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The Moderate Observer

Friday, July 28, 2006

Oil from bombed plant covers Lebanon shore

By SCHEHEREZADE FARAMARZI, Associated Press WriterFri Jul 28, 5:57 PM ET

A black coat of oil now covers the Lebanese capital's once-beautiful sandy Mediterranean shore, spilled from a power plant that was knocked down by Israeli warplanes two weeks ago.

Fishermen say hundreds of oil-coated fish have been washed ashore in what is the country's worst ever environmental disaster.

About 80 miles of Lebanon's shores had been affected by a spill of more than 110,000 barrels of oil from the Jiyeh plant, about 12 miles south of Beirut, the city's mayor, Abdel Monem Ariss, said Friday. The plant was in flames after it was hit in Israeli air raids, cutting electricity to many areas in the capital and south Lebanon.

"Depending on how the wind is blowing, I think many shores will be soiled with this oil spill," Ariss told The Associated Press.

A shipment of 10 trucks from Kuwait containing material and equipment was to arrive Friday night via Syria to help contain the spill, but crews cannot get to the shores to start cleanup work because of the hostilities, Ariss said.

"It's going to take a long time to clean it because most of our shores are rocky shores and when the oil sticks to the rock you have to scrub it (by hand)," he said.

Fishermen on Beirut's only sandy public beach of Ramlet al-Baida said the black slick appeared about 10 days ago. Some residents have said they had problems breathing.

Fisherman Salim Yazmanji, 32, said as many as 100 fish can wash up on every 30-foot stretch of the beach and that he had lost his livelihood.

"I have nothing but the sea," Yazmanji said. "If you take the sea from a fisherman, he will die, like the fish."

Ariss said it appeared other factors also contributed to the environmental disaster — a leak from an Egyptian commercial boat that was apparently hit by a Hezbollah missile off Beirut, another from an Israeli gunboat also hit by Hezbollah, as well as effluent from a cement factory in northern Lebanon that attacked by Israeli forces.

"It's a little bit more than speculation. There are targets we knew contained oil and spilled; they received direct hit, some of them burned," he said.

The Green Line Association, a Lebanese environmental group, said in a press release that four of the six fuel tanks at Jiyeh's power plant have burned completely, while the fifth, which is the main cause of the spill, is still burning. It said the Lebanese Environment Ministry was worried that the sixth tank, which is underground, will explode.

Ariss said if the spill is not contained soon it will spread to the rest of the Mediterranean.

"I think there will be more than Lebanon that is going to be involved in this oil spill," he said.

"I think the marine life has been heavily affected and will continue to be affected as long as the oil remains in the waters and on the shores," he added.

The marine environment includes the endangered green turtle.

Source: AP via Yahoo! News

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lebanon and Israel Facts that the Media Isn't Telling You

Here are some background the facts about Lebanon, Israel, Gaza Hezbollah and the Palestinians

Noam Chomsky reveals facts like the abduction of the two Gaza civilians June 24, BEFORE the Israeli soldiers were captured. Learn the background that the mainstream media doesn't report.
Help get the word out
Tags: Lebanon Israel Gaza Hamas Hezbollah Chomsky

Rice will back demands for ceasefire - after a few more days of carnage

Simon Tisdall
Wednesday July 19, 2006
The Guardian

The US game plan for Lebanon, if game plan is not too distasteful a word amid such daily carnage, is becoming clear: Israel has a few more days, possibly up to a week, to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah. After that, and assuming there is no new major escalation involving Syria, Washington will begin to swing behind regional calls for a ceasefire and rebooted diplomacy.

Condoleezza Rice is expected to travel to the region soon. But the US secretary of state is in no hurry. Her trip will not resemble the urgent shuttle diplomacy favoured in Middle East crises by predecessors James Baker and Warren Christopher. Her spokesman, Sean McCormack, says Ms Rice will first consult a UN team sent to Beirut and other capitals - but only after it returns to New York tomorrow.

Any US initiative on the ground is thus unlikely before next week. In any case, diplomats predict Ms Rice will not go unless and until the makings of a "peace formula" are in place. That is likely to be based around understandings on a future prisoner exchange, a Hizbullah pullback and Lebanese army deployments closer to the border, and Israel's acceptance of a beefed-up "international security monitoring presence".

