Israel has no more than a week left to complete its military operation in Lebanon. After this point, the world association will not allow the continuation of bloodshed and the growing number of civilian victims. This is the main topic of discussion today in Israel amongst diplomats, experts and the press. With reference to several unnamed USA officials, the American newspapers New York Times and Wall Street Journal and the British Guardian have informed that there appears to be an agreement between Israel and the USA on the fact that Israeli troops will continue to attack Lebanon for another week in order to maximally weaken the potential of the Hezbollah terrorist group. After this, the USA will join the international call for ceasefire in Lebanon. The State Secretary of the USA Condoleezza Rice has visited the region to persuade the sides to create a buffer zone in the South of Lebanon.
George Bush has announced that the terrorist organization Hezbollah lies at the centre of the problem, backed by Syria. “The crisis in the Middle East shows that Syria is trying to return to Lebanon. We need to use the whole world to make Syria understand that it needs to stop supporting Hezbollah,” said Bush. He emphasized that Israel has the right to self-defense, but it should take into account the position in which it places the Lebanese government. Fuad Saniora, the Lebanese Prime Minister, does not show particular sympathy towards Syria and continuously appeals for ceasefire.
Yesterday, the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives of the USA Congress approved a resolution with the support of Israel. British Prime Minister Tony Blair deflected the appeals of his own parliament with the demand to pressurize the Jewish government. “It is possible to end the operation at any moment if the abducted prisoners are liberated. Everything can be stopped if missiles stop being fired into Haifa, deliberately killing innocent civilians. If these demands are fulfilled, I will be the first to say that Israel needs to cease its military action.”
The head of Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an influential expert in problems of the Middle East, Evgeny Primakov announced that he is concerned by Bush’s claim that the world needs to occupy itself with Hezbollah and Syria and continue the quarantine of Iran. The total evacuation by Western countries of their citizens from Lebanon concerns the head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as in his opinion this means that a great war awaits us all. Characterizing Hezbollah, Evgeny Primakov reminds us that its military wing, the Islamic Resistance, moved away from the main organization in 1992. The modern Hezbollah is still the same party, with a much altered program. The head of Russia’s Ministry of Defense, Sergei Lavrov also pointed out that within Hezbollah, there are elements of intention for the integration of its movement into Lebanon’s political scene. “One must not group together all of Hezbollah, as one does with all of Hamas, into those who stand on that side of the barricade”.
Russia will have to evacuate around 1400 citizens of the Russian Federation and CIS countries from Syria, escaping conflict-gripped Lebanon. Yesterday in the early evening, airplane Il62 from Syria landed in Moscow. On board were 162 people, including 77 children and 7 pregnant women. Flight Il-76 from the Syrian city of Latakia was due to follow it with 140-150 passengers. Airline companies Aeroflot and Atlant-Soyuz sent three wide-hulled Il-86 liners to Latakia, capable of carrying 350 people on one flight. A day earlier, the first group of citizens of Russia and the CIS states arrived in Moscow from Jordan, having abandoned Palestinian territory.
Yesterday, in a message to the Congress, George Bush announced that the USA may send troops to Lebanon. A small American contingent is already rendering assistance in the evacuation of American citizens, but “it is possible that there will be a demand for additional military troops to be stationed in Lebanon and Cyprus for the protection of the safety of citizens who leave Lebanon.” According to the estimate of the State Department, there are approximately 25 thousand Americans in Lebanon, of whom between five and eight thousand expect to urgently evacuate to Cyprus. “American troops will be removed as soon as we are confident that neither American citizens nor American interests are under threat by anyone,” said Bush in his message.
The head of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, Amir Peretz yesterday announced that the Israeli government is adamant in its position consisting of preventing Hezbollah from returning to its previous position close to the border with Israel. In this announcement, the minister confirmed that the operation in Lebanon, aside from the liberation of two Israeli soldiers, has as its object to render the North of Israel safe from missiles, fired by Hezbollah from the South of Lebanon. Yesterday, a bitter battle took place there between servicemen from Israel’s defense army (ZAHAL) and Hezbollah hitmen. It started after ZAHAL’s special sub-unit crossed the border and attacked the hitmen the previous night. ZAHAL have announced that two soldiers died during this attack and one tank was destroyed. Closer to evening, the Lebanese media reported that Israeli forces had attacked UN (UNIFIL) peacemaking bases stationed in the South of Lebanon and Lebanese security force bases.
At first, at the beginning of the Israeli-Lebanese conflict, Israel’s air force launched missiles into Ashrafi, Beirut’s Christian region. One of the targets for attack was a freight vehicle. Earlier, ZAHAL had asked local inhabitants to refrain from using this type of transport. The Israelites believe that these particular vehicles carry ammunition, most of which, Israelites claim, supply Hezbollah in Lebanon from Syria.
The ZAHAL general headquarters emphasize that in the current conflict Israel is trying hard to reduce the number of civilian victims. A few hours before the gunfire begins, the army warns the Lebanese public that they must seek refuge in bomb shelters. Israel’s air force drops leaflets daily over Beirut explaining which parts of the city are especially dangerous. Nevertheless, Lebanese authorities have reported no less than 300 deaths.
Israel has lost 29 people including 15 civilians killed during missile attacks by hitmen. Israel confirms that during the bitter bombardments, Lebanon has lost half of its missile potential. “In one week of military operation, Israel has achieved a lot: thousands of missile bases have been destroyed, as well as tens of thousands of missiles of various potential action radii,” commented a former member of the Israeli military intelligence, Kopel Shumakh to Vremya Novostei. According to him, Hezbollah’s arsenal was so powerful that in the first week it was impossible to destroy it completely. “ Israel needs another seven or ten days to achieve the desired result, if not a complete result.”
Yesterday, Hezbollah continued to attack the North of Israel throughout the day. Approximately 70 missiles fell in Haifa, Tiberias, Carmiel and Nahariya. The family of new repatriate Andrej Zelenskii from Nahariya, who was killed two days ago in a shell explosion, has announced that he will be buried in the Ukraine and that they are determined not to stay in Israel any longer. But this decision is more an exception than a rule. The majority of inhabitants of the North of Israel hold that they are determined not to leave and they are prepared for any casualties for the sake of peace in the future.
“Israel is not spoilt by support of its actions from world leaders, but the fact that the first international mediators to demand a reduction in the escalation of violence were in Israel only a week after the beginning of the military operation in Lebanon, speaks of our righteousness in the battle against terrorism,” declared Israel’s ministry of Defense to Vremya Novostei. In the last few days, a whole force of international mediators has landed in Israel, attempting to return the conflict decision to diplomatic channels. Yesterday, the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met with the Israeli authorities. After negotiations with the head of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, he advised Israel to “be moderate concerning military actions, to bomb the civilian population less and to seek not only military advantages, but to try to conquer the hearts and thoughts of the inhabitants of South Lebanon.”
Translated by Leila Wilmers
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