israeli attacks," the Palestine News Network (PNN) reported Thursday.

A spokesman for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah faction headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, announced that the Hizbullah attacks were a "message and a mortal blow to Israel."

In a statement released by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the spokesman thanked Hizbullah and noted that Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists are also working together.

Israeli military sources examined a Katyusha rocket that exploded in Haifa on Thursday night and said it had been manufactured in Iran. Hizbullah denied that its terrorists had fired the missile, but experts' examinations revealed that it was the same kind of rocket that Hizbullah terrorists fired near Carmiel, a city several miles southeast of Haifa.

Iran has promised to pay for repairs resulting from Israel's bombing key targets in Lebanon as they work quickly to prevent Hizbullah terrorists from transferring the kidnapped IDF soldiers to Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also promised Syrian President Bashar Assad that an Israeli strike on Syria would be considered an attack on the Muslim world and would bring a "fierce response."

Israel and the United States have openly blamed Iran and Syria for the Hizbullah war on northern Israel.

"The historical ties between Iran and Hizbullah are well known, and Syria also has very close ties to Hizbullah," said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. "Again, there's a long history there and it's well known," he reiterated to reporters at a news conference this week. He added that Syria "has a very particular responsibility" for peace in the Middle East -- as well as for bringing about the release of two IDF soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah terrorists Wednesday morning.

McCormack said there was a clear connection between last month's kidnapping of IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit by Hamas terrorists, and the Hizbullah attack on northern Israel and the abductions of two Israeli soldiers.

"If you look at these actions, these are deliberate attempts to try to escalate tensions in the region," he said. "Look at the timing...very clearly these are individuals here that are seeking to provoke a negative reaction in the region."

Hamas is headquartered in Damascus, and the historical links between Hizbullah, Syria and Iran are will known, McCormack added. He said that Syria is "hosting terrorist organizations in their capital...and is trying to determine for people living in the Palestinian Authority areas and the people of Lebanon what kind of future they're going to have."

He added, "You have a terrorist organization that is heading the government of the Palestinian Authority that is not a partner for peace."

War Exposes PA-Hizbullah-Iran Connection
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« Reply #37 on: July 15, 2006, 09:42:48 PM »

Russian defense minister says Hezbollah uses 'terrorist methods'
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Saturday warned that other nations could be drawn into the escalating Middle East conflict, which he called "a war that has begun."

Ivanov appealed to the Islamic extremist group Hezbollah to stop using "terrorist methods" and said both sides must exercise restraint.

"We call on Hezbollah to stop resorting to any terrorist methods including attacking neighboring states," Ivanov said.

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At least 88 people have died in Lebanon, most of them civilians, in a four-day Israeli offensive sparked by Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. On the Israeli side, at least 15 have been killed - four civilians and 11 soldiers.

Ivanov warned that other nations in the region could be sucked into the conflict, calling it "basically, a war that has begun." He called on both sides to quickly calm the situation.

"Both sides in the conflict must exercise extreme restraint, caution and foresee the consequences of their actions," he told reporters hours before the formal opening of the Group of Eight summit.

Hezbollah's taking of hostages and shelling of Israeli territory and Israel's response - "the use of military force in such a magnitude and against such objects as we have seen" - are unacceptable, he said, adding that only negotiations could resolve the crisis.

Russia is using its contacts with radical Muslims to try to promote a resolution, he said.

"Yes, we have contacts with the Hamas movement and we are using those contacts in order to lower the degree of confrontation and to convey our position on the unacceptability of using terrorist methods of fighting and of the necessity of diplomatic recognition of all the neighboring states," Ivanov
said.

Russia hosted a high-level Hamas delegation at Putin's invitation in March, when Moscow broke ranks with other members of the so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators but failed to persuade the militant group - which leads the government of the Palestinian Authority - to soften its anti-Israel stance and renounce its goal to seek Israel's destruction.

Chavez: U.S. support for Israel to lead to Holocaust
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday that U.S. backing of Israel is responsible for flaming tensions in the Middle East and putting the world on course toward another "Holocaust."

"The fundamental blame falls again on the U.S. empire. It's the empire that armed and supported the abuses of the Israeli elite, which has invaded, abused and defied the United Nations for a long time," Chavez said in a speech during a military act in Caracas.