France and others continue to push for an immediate end to the fighting. The French prime minister went to Beirut on Monday. But with the US and Britain sitting on their hands, little progress was possible, the diplomats said.

Ms Rice spelled out her delayed-action approach to peace-making at the G8 summit, when she questioned the need for an immediate ceasefire even if it saved lives on both sides. "Obviously a cessation of violence is going to be important. But you have to have a cessation of violence that moves this process forward," she told CBS television.

That meant disarming Hizbullah, she said. And it meant permanently changing the political facts on the ground in Lebanon, both longstanding Israeli objectives. Ms Rice's line has since been dutifully adopted by Margaret Beckett, Britain's greenhorn foreign secretary. But it has caused dismay elsewhere.

"It is clear at the UN, at the G8, and at the EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels that the US has used its influence to block calls for a ceasefire," a senior European official said yesterday. "It's also clear the Americans have given the Israelis the green light. They [the Israeli military attacks] will be allowed to go on longer, perhaps for another week. And this is what we absolutely have to stop."

Security sources said Israel knew there was a limit to how long it could resist pressure for a ceasefire. "They are trying to hit Hizbullah as much as possible before that happens," one said.

The senior official accused Tony Blair of aiding and abetting Washington's stealth policy in Lebanon at the expense of civilian lives, the EU and common sense. "Before this, we had a close consensus [on the Middle East peace process] among the European powers. That was partly [former foreign secretary] Jack Straw's doing. Now we don't have a united stand. And the G8 statement was pathetic. All the big powers were there. And nothing came out of it.

"After Iraq, Blair has almost no leverage in the Middle East. So he has leapt into America's arms. But you can see from their conversation [recorded at the G8] that George Bush has a very simple way of looking at things. He says Israel has been attacked and they have a right to defend themselves. It's all Hizbullah and Syria's fault. He thinks you can just send a message to Damascus and it's done. I tell you: it's not going to work. It's very dangerous."

Source: The Guardian,,1823876,00.html

U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis

July 22, 2006

WASHINGTON, July 21 — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.

Read full story.

Israel set war plan more than a year ago

Strategy was put in motion as Hezbollah began increasing its military strength

Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service
Friday, July 21, 2006

(07-21) 04:00 PDT Jerusalem -- Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.

In the years since Israel ended its military occupation of southern Lebanon, it watched warily as Hezbollah built up its military presence in the region. When Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week, the Israeli military was ready to react almost instantly.

"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. "In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board."

More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.

In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis.

Israeli officials say their pinpoint commando raids should not be confused with a ground invasion. Nor, they say, do they herald another occupation of southern Lebanon, which Israel maintained from 1982 to 2000 -- in order, it said, to thwart Hezbollah attacks on Israel. Planners anticipated the likelihood of civilian deaths on both sides. Israel says Hezbollah intentionally bases some of its operations in residential areas. And Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has bragged publicly that the group's arsenal included rockets capable of bombing Haifa, as occurred last week.

Like all plans, the one now unfolding also has been shaped by changing circumstances, said Eran Lerman, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence who is now director of the Jerusalem office of the American Jewish Committee.

"There are two radical views of how to deal with this challenge, a serious professional debate within the military community over which way to go," said Lerman. "One is the air power school of thought, the other is the land-borne option. They create different dynamics and different timetables. The crucial factor is that the air force concept is very methodical and almost by definition is slower to get results. A ground invasion that sweeps Hezbollah in front of you is quicker, but at a much higher cost in human life and requiring the creation of a presence on the ground."

The advance scenario is now in its second week, and its success or failure is still unfolding. Whether Israel's aerial strikes will be enough to achieve the threefold aim of the campaign -- to remove the Hezbollah military threat; to evict Hezbollah from the border area, allowing the deployment of Lebanese government troops; and to ensure the safe return of the two Israeli soldiers abducted last week -- remains an open question. Israelis are opposed to the thought of reoccupying Lebanon.

"I have the feeling that the end is not clear here. I have no idea how this movie is going to end," said Daniel Ben-Simon, a military analyst for the daily Haaretz newspaper.

