Saturday, August 05, 2006

Killing Lebanon

Israel is bombing bridges and roads in Lebanon, destroying the infrastructure that is the only way civilians can communicate with each other or get out of harm's way.

Juan Cole has been all over this: writing about it at Informed Comment, talking about it in interviews with Democracy Now! (Amy Goodman) and with Air America (Al Franken and Thom Hartmann), and pointing readers toward many sources of news to which Americans are not usually exposed.

The Daily Star reports that the IDF severed an "umbilical cord" for humanitarian aid by targeting Lebanon's infrastructure. This is a war crime under international law.

This Lebanese blogger describes driving over bridges the day before the IDF bombed them (emphasis mine):

Just now, Israel bombed 4 important bridges that link Beirut to North Lebanon. I used 3 of them just Yesterday

The bombing targeted two bridges in Maameltein, one in Batroon and one in Halet.
I actually used 3 of those bridges when I took my fiance[e] to Jounieh yesterday. I could have been killed like that family that was in a car and fell in the hole formed in the Batroun bridge.

Land access to Beirut from the North is now completely destroyed.

For the record, those bridges link the Sunni North to the Christian Center of Lebanon. There are no Hezbollah supporters whatsoever in those areas.

This proves the point that Israel is using Hezbollah as an excuse to destroy Lebanon.

If any major U.S. news sources reported the fact that Israel bombed South Lebanon only a few hours after promising to halt airstrikes for 48 hours while investigating Qana, I missed it.

Ten years before 60 civilians were killed by the bombs at Qana, 100-plus civilians were killed in Qana when the IDF bombed a United Nations base where the civilians had taken shelter.

A civil defense worker named Adnan Harakeh left his home briefly to get water for his wife and children. When he returned, his house was a pile of rubble and his wife and kids were dead.

Robert Fisk describes what he saw in Qana after the airstrikes:

I went to Tyre, Amy [Amy Goodman; Fisk is being interviewed by her]. By the time this has happened -- to get from Beirut now to the south takes four to six hours, because of the broken bridges and the bombed roads, and I realized that by the time I got down there, the wounded would have been in the hospitals in Tyre, and the dead would be already brought from Qana to the villages. So when I got there, I went straight to the government hospital in Tyre, where many of the wounded -- and there weren't many, because most of them died -- had been taken and where they were counting the number of children.

When I arrived there, there were a number of, maybe 20, 30 children, the corpses of children, lined up outside the government hospital, hair matted, still in their night clothes. The bomb that killed them was dropped at 1:00 in the morning. And they ran out of plastic bags. They were trying to put the children in plastic bags, their corpses, and they would put on it, you know, "Abbas Mehdi, aged seven," and so and so, aged one, and use a kind of sticking tape on it. But then they ran out of plastic bags, so they had to put the children's corpses in a kind of cheap carpet that you can buy in the supermarkets, and they roll them up in that and then put their names on again. I was having to go around very carefully and write down, from the Arabic, their names and their ages. It would just say "Abbas Mehdi, aged seven, Qana."
The Lebanese soldiers were trying take down the names of all who had died, but I found a man with a clipboard who had taken down 40 names, and he said that they weren't accurate, because some of the children were blown into bits and they couldn't fit them together accurately and there might be -- they couldn't put the right head on the right body, and therefore they might not be able to have an accurate list of the dead. But he was doing his best in the circumstances of war to maintain the bureaucracy of government.

One by one the children's bodies were taken away from the courtyard of the government hospital on the shoulders of soldiers and hospital workers and were put in a big refrigerated truck, very dirty, dusty truck, which had been parked just outside the hospital. The grownups, the adult dead, including twelve women, were taken out later. The children were put in the truck first. Pretty grim. As I said, the children's hair, when you could see the bodies, were matted with dust and mud. And most of them appear to have been bleeding from the nose. I assume that's because their lungs were crushed by the bomb, and therefore they naturally hemorrhaged as they died.

Sen. Chuck Hagel has called for the Bush administration to work with Syria and Iran to negotiate an immediate cease-fire in the Israeli-Lebanese war:

In a speech on the Senate floor Monday, Hagel urged the Bush administration to do something it has so far refused: engage Syria and Iran, the main sponsors of Hezbollah. "Ultimately, the United States will need to engage Iran and Syria with an agenda open to all areas of agreement and disagreement. For this dialogue to have any meaning or possible lasting relevance, it should encompass the full agenda of issues," he said.