"I'll seize this opportunity to condemn categorically and fully the aggression that the Israeli elite is carrying out against innocents over there in the Middle East," he said.

Chavez was referring to a new explosion of Mideast violence this week as
Israel Air Force war planes began striking Lebanon after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others Wednesday in a cross-border raid into Israel. In response, Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets at northern Israel.

The Venezuelan leader charged that Israel is using excessive force.

"Are we going to bomb cities and tell them that we won't stop bombing until they return the soldier? That's crazy," he said.

"Worse, it's craziness with nuclear bombs. (The Israelis) have their weapons of mass destruction and nobody criticizes them, nobody says anything because the empire is behind them," Chavez said.

Blaming the escalation on Washington's undue influence, Chavez said: "The U.S. empire's desire to dominate has no limits and that could take this world to a real Holocaust. May God save us."

Chavez is one of the most ferocious critics of U.S. foreign policy, even though his oil-producing country remains closely tied to the United States, its top market, through billions of dollars (euros) in annual crude sales.

The White House said Friday that United States President George W. Bush would not press Israel to halt its military operation in Lebanon.

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

Snow told reporters that Bush had spoken by telephone to Lebanon's prime minister among other Middle East leaders.

He said Bush believed the Israelis have the right to protect themselves, but should limit "so-called collateral damage not only to facilities but also to human lives".

Snow said Siniora had suggested a cease-fire, which Washington favored, but thought would be hard to pull off.

"It is unlikely that either or both parties are going to agree to that at this juncture," Snow said.

A leading Senate Republican on Friday urged U.S. restraint in supporting Israel's military campaign against Hezbollah, citing the problems it may cause in the war in Iraq and efforts to disarm Iran.

Senator John W. Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, issued a written statement Friday calling on the Bush administration to "think through very carefully how Israel's extraordinary reaction could affect our operations in Iraq and our joint diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.

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« Reply #38 on: July 15, 2006, 09:43:33 PM »

"This is a very critical time for the U.S. in the Middle East, and the Israeli actions will certainly have an impact beyond Lebanon and Gaza," Warner warned.

Rice urges Israel to 'exercise restraint' in Lebanon
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Israel on Thursday to exercise restraint in its attacks against Lebanese targets and demanded Syria press Hizbollah guerrillas to stop attacking Israel.

"It is extremely important that Israel exercise restraint in its acts of self-defense," she told reporters travelling with Bush in Germany.

Her comments, at a hastily arranged briefing, reflected a sharper focus on Israel than statements from Bush earlier, who said Israel has a right to defend itself with its attacks in Lebanon but that it should not weaken the Lebanese government.

Rice said the message was being sent through numerous diplomatic channels and added: "I think they understand the need to exercise restraint."

Israel struck Beirut airport and military airbases and blockaded Lebanese ports on Thursday, intensifying reprisals that have killed 55 civilians in Lebanon since Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers a day earlier.

Asked in a CNN interview about Rice's call, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. said Israel had exercised restraint since its 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon and believed its military offensive was now the right way to deal with Hezbollah.

Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said: "I think they (Hezbollah) misinterpreted our restraint for the last six years."

"If we do not want to see further escalation, deterioration, violence, this is the time to stop Hizbollah and what we are doing is the most effective (way) to stop them."

Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said he and Rice had spoken to Israeli officials and received assurances Israel's focus was on Hezbollah, not the Lebanese government.

He added that the officials said "the actions they are going to take are going to deal with Hezbollah, will be done in such a way to try and minimize collateral and civilian casualties, recognizing this is difficult because Hezbollah has put targets in civilian areas".

Rice said Syria had been "sheltering the people who have been perpetrating these acts" against Israel, including launching rocket attacks into northern Israel and abducting Israeli soldiers.

"Syria needs to act responsibly and stop the use of its territory for these kinds of activities. They need to bring all pressure on those that it is harboring to stop this and to return these soldiers and to allow the situation to be de-escalated," Rice said.

She said the United States supported a three-person UN team being sent to the region to try to defuse the crisis on the instigation of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Asked if there was a danger of the area slipping into war, Rice said: "I think it doesn't help to speculate about kind of apocalyptic scenarios. What we have to do is work day by day, hour by hour. That's what we're doing, and that's what a lot of others are doing."