Thursday's clashes in southern Lebanon occurred near an outpost abandoned more than six years ago by the retreating Israeli army. The place was identified using satellite photographs of a Hezbollah bunker, but only from the ground was Israel able to discover that it served as the entrance to a previously unknown underground network of caves and bunkers stuffed with missiles aimed at northern Israel, said Israeli army spokesman Miri Regev.

"We knew about the network, but it was fully revealed (Wednesday) by the ground operation of our forces," said Regev. "This is one of the purposes of the pinpoint ground operations -- to locate and try to destroy the terrorist infrastructure from where they can fire at Israeli citizens."

Israeli military officials say as much as 50 percent of Hezbollah's missile capability has been destroyed, mainly by aerial attacks on targets identified from intelligence reports. But missiles continue to be fired at towns and cities across northern Israel.

"We were not surprised that the firing has continued," said Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "Hezbollah separated its leadership command-and-control system from its field organization. It created a network of tiny cells in each village that had no operational mission except to wait for the moment when they should activate the Katyusha rocket launchers hidden in local houses, using coordinates programmed long ago to hit Nahariya or Kiryat Shemona, or the kibbutzim and villages."

"From the start of this operation, we have also been active on the ground across the width of Lebanon," said Brig. Gen. Ron Friedman, head of Northern Command headquarters. "These missions are designed to support our current actions. Unfortunately, one of the many missions which we have carried out in recent days met with slightly fiercer resistance."

Israel didn't need sophisticated intelligence to discover the huge buildup of Iranian weapons supplies to Hezbollah by way of Syria, because Hezbollah's patrons boasted about it openly in the pages of the Arabic press. As recently as June 16, less than four weeks before the Hezbollah border raid that sparked the current crisis, the Syrian defense minister publicly announced the extension of existing agreements allowing the passage of trucks shipping Iranian weapons into Lebanon.

But to destroy them, Israel needed to map the location of each missile.

"We need a lot of patience," said Hanegbi. "The (Israeli Defense Forces) action at the moment is incapable of finding the very last Katyusha, or the last rocket launcher primed for use hidden inside a house in some village."

Moshe Marzuk, a former head of the Lebanon desk for Israeli Military Intelligence who now is a researcher at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, said Israel had learned from past conflicts in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza -- as well as the recent U.S. experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq -- that a traditional military campaign would be countereffective.

"A big invasion is not suitable here," said Marzuk. "We are not fighting an army, but guerrillas. It would be a mistake to enter and expose ourselves to fighters who will hide, fire off a missile and run away. If we are to be on the ground at all, we need to use commandos and special forces."

Since fighting started

-- Israeli air strikes on Lebanon have hit more than 1,255 targets, including 200 rocket-launching sites.

-- Hezbollah launched more than 900 rockets and missiles into northern Israel.

-- At least 317 Lebanese have been killed, including 20 soldiers and three Hezbollah guerrillas. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora says 1,100 have been wounded; the police put the number at 657.

-- 31 Israelis have been killed, among them 16 soldiers, according to Israeli authorities. At least nine soldiers and 344 civilians have been wounded.

-- Foreign deaths include eight Canadians, two Kuwaiti nationals, one Iraqi, one Sri Lankan and one Jordanian.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Saturday, July 22, 2006

‘Christians, Muslims, we're all together now because of the war . . . we're all Lebanese'

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

ZGHARTA, LEBANON — When Faiz Osman and his relatives fled their homes in south Lebanon — 18 people crammed into a bedraggled brown station wagon — they had no idea where their journey would take them. It was a desperate scramble just to escape their war-hit hometown, which had been made unlivable by constant Israeli attacks and growing food shortages.

Last night, after several days on the road, their exodus ended in this scenic Christian village in the mountains northwest of Beirut.

Like thousands of others, the Shia Muslim family was warmly welcomed by this tiny community, which threw open its schools and public buildings to the refugees driven north by ceaseless Israeli bombardment of their towns and villages. Mr. Osman and his many relatives spent last night in an elementary school, where they were given foam mattresses to sleep on, and food cooked in the kitchens of Zgharta's families.