Hagel warned that close U.S. ties with Israel must not come at the expense of relations with the Arab and Muslim world. "The United States will remain committed to defending Israel. Our relationship with Israel is a special and historic one. But, it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice. Achieving a lasting resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is as much in Israel's interest as any other country in the world," he said.

The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) says conditions on the ground are dire, and getting worse. Donations are urgently needed. If you want to help, go to the UNHCR donations page; you can give a one-time donation or you can pledge to give a specific amount every month. I just pledged $15 a month (you can cancel the ongoing pledge any time you want). Please, if there is any way you can afford to help, do so.

Christopher Allbritton, in Tyre, has something to say about journalistic neutrality.

A couple of days ago, Israel declared it will "destroy Lebanon's infrastructure" if Hezbollah fires rockets at Tel Aviv, as the head of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has threatened to do. Kurt Nimmo asks, What does Israel call what it's done already?

Excuse me, but it seems Israel has already done a mighty effective job of destroying Lebanon's infrastructure. I guess the 60 bridges and 70 roads destroyed, the taking out of Beirut's airport, the destruction of power plants, the fuel tanks and gas stations bombed, the food warehouses, dams, schools, television and radio stations, churches, mosques, hospitals, ambulances, and the thousands and thousands of homes targeted and destroyed are not, according to the Israelis, part of Lebanon's critical infrastructure.

In essence, what Israel is saying here is that if Tel Aviv is touched by Hezbollah's tinker-toy rockets they will make the rubble bounce in Lebanon.

Over at The Electronic Intifada, Jonathan Cook looks at the other side of Israel's claim that Hezbollah endangers civilians by putting military targets in residential neighborhoods.

I live in northern Israel in the Arab city of Nazareth. A week into the war we were hit by Hizbullah rockets that killed two young brothers. The attack, it was widely claimed, was proof either that Hizbullah was indiscriminately targeting civilians (so indiscriminately, the argument went, that it was hitting fellow Arabs) or that the Shiite militia was so committed to a fanatical war against the Judeo-Christian world that it was happy to kill Nazareth's Christian Arabs too. The latter claim could be easily dismissed: it depended both on a "clash of civilisations" philosophy not shared by Hizbullah and on the mistaken assumption that Nazareth is a Christian city, when in fact, as is well-known to Hizbullah, Nazareth has a convincing Muslim majority.

But to anyone living in Nazareth, it was clear the rocket attack on the city was not indiscriminate either. It was a mistake -- something Nasrallah quickly confirmed in one of his televised speeches. The real target of the strike was known to Nazarenes: close by the city are a military weapons factory and a large army camp. Hizbullah knows the locations of these military targets because this year, as was widely reported in the Israeli media at the time, it managed to fly an unmanned drone over the Galilee photographing the area in detail -- employing the same spying techniques used for many years by Israel against Lebanon.

One of Hizbullah's first rocket attacks after the outbreak of hostilities -- after Israel went on a bombing offensive by blitzing targets across Lebanon -- was on a kibbutz overlooking the border with Lebanon. Some foreign correspondents noted at the time (though given Israel's press censorship laws I cannot confirm) that the rocket strike targeted a top-secret military traffic control centre built into the Galilee's hills.

There are hundreds of similar military installations next to or inside Israel's northern communities. Some distance from Nazareth, for example, Israel has built a large weapons factory virtually on top of an Arab town -- so close to it, in fact, that the factory's perimeter fence is only a few metres from the main building of the local junior school. There have been reports of rockets landing close to that Arab community.

How these kind of attacks are being unfairly presented in the Israeli and foreign media was highlighted recently when it was widely reported that a Hizbullah rocket had landed "near a hospital" in a named Israeli city, not the first time that such a claim has been made over the past few weeks. I cannot name the city, again because of Israel's press censorship laws and because I also want to point out that very "near" that hospital is an army camp. The media suggested that Hizbullah was trying to hit the hospital, but it is also more than possible it was trying to strike -- and may have struck -- the army camp.

Israel's military censorship laws are therefore allowing officials to represent, unchallenged, any attack by Hizbullah as an indiscriminate strike against civilian targets.

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