Earlier in the day, Bush said that Israel had a right to defend itself against terrorist acts but it should not weaken the Beirut government.

"Israel has the right to defend herself," Bush told a news conference after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Secondly, whatever Israel does should not weaken the...government in Lebanon."

The president's comment came in response to the escalating violence between Israel and Lebanon, on Thursday after IAF warplanes carried out strikes in Lebanon in retalliation to Hezbollah's abduction of two soldiers a day earlier.

On Thursday, a U.S. administration official gave a response on condition of anonymity regarding the crisis.

"We are urging restraint on both sides, recognizing Israel's right to defend itself," the official said.

The European Union on Thursday criticized Israel for using what it called "disproportionate" force in its attacks on Lebanon following Wednesday's raid by Hezbollah guerillas who killed eight Israel Defense Forces soldier and abducted two soldiers.

"The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah on Israel," according to a statement issued by Finland which holds the EU's rotating presidency. "The presidency deplores the loss of civilian lives and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The imposition of an air and sea blockade on Lebanon cannot be justified."

"The government of Israel is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of one-sided language by the new European Union presidency concerning the situation in Lebanon," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said in response to the statement.

Russian defense minister says Hezbollah uses 'terrorist methods'
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« Reply #39 on: July 15, 2006, 09:47:03 PM »

Arab League declares support for Lebanon, calls on UN to step in
By The Associated Press

The Arab League said on Saturday after an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo that the Middle East peace process had failed, and called on the United Nations Security Council to intervene to stop the escalating violence.

The Arab foreign ministers also adopted a resolution supporting Lebanon and the Palestinians, but also called on all parties to avoid actions that "may undermine peace and security in the region".

"We all decided that the peace process has failed and that the mechanisms, proposals and committees were either deceptive or sedatives or contrary to the peace process, or handed the process over as a gift to Israeli diplomacy to do with as it wished," Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said.

"This has led to and is leading to the collapse of stability in the Middle East... So there is no peace process," he added.

Speaking to reporters at the 22-member Arab League headquarters, Moussa said the group would turn to the UN Security Council for help.

"So we take it back to the United Nations, and maybe the date will be in September," he said.

"We are with all of Lebanon. The issue is not this faction or that. Lebanon as a whole is being subjected to a disproportionate attack," he added.

Lebanon had urged the UN Security Council to tell Israel to halt its operation, but the Council took no immediate action.

Ministers clash over Hezbollah's legitimacy
Ministers at the meeting traded barbs over whether Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah bore any responsibility for the escalation in violence that followed its capture of two Israeli soldiers.

The Saudi foreign minister appeared to be leading a camp of ministers criticizing the guerrilla group's actions, calling them "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts."

"These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them," Saudi al-Faisal told his counterparts.

Supporting his stance were representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, delegates said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem lashed back al-Faisal, asking "How can we come here to discuss the burning situation in Lebanon while others are making statements criticizing the resistance?"

Moallem emerged as the leader of another camp of ministers defending Hezbollah as carrying out "legitimate acts in line with international resolutions and the UN charter, as acts of resistance," delegates said.

Salloukh, a Shiite close to the mainstream Amal faction as well as the militant Hezbollah, said Arab governments were not doing enough to protest Israel's assault on Lebanon.

"What our Arab brothers have called 'involvement' has only resulted in frustration and bitterness among Arab people," Salloukh told participants at the meeting Saturday.

"If [Arab] governments are not serious and determined... our people will sooner or later take things into their own hands," he said.

Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa issued a statement Friday calling on Israel to halt its military operations in Lebanon, and asking the UN Security Council to intervene. He met late Friday with United Nations officials in Cairo, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen.

In Kuwait, Saad Hariri, head of the anti-Syrian bloc in Lebanon's parliament, told reporters that his country "should not become a playground" for Middle East fighting.

"Israel has to understand that Lebanon is not a terrorist state but a state fighting for freedom, and the Lebanese have to unite and stay united," Hariri said.

"A clear Arab position on this [Israeli] aggression has to be issued [in the foreign ministers meeting]," he added.