“Christians, Muslims, we're all together now because of the war,” the 38-year-old painter said. “We're all Lebanese.”

In another part of the world, it would be the heartwarming tale Mr. Osman describes: Christians and Muslims uniting when their country is under attack. But in Lebanon, the truth is always more complicated than that.

While Shia refugees from the Hezbollah-controlled south were pouring into Zgharta, none went to the nearby village of Bcharré. The reason: Zgharta is dominated by supporters of Suleiman Franjieh, the head of a Christian faction that is pro-Syria and allied with Hezbollah. Bcharré is near the hometown of Samir Geagea, the head of a rival faction that is vehemently anti-Syria and blames Hezbollah for instigating the conflict with Israel.

It's happening across the country, refugees from the south are pouring into areas that are seen as under the control of pro-Syrian forces, such as Mr. Franjieh's faction and that of General Michel Aoun, another Christian leader. Meanwhile, areas where anti-Syrian political blocks hold sway — including Mr. Geagea's faction and the main Druze and Sunni groupings — have been almost entirely untouched by the conflict.

“The refugees are going to places where Hezbollah has allies, where they know they will get a warm reception,” said Farid Chedid, a Beirut-based political analyst. In anti-Syrian areas, an influx of Shia refugees would be “bad chemistry,” he said.

The danger, Mr. Chedid said, is that a rift that existed in Lebanon before the war will continue to deepen. Groups that are anti-Syrian blame Damascus for last year's murder of popular ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri, and had been calling for Hezbollah to disarm its militia even before Israel attacked. Pro-Syrian groupings accuse politicians like Mr. Geagea of acting as agents for Israel and the United States.

While the break is purely political for now, it has the potential to get far worse. Sectarian divisions were the cause of Lebanon's devastating 1975-1990 civil war, which also featured military intervention by Syria and invasion by Israel. The multi-sided conflict left 100,000 people dead.

The new divisions were evident in the different atmospheres on the streets of Zgharta and Bcharré yesterday. In Zgharta, trucks drove between refugee centres. flying the flags of both Hezbollah and Mr. Franjieh's al-Marada party. Hatred for Israel was regularly expressed in conversation.

“It's not a war versus Shiites, it's a war versus Lebanon,” said Alfred Gibaili, an affluent refugee who had put his family up in $150-a-night rooms at the Country Club in Ehden, another village seen as loyal to Mr. Franjieh. “Hezbollah is only a result. Israel is the cause of the conflict.”

In Bcharré, where youths sat in Internet cafes and planned nights out in swish bars, the conflict seemed a world away. Though the town's population was swelled by residents who had abandoned their apartments in Beirut and returned to their village homes, the war was now only a sound heard on the other side of the mountains, where Israeli bombs were falling yesterday on the Shiite-dominated town of Baalbek.

There's still anger here at what is seen as Israel's disproportionate reaction: More than 330 Lebanese, almost all of them civilians, have been killed in the 10-day-old conflict, while 500,000 have been driven from their homes.

But many in Bcharré agree that the root problem is Hezbollah, which has long stood outside the Lebanese mainstream, keeping a separate militia that it has refused to fold into the country's regular army.

The Israeli offensive was sparked by a July 12 cross-border raid that saw Hezbollah kidnap two Israeli soldiers and kill eight others.

Globe and Mail

Related: Israel Bombing Christian, Sunni Muslim Neighborhoods

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A protracted colonial war

With US support, Israel is hoping to isolate and topple Syria by holding sway over Lebanon

Tariq Ali
Thursday July 20, 2006
The Guardian

In his last interview - after the 1967 six-day war - the historian Isaac Deutscher, whose next-of-kin had died in the Nazi camps and whose surviving relations lived in Israel, said: "To justify or condone Israel's wars against the Arabs is to render Israel a very bad service indeed and harm its own long-term interest." Comparing Israel to Prussia, he issued a sombre warning: "The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase 'Man kann sich totseigen!' 'You can triumph yourself to death'."

In Israel's actions today we can detect many of the elements of hubris: an imperial arrogance, a distortion of reality, an awareness of its military superiority, the self-righteousness with which it wrecks the social infrastructure of weaker states, and a belief in its racial superiority. The loss of many civilian lives in Gaza and Lebanon matters less than the capture or death of a single Israeli soldier. In this, Israeli actions are validated by the US.

The offensive against Gaza is designed to destroy Hamas for daring to win an election. The "international community" stood by as Gaza suffered collective punishment. Dozens of innocents continue to die. This meant nothing to the G8 leaders. Nothing was done.

Israeli recklessness is always green-lighted by Washington. In this case, their interests coincide. They want to isolate and topple the Syrian regime by securing Lebanon as an Israeli-American protectorate on the Jordanian model. They argue this was the original design of the country. Contemporary Lebanon, it is true, still remains in large measure the artificial creation of French colonialism it was at the outset - a coastal band of Greater Syria sliced off from its hinterland by Paris to form a regional client dominated by a Maronite minority.

The country's confessional chequerboard has never allowed an accurate census, for fear of revealing that a substantial Muslim - today perhaps even a Shia - majority is denied due representation in the political system. Sectarian tensions, over-determined by the plight of refugees from Palestine, exploded into civil war in the 1970s, providing for the entry of Syrian troops, with tacit US approval, and their establishment there - ostensibly as a buffer between the warring factions, and deterrent to an Israeli takeover, on the cards with the invasions of 1978 and 1982 (when Hizbullah did not exist).

The killing of Rafik Hariri provoked vast demonstrations by the middle class, demanding the expulsion of the Syrians, while western organisations arrived to assist the progress of a Cedar Revolution. Backed by threats from Washington and Paris, the momentum was sufficient to force a Syrian withdrawal and produce a weak government in Beirut.

But Lebanon's factions remained spread-eagled. Hizbullah had not disarmed, and Syria has not fallen. Washington had taken a pawn, but the castle had still to be captured. I was in Beirut in May, when the Israeli army entered and killed two "terrorists" from a Palestinian splinter group. The latter responded with rockets. Israeli warplanes punished Hizbullah by dropping over 50 bombs on its villages and headquarters near the border. The latest Israeli offensive is designed to take the castle. Will it succeed? A protracted colonial war lies ahead, since Hizbullah, like Hamas, has mass support. It cannot be written off as a "terrorist" organisation. The Arab world sees its forces as freedom fighters resisting colonial occupation.

There are 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli gulags. That is why Israeli soldiers are captured. Prisoner exchanges have occurred as a result. To blame Syria and Iran for Israel's latest offensive is frivolous. Until the question of Palestine is resolved and Iraq's occupation ended, there will be no peace in the region. A "UN" force to deter Hizbullah, but not Israel, is a nonsensical notion.

Source: The Guardian,,1824536,00.html?gusrc=rss

Mission impossible

Past experience indicates that any UN force in south Lebanon will struggle to keep the peace, writes Ian Black

Thursday July 20, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

"If you think you understand Lebanon, you haven't been properly briefed." This wise but slightly despairing advice used to hang in the office of the spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon - known by its acronym Unifil - when it still played at least a symbolic role in policing the volatile border between Israel and its northern neighbour.

Timur Goksel, the affable Turk who occupied that post for 20 of Unifil's 28-year existence, has long left his office in Naqoura on the Mediterranean, and is now an academic at the American University of Beirut, where he is well placed to help journalists seeking to understand the latest deadly interaction between the two countries.

"They are barely able to take care of themselves," he said of the UN peacekeepers. "How can you expect them to do their work?"

Unifil is still a ghostly presence along the border drawn by the French and British mandatory authorities in the 1920s. And as has happened before, it has again been caught up in violence it is always unable to prevent. A Ghanaian soldier was killed this week, and over the years it has lost some 250 personnel to hostile action or accidents. In the last bout of serious fighting in 1996, 106 Lebanese refugees were killed when Israeli artillery fire hit a container in a UN base where they were sheltering.

As the international community scrabbles for a way out of this crisis, unable so far even to agree on a ceasefire, discussions are already being held about a beefed-up international presence or "stabilisation force", as Kofi Annan put it. That will have to include some elements of the mission Unifil has always been charged with, but has never succeeded in carrying out. The lessons of the past suggest it will not be easy.