Palestinian factions issued a statement Saturday calling on Arab foreign ministers to "overcome their differences, and take a united Arab position pressuring the American administration to amend its pro-Israel position, boycott Israel and support the steadfastness and resistance of the Lebanese and Palestinian people."

The groups, Islamic and secular, called on Arab governments to push for UN-sponsored negotiations to release Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners as well as the captured IDF soldiers.

In Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah was to meet Saturday afternoon with Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, whose country is a top backer of Hamas and Hezbollah.

The two would discuss "the situation after Israeli forces launched attacks on Lebanon, and search for way out," a Saudi diplomat said on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media.

Israel's Lebanon campaign, launched after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight on Wednesday, has killed at least 103 people, all but four civilians.

Arab League declares support for Lebanon, calls on UN to step in
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« Reply #40 on: July 15, 2006, 09:48:57 PM »

IDF officer denies report Israel planning to attack Syria
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies

Responding to a report in a pan-Arab daily newspaper that Israel presented Damascus with an ultimatum, an Israel Defense Forces officer said Saturday that targeting Syria is currently not on Israel's agenda.

"We're not a gang that shoots in every direction," the officer said. "It won't be right to bring Syria into the campaign."

The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported Saturday that Israel issued an ultimatum to Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to which a regional war would erupt within 72 hours if Damascus does not prevent Hezbollah attacks.

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According to the report, a Pentagon source said that if Syria does not try to influence Hezbollah, Israel could bomb essential installations in Syria. The source neither confirmed nor denied rumors that Israel had given Damascus 72 hours to comply with international demands.

The IDF officer emphasized that the Golan Heights frontier has been quiet since 1974, a factor which Israeli views as a vital security asset. The officer said that the Syrian air force as well as additional units are on high alert, a fact which hasn't escaped Israel's attention.

The source added that even though Syria is playing a negative role in the latest crisis, he believes that it had no direct role in the outbreak of fighting.

"Syria is a negative factor, but it is not strong enough in order to instigate all these events," the source said.

U.S. President George W. Bush called on Syria on Saturday to exert its influence to persuade Hezbollah to stop attacks against Israel.

At a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush laid the blame for the upsurge in Middle East violence on Hezbollah.

"The best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking. And therefore I call upon Syria to exert influence over Hezbollah."

In recent days, senior U.S. administration officials, led Bush blamed Syria for the escalation of violence in the region. Syria's ambassador to the U.S. regarded U.S. policy in the region as favoring Israel, which he said was not helping the situation.

According to analysts and senior officials in Syria, Damascus is aware of the threat of an Israeli strike. In recent days, senior officials warned Israel against attacking. Lawmaker Muhammad Habash stated that if Damascus is attacked, another front would open on the Golan Heights. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned Israel against attacking Syria.

Syria's ambassador to London said Friday that Damascus wants to remain outside the conflict in Lebanon. He went on to say that Syria demanded that Hezbollah stop launching Katyusha rockets at Israel.

On Friday, the ruling Baath Party said Syria will support Hezbollah and Lebanon against Israel's attacks on the country.

"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 communique from the party's national command issued after a meeting.

It said Israel and the U.S. "are trying to wipe out Arab resistance in every land under occupation" and that 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.

Assad, who has resisted Israeli and American pressure to abandon support for Hezbollah, was not at the meeting.

Hezbollah's capture of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers and barrage of rocket attacks incited major Israeli military action against Lebanese targets for the first time since it withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.

Ahmadinejad: Israel would not dare to move against Iran
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that Israel would not dare to move against the Islamic republic, state television reported.

Iran has denied Israeli suggestions that Hezbollah guerrillas could take the captured soldiers to Iran.

"The Zionist regime does not dare to cast a look with bad intentions at Iran," the president was quoted as saying by state television.

On Thursday, Ahmadinejad said an Israeli strike on Syria would be considered an attack on the whole Islamic world that would bring a "fierce response", state television reported.

"If the Zionist regime commits another stupid move and attacks Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world and this regime will receive a very fierce response," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The president made the comments after Israel struck Beirut airport and military airbases and blockaded Lebanese ports in reprisals that have killed 55 civilians in Lebanon since Hezbollah gunmen captured two Israeli soldiers a day earlier.

"He (Ahmadinejad) also said it was a must for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to become more active regarding the new crisis created by the Zionist regime," state television reported.