Unifil arrived in 1978 after a spectacular Palestinian attack inside Israel triggered Israel's "Operation Litani", which swept Palestine Liberation Organisation guerrillas away from its northern border. The blue-helmeted UN soldiers were targets from the start for Israeli monitoring and psychological warfare designed to undermine its effectiveness or ensure it never hindered Israeli operations.

The Irish UN troops, for example, were jokingly referred to as the "whisky army", and Israeli-backed Christian militiamen - known by the Unifil acronym LAUIs (Lebanese armed and uniformed by Israel) - harassed them mercilessly in their base at Camp Shamrock.

Unifil was tolerated by the Israelis but disliked for its good relations with PLO units in the area. After the 1982 invasion, when the PLO had gone but were replaced by a new Shia resistance, the UN forged friendly ties with them too. Mr Goksel helped visiting journalists meet bearded young men in the southern villages, their Kalashnikov rifles propped against the walls as they explained their determination to fight Israel's troops and intelligence agents.

The UN's white armoured vehicles became a familiar sight as they patrolled the low hills near the coast. But it is harder to operate in the more heavily wooded terrain to the east - classic guerrilla country that has seen countless clashes between the warring sides over the years.

After 1982, Unifil became little more than a helpless bystander. Its formal mission, as before, was to verify an Israeli withdrawal, restore international peace and security, and assist the government of Lebanon "in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area". It never achieved any of those objectives, as it ruefully but honestly admits.

It was at this time, as Israel consolidated its border "security zone", that Iran began to openly support the resistance, much of it by the Lebanese Shia Amal movement. Gradually there were more and more black flags and posters of "martyrs" attesting to the growth of a more militant Shia movement, which Hizbullah eventually came to dominate.

Mired in what became known as the Lebanese "quagmire" it had itself created, Israel struggled on until 2000, when the Labour prime minister Ehud Barak decided to withdraw his forces unilaterally. However, Unifil has proved no more able to stop Hizbullah attacks since then. Israeli anger was fuelled when four of its soldiers were abducted in a previous incident and the UN did nothing.

If Unifil is to be of any use in helping stabilise a ceasefire it will need many more soldiers, and heavier weapons. Its current force of 2,000, with personnel from China, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy and Poland, is woefully inadequate.

Since the current crisis began, Unifil has been unable to supply food and water to its own troops or deliver humanitarian aid to civilians because Israel will not guarantee their safe passage. In one incident, shrapnel from tank shells fired by the Israelis seriously wounded an Indian soldier. In another, Hizbullah launched rockets and the Israelis fired back as UN troops were escorting villagers to safety in Tyre.

With fighting still heavy, it is hard to imagine a new force being quickly assembled or deployed. John Bolton, the hawkish US ambassador to the UN, posed the right question: "You would have to ask what would make a new multilateral force different from or more effective than Unifil." The answer is that it would have to be far larger and more robust, mandated to allow the Lebanese government to truly deploy south to its own international border once Hizbullah was disarmed. However this dangerous crisis ends, that is not going to be a simple task.

Source: The Guardian,,1825197,00.html?gusrc=rss

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Srifa was a bustling hillside village. Then yesterday the Israeli jets came

Clancy Chassay outside Srifa
Thursday July 20, 2006
The Guardian

A Lebanese woman cries in front of a destroyed truck in southern Beirut
A Lebanese woman cries in front of a destroyed truck in southern Beirut. Photograph: Mohamed Messara/EPA

Aliyah, 30, lay on a life support machine in the Jabal Amal hospital in a coma. She was one of a handful of survivors who made it out of Srifa, a village in south-east Lebanon. The man treating her put her chances of survival at less than 20%. "She has severe injuries and has lost a lot of blood," he said.

Fatima Ali Ashma was more fortunate, but not much more. She lay on a hospital bed struggling to breathe.

The force of the blast which overturned the mini van she was fleeing in crushed her chest, damaging her lungs. She sustained severe injuries to her neck and arm.

Speaking slowly and with difficulty, she described what had happened to her. "In the morning we woke up to find that 10 people in the village had been killed. The authorities told us that if we could leave we should get out. So we got in the car and left. As we were leaving, they bombed the road in front of us." There were 10 people in the van with Fatima: all were wounded. "No ambulance could get through. Everyone who could has left Srifa, but the dead bodies are still in the houses."