Arab governments have agreed to send their foreign ministers to Cairo for an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

But the 22-member League has not yet seen specific proposals for a joint Arab response to the Israeli attacks.

Major Arab governments other than Syria are not expected to give unqualified backing Hezbollah, or the Palestinian militant group Hamas which is holding an Israeli soldier hostage.

IDF officer denies report Israel planning to attack Syria
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« Reply #41 on: July 15, 2006, 09:50:53 PM »

Lebanon PM asks for UN help to deploy army in south
By Amos Harel and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies

Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the Israel Defense Forces Saturday night to step up the rate of attacks against Lebanon. His orders were issued close to the time when Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora made a national address and called for an immediate cease-fire.

Peretz said that the IDF must continue applying pressure on Hezbollah, giving them no room to breathe, and continue expanding its bombing raids elsewhere.

Hours after the order was made, the Israel Air Force indeed launched a wave of bombing raids on the Lebanese capital's southern suburbs early Sunday, Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV and witnesses said.

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A total of some dozen loud explosions shook the capital, much of which was plunged in darkness after warplanes struck power stations and fuel depots feeding them.

The southern suburbs were repeatedly blasted by Israeli warplanes for most of Saturday, but the early Sunday raids were the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive Wednesday in retaliation to the capture of two IDF soldiers by Hezbollah guerillas.

Hezbollah's TV aired footage it said showed the new strikes. The pictures showed two long columns of smoke rising from buildings into the night sky.

The TV said a bridge linking the al-Hazmiyah district to the road that leads to the airport, south of the capital, also was targeted.

In Israel, the military confirmed that Israeli warplanes were bombing the Hezbollah headquarters in south Beirut.

The extent of the damage caused to the suburbs could not be established because the area is deemed too dangerous for journalists to visit. Most of the raids target an area known as the "security square," where Hezbollah has its headquarters, reportedly destroyed in a Friday air strike, and where some of its leaders live.

Most residents of the suburbs, which is in reality a part of the Lebanese capital, have fled their homes for the relative safety of the Beka'a Valley, a mainly Shiite region to the east of Beirut.

The UN Security Council on Saturday again rejected pleas that it call for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon after the United States objected, diplomats said.

Washington argued in closed-door talks that the focus for Middle East diplomacy for now should be on the weekend summit in St. Petersburg of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, council diplomats said.

The U.S. was the sole member of the 15-nation U.N. body to oppose
any council action at all at this time, they said.

"We would expect much more from the Security Council," Lebanese Foreign Ministry official Nouhad Mahmoud told reporters after the council meeting, singling out the U.S. for blame.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called Saturday for an immediate cease-fire with Israel, and asked for help in deploying the country's army in the south, from where Hezbollah has for days pounded northern Israel with Katyusha rockets.

"We call for an immediate cease-fire backed by the United Nations," said Siniora in an address to the nation. "We call to broaden the state's control over all of its territory, in cooperation with United Nations forces, in southern Lebanon."

Siniora also called on Lebanon to "work to recover all Lebanese territories and exercising full sovereignty of the state over those territories," Saniora said in a televised address to the nation.

His voice cracking with emotion, Saniora criticized Hezbollah without naming the group, saying Lebanon "cannot rise and get back on its feet if its government is the last to know."

"The government alone has the legitimate right to decide on matters of peace and war because it represents the will of the Lebanese people," he said.

He said the IDF assault, sparked by the Hezbollah abduction of two of its soldiers Wednesday, had devasted his country, and called for international aid.

"I declare today that Lebanon is a disaster zone in need of a comprehensive and speedy Arab plan... and [it] pleads to its friends in the world to rush to its aid," he said.

Deploying Lebanese troops on the southern border, now controlled by Hezbollah, would meet a repeated United Nations and U.S. demand. But the government fears that using force against Hezbollah could trigger another sectarian conflict in Lebanon, which was ravaged by civil war between 1975 and 1990.

The Lebanese army is about 70,000 strong, equipped with American, French and Russian weapons but virtually no air force.

Exchanges of fire intensified over the weekend between the two sides. So far, 106 Lebanese, mostly civilians, are reported dead. For Israel, in addition to the two soldiers abducted on Wednesday, there have been 16 dead, six during the weekend.

During the weekend the Israel Air Force carried out hundreds of strikes gainst Lebanese targets, mostly in the Beka'a and in Beirut.

After the IAF hit targets near Lebanon's border with Syria, military officials emphasized only Lebanese targets were attacked. "It's very important to understand that we have only targeted bridges and access points in Lebanon," an IDF spokeswoman said. "We have not bombed anything in Syria."

A Syrian official confirmed Israel had not attacked Syria.

Israeli naval gunships attacked central Beirut for the first time in Israel's four-day-old assault on Lebanon, striking a lighthouse and the city's seaport, witnesses said. Radar installations along the Lebanese coast were also destroyed.

Witnesses also said the Beirut seaport - the country's main commercial port facility - was also hit, as was the nearby seaport of Jounieh, which houses a Lebanese army base.

IAF planes also blasted Beirut's southern suburbs for the second time on Saturday, causing huge blasts, Hezbollah's Al Manar television reported.

The TV's correspondent said the Israeli airstrike targeted the Hezbollah stronghold of Haret Hreik, which was attacked by Israeli jets earlier Saturday.

IAF planes also launched four bombing raids on residential areas in the eastern city of Ba'albek, where senior Hezbollah officials have residence or offices, witnesses said. Heavy black smoke billowed from the area and ambulances were seen rushing to the scene.

One person was killed and 17 others were wounded in the air raids in Ba'albek in the Bekaa, the official National News Agency reported.

The houses of two senior Hezbollah officials in Ba'albek, Sheik Mohammed Yazbek and Hussein Musawi, were destroyed in the airstrike, security officials said. The Hezbollah figures were not in the buildings when they were hit.

Also Saturday, IAF planes destroyed the Beirut office of senior Hamas official Mohammed Nazzal but he was not hurt in the attack, a spokesman for the group said.

It was not clear if Nazzal was in his office at the time or if there were any casualties.

IAF warplanes renewed attacks on Lebanon early Saturday, targeting bridges, fuel storage tanks and gas stations in the east and south, security officials said.

IAF strikes killed at least 33 Lebanese civilians on Saturday.

An IAF missile wrecked a van near the southern port of Tyre, killing 18 passengers and wounding six, police said. The van was carrying families fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israeli loudspeaker warnings to leave their homes. A police spokesman said more may have been wounded as the vehicle was directly hit.

IAF aircraft also bombed a Hezbollah office in southern Beirut's Haret Hreik district, and attacked roads, bridges and petrol stations in north, east and south Lebanon, killing at least 12 people and wounding 32, security sources said.

Jets destroying the headquarters and residence of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Friday. Hezbollah was quick to announce that Nasrallah had been unhurt in the strike.

The Haret Hreik neighborhood houses Hezbollah's security compound, a sealed-off bloc of buildings where Nasrallah has an office and residence, and where the Shura Council decision-making body is located.

IAF jets destroyed two bridges in eastern and southern Lebanon, the Lebanese officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Another strike targeted three bridges south of Beirut early Saturday, officials said.

IAF jets dropped leaflets on Beirut depicting Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah as a cobra threatening to strike out at the Lebanese capital. "To the Lebanese people, beware: He appears to be a brother, but he is a snake," said the green leaflet showing a caricature of Nasrallah's face, with his black turban rolled in the shape of a snake.

Packages of leaflets, tied to parachutes, were dropped at dawn in downtown Beirut, but were swiftly rounded up by Lebanese security forces, AFP reported.

Israel is attempting to put pressure on the Lebanese government and force Hezbollah to free two Israeli soldiers the group captured Wednesday. Israel has already bombed Lebanon's airports and blockaded the country from the sea, bringing trade and tourism to a halt.

Lebanon PM asks for UN help to deploy army in south
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« Reply #42 on: July 15, 2006, 09:52:23 PM »

Residents south of Haifa will have one-minute rocket warning
By Yuval Azoulay, Amos Harel and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and Agencies

A senior Israel Defense Forces official said on Saturday evening that should Hezbollah guerillas fire rockets that reach areas south of Haifa, a warning siren will be heard one minute before they land.

The head of the IDF Home Front Command, Yitzhak Gershon, also said that residents of hard-hit areas of the north that have been instructed to remain in protected rooms and bomb shelters should continue to do so and not go to work on Sunday.