The attack destroyed 15 houses, killed at least 17, and wounded at least 30. It happened on a day in which 63 people were killed in the bloodiest day of the Middle East conflict so far.

Srifa sits on a hillside overlooking a coastal plain that leads down to a sandy bay which ends with the white cliffs of Naqora and the border with Israel. It was a local beauty spot, where tourists came to see turtles lay their eggs. But it is also in the Hizbullah heartland from which rockets been fired into Israel.

Yesterday, plumes of smoke could be seen rising from its red-tiled rooftops, outlined on the horizon, as the Israelis flattened it. "There was a massacre in Srifa," its mayor, Afif Najdi, told Reuters.

At the hospital in Tyre, 10 miles from Srifa, Dr Ahmad Mrouwe hung up the phone and put his head in his hands. He had just heard that his colleague, Said, had been killed in one of many Israeli strikes on southern Lebanon that day.

Said had braved the dangerous journey to the village of Aitaroun on the Lebanon-Israeli border to rescue his wife, mother, and two children, who were trapped in the thick of the fighting between Israeli forces and Hizbullah militants. The family had made it all the way to Horsh - 10 minutes from the hospital - when an Israeli missile blew their car apart.

In the hospital waiting room sat Ayas Jouman, whose wife Ayran and two daughters, Sanine and Alice, aged six and two, had been killed the previous day. Ayas had been talking with his wife only 15 minutes earlier; she told him she had just bought him a new shirt.

Dr Mrouwe was doing his best to direct his beleaguered staff. He said the death toll from Srifa may be even higher, perhaps 21, all buried underneath the rubble of their homes.

Silah, a nearby village, had also been hit. "They have been calling us to help them. They have five persons killed, but we cannot move them because it is still under heavy shelling," said Dr Mrouwe. "They have eight wounded, and no one can reach there to help them. I think all the wounded there will die."

Despite the hospital's frantic atmosphere, Dr Mrouwe said the number of casualties arriving had dropped significantly. "Cars can't reach here: there's no way of leaving the southern areas."

The last person to arrive at the hospital had been wounded eight hours before - that was the amount of time it took to cover the journey from her village of Qana. Normally it would take 20 minutes. "She had to change cars many times to get through the destroyed roads," said Dr Mrouwe.

He said the hospital had about 15 days of medical supplies but only five days of food and water. "We are trying to bring supplies from Beirut, but it's impossible." As he spoke an ambulance screamed into the hospital. One after another, four bloodied bodies were rushed into operating theatres.

Twenty-two-year-old Jihad sat down and tried to come terms with what had just happened. "No pictures," he muttered through his tears. He had been fleeing his village, Bughrel, north of Tyre, when a bomb exploded 15 metres in front of the car in which he and his family were travelling, flipping the vehicle and sending shrapnel spinning through it. Seconds later. an Israeli F16 dropped a bomb onto the road behind him, sending another car hurtling into a nearby shopfront.

He had been told by the village authorities to try to get out, and, like so many others, had hoped he could make it to a safe place unhurt.

As he sat in the chair, his hands shaking, he watched as doctors across the hall operated on his 14-year-old sister. He put his head back and stared at the ceiling, tears running down his face.

Source: The Guardian Unlimited,,1824751,00.html

Saturday, July 15, 2006


So if you are still among those skeptical of American media having a bias favoring Israel, the current situation should shed some light on this phenomena for you.

In the ongoing assault (4 days continous as of now) on Lebannon by Israel, more than 100 civilians have been killed by the Israeli army and two Israeli soliders have died in the conflict.
(Sources: 1 - 2).

It is appalling, more than usual, to see how the media in the States is covering the current situation. Presenting the two bare facts, judge for yourself.

The most recent development is that of a bus being attacked by Israeli air strikes, killing 18 civilians, of which were nice children and the elderly. This alone is horrific, but not something new the Middle East, as Hamas has carried out such attacks on Israeli civilians in the past. When Hamas carries these attacks, the news of this hung as the headline spanning the globe, this is a known fact. Yet in this same exact case, the story is barely existent in the American media, as I type this,,, and have not listed it in the main page anywhere. The story is not be found anywhere.