The order is relevant to anyone living north of Route 85 between Acre and Amiad, as well as the residents of Carmiel, Tiberias, Migdal, Arbel, Kfar Zeitim, and Kfar Hitim. Gershon also urged residents of Haifa, its northern suburbs, Nesher and Tirat Hacarmel to remain in their homes.

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Defense Minister Amir Peretz signed a declaration on Saturday night declaring a "home front emergency," after barrages of Hezbollah rockets reached Tiberias, 35 kilometers from the northern border. The declaration will be brought before the government for approval on Sunday.

The approval of declaration allows senior defense officials - including the IDF Chief of Staff, Home Front Command, northern command and other officers - to issue orders relating to the protection and rescue of people and property.

The declaration would be valid in Israel's north, both along the northern border but also in Safed, Tiberias and Carmiel.

Army officials urged the public to remain calm in the region where about 750,000 Israelis were under rocket threat, but cautioned it may be weeks until they subside.

"We have to be ready for some more days, perhaps more thanthat, perhaps weeks, to face this reality," the IDF operations chief, General Gadi Eizenkot, told reporters in Tel Aviv. "We have to prepare for a continued campaign, not to panic."

In the first of two attacks on Tiberias on Saturday, one of three rockets directly struck a residential building, sustaining damage. The owners of the residence were abroad.

Two rockets landed adjacent to a stadium in Tiberias and near the town's Club Hotel. Six people were lightly injured from rocket shrapnel.

Authorities have asked that bathers on the coast of the Sea of Galilee evacuate the area for fear of further Katyusha attacks.

Early Saturday evening, four more Katyusha rockets struck Tiberias. Magen David Adom rescue services received a report that one of the rockets directly struck a house in the city.

In the second barrage, two people suffered light wounds while two others were treated for shock. A Nahariya resident also sustained light wounds when a rocket barrage struck the northern city on Saturday evening.

For the first time since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the IDF has deployed Patriot missile batteries in Haifa.

The missile defense system cannot destroy Katyusha rockets - hundreds of which have been fired at Israel from Lebanon in recent days - but could protect against surface-to-surface missiles, such as those possessed by Syria, the army said.

Additional rockets landed near Tiberias - in Kfar Hitim, Evron, and Abu Snan. One person suffered from shock.

Rockets also landed Carmiel, Hatzor Haglilit, Peki'in, Safed, Nahariya, and Moshav Ben-Ami, in the western Galilee.

Two rockets hit empty homes Carmiel and Safed. Another landed adjacent to Carmiel College, causing a brushfire.

Saturday's rocket strikes came one day after a woman and her 7-year-old grandson were killed and four others were injured when a Katyusha rocket slammed into a home in Moshav Meron. The victims of the strike were named as Yehudit Itzkovich, 57, and her seven-year-old grandson Omer Pesachov.

Early Saturday, dozens of rockets were launched, landing in Nahariya, Safed, Moshav Meron and the northern Golan Heights, causing no casualties or damage.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said Friday that Hezbollah has rockets with a range of up to 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) or more, an admission that brings more major cities within their range, including possibly Hadera and Netanya. This would mean that Hezbollah has rockets that could reach within 20 to 30 kilometers of Tel Aviv.

Halutz also put the blame on Lebanon's government for the numerous rocket attacks on northern Israel that have killed four people and injured dozens more.

Dozens of people were injured throughout the day Friday, as Katyusha rockets landed in the Galilee. Injuries were reported in Nahariya, Yesod Hama'alah, Kfar Szold, Kibbutz Hulata, Safed, Peki'in and Hatzor Haglilit. Kiryat Shmona was also hit on Friday, but no casualties were repoted.

The Prime Minister's Office responded to the attacks, saying it was "totally committed to bringing about a cession of this terror."

"These two Israelis, a woman and child, were totally innocent victims of the terror pouring out of Lebanon of which Israel vows to put an end to," David Baker, a spokesperson at the Prime Minister's Office, said.

On Thursday, two Israelis were killed by rocket fire and some 120 were wounded when scores of Katyusha rockets rained down across northern Israel.

Haifa hit by Katyusha for first time
Katyusha rockets struck Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, for the first time Thursday night, and the Home Front Command ordered area residents Friday to stay near bomb shelters so they could go inside as soon as they hear an air-raid siren. There were no casualties in the rocket strike on Haifa's Stella Maris area.

Hezbollah said Friday that Israel should expect an attack on Haifa at any time.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Daniel Ayalon told reporters in Washington that Thursday's rocket attack on Haifa was a "major, major escalation" by Hezbollah.

The rocket fire began in the early hours of Thursday, after Israel Air Force jets struck targets across Lebanon following cross-border attacks by Hezbollah during which eight Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed and two others abducted.

Residents south of Haifa will have one-minute rocket warning
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« Reply #43 on: July 15, 2006, 09:56:38 PM »

Arab FMs flay Israeli operations
Web posted at: 7/16/2006 3:54:49
Source ::: Agencies
H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani

cairo • Qatar’s First Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani described the out come as ‘positive’ as the Arab League foreign ministers unanimou-sly condemned the Israeli offensive in Lebanon. The ministers declared the Middle East peace process to be “dead” in an emergency session here.

“The Middle East process is dead,” Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said after the meeting called to discuss blistering Israeli strikes on Lebanon that came after Israel began a first offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“All the mechanisms, including the (Middle East) quartet have failed the peace process or contributed to burying the peace process,” he told reporters. “The only way to revive the peace process is to take it back to the Security Council,” he continued.

Ministers warned against the crisis engulfing more countries in the region. “The situation now is a result of the failure of the Middle East peace process,” echoed UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mohammed Al Shaali.

Talking to reporters, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem said: “There were no differences among the ministers but there were differences of opinion. We are not holding any party responsible for anything but we hold Israel responsible for the current crises. Israeli is talking about existence of aggression and we condemn all aggression on civilians.” The Minister welcomed Yemen’s call for an emergency Arab summit to discuss the current situation in the region.

Arab FMs flay Israeli operations
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« Reply #44 on: July 15, 2006, 09:59:52 PM »

‘Hezbollah missiles could hit Tel Aviv’
Web posted at: 7/16/2006 3:40:52
Source ::: Agencies

Jerusalem • The Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hezbollah has rockets capable of reaching Israel’s economic capital of Tel Aviv, an Israeli military intelligence official said yesterday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that Hezbollah was believed to have around 150 long-range rockets capable of reaching targets between 45 and 200 kilometres away.

He said that Israel believed the Lebanese militia could use these rockets to target Tel Aviv, a city of more than one million people located around 120 kilometres south of the Lebanese border.

Hezbollah guerrillas have fired several hundred rockets into northern Israel since the start of a four-day Israeli offensive in Lebanon launched after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in an armed raid.

Several hit the coastal city of Haifa, Israel’s third city located 40 kilometres south of the border, which together with its suburbs is home to more than a million people.

Civilian boat hit

A missile fired at an Israeli naval vessel off Lebanon hit a civilian boat, possibly from Egypt, the Israeli army said yesterday.

A spokeswoman said those on board were believed to have been evacuated, adding it was unclear if there were any casualties.

After initially saying the missile had been fired at an Israeli vessel in a fresh strike early yesterday, the spokeswoman later said it had been part of an attack late on Friday when an Israeli warship was badly damaged.

“At the same time as the incident took place in which an Israeli ship was hit, a merchant ship was also hit,” the spokeswoman said.

Israeli media said the damaged missile ship was hit by an airborne drone packed with explosives.

Four Israeli troops were missing after the warship was hit in an attack claimed by Hezbollah, Al Jazeera television said, as violence escalated between Israel and the guerrilla group.

Meanwhile Italy began evacuating its nationals from Lebanon yesterday and France was preparing to do the same as Israeli planes pounded the country.

Some 410 people left Beirut on an Italian convoy early on Saturday, Italy’s Foreign Ministry said. The group was mostly made up of Italians and other Europeans, who were expected to arrive in the Syrian port city of Latakia in the coming hours.

Two C130 Italian military aircraft will then fly the group back to Rome, with help from a commercial flight departing from Cyprus, the ministry said. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said France had alerted its navy and readied both civilian and military aircraft to help French citizens leave Lebanon, a former French colony.

‘Hezbollah missiles could hit Tel Aviv’
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