2. Story is presented differently w/o objectivity
(Objectivity = backbone of journalism)

Foreign Media
Israel Attacks Lebanese Bus, 18 Dead

Domestic Media (AP)
Pounds South Beirut, Killing 18

Strike differences from our media and the worlds
AP: No mention of
civilians, 9 children, bus, or attack/air strike ("pounds")

- - - - -
Some developing news worth noting:
US has a lengthy history of vetoing UN resolutions condemning Israel, may that be in reference to excessive force, illegal settlements, human rights violations, etc. So this should come as no surprise, 'US vetoes UN resolution condemning Israel' -Indian Express. After vetoing a UN resolution condemning Israel pull out of Gaza (maybe you forgot there is a second offensive there "Operation Summer Rain"), there is more of our blind strategy.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Zidane treated outrageously: Gosper

International Olympic Committee members, described Zidane's straight red card as "outrageous" as it failed to consider Materazzi's role in the incident.
Kevan Gosper, one of Australia's top Olympic officials, has hit out at soccer's world governing body FIFA over Zinedine Zidane's dismissal in the World Cup final for failing to take into account the effect of verbal abuse.

The France captain was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest after the Italian defender allegedly repeatedly insulted his mother and sister.

Zidane spoke on French television on Wednesday about the hurtful nature of the comments and while he would not elaborate on the exact words, he said he would have preferred "to have been punched in the face".

Gosper, one of Australia's senior International Olympic Committee members, described Zidane's straight red card as "outrageous" as it failed to consider Materazzi's role in the incident.

With the incident now under investigation by FIFA, Gosper said the organisation had the opportunity to crack down on the blight of sledging in sport.

"The outrageous on-field treatment of Zinedine Zidane offers the FIFA Disciplinary Review Panel an opportunity to send a message to the sporting world that verbal abuse can be more wounding than physical attack and will not be tolerated," Gosper said in a statement on Thursday.

Gosper called on FIFA to acknowledge the psychological effect sledging can have upon sportsmen and to treat it as seriously as any physical abuse during matches.

"Without a public appreciation by FIFA of the long-term impact on Zidane, he will carry forever the burden of a verbal abuse every bit as wounding as a physical attack," Gosper said.

"The referee got it wrong when he failed to establish the reason for Zidane acting as he did before abandoning him to the Hall of Infamy."

France went on to lose the World Cup final to Italy 5-3 on penalties, following Zidane's dismissal with 10 minutes to play in extra-time and the score level at 1-1.

Source: The West Australian

The arrogance of power

By Stavros Lygeros

The developments we have witnessed in Gaza and Lebanon over the past few days merely serve to confirm, in the most dramatic fashion, that the maxim “might is right” still applies. It has become quite clear that Israel is much more than a small state armed to the teeth. Not even the US enjoys such tolerance.

The governments of the West and those who shape its public opinion are, as a rule, extremely cautious in their criticism of Tel Aviv. Evidently this is not merely due to the legacy of the Holocaust. It is also attributable to the creation of an entire industry of ideological terrorism and to the exploitation of the Holocaust for political ends, which insults the memory of the victims.

It is hardly irrelevant that the media refer to Israeli soldiers being “abducted” rather than “taken captive” - the term “abduction” suggests terrorism while soldiers are “taken captive” after armed conflicts. However, both captures, of two Israeli soldiers in Lebanon and another in Gaza earlier this month, followed armed conflict. Generally Israel describes such conflicts as terrorist acts. But this time it referred to the unjustified attack of one sovereign state against another. Tel Aviv does not regard Hezbollah as less of a terrorist organization than Hamas. It just needed a political excuse for its attack on Lebanon.

The attacks on Gaza and Lebanon were not carried out to free the three Israeli soldiers, nor because of Israel’s penchant for multiple reprisals. There is also an acute problem with rocket attacks targeting Israeli settlements. But these attacks are just the flipside of Israel’s offensives in this unbalanced war.

Israel’s mistake is not that it is exercising its right to defend itself but that it has been carried away by an arrogance of power that has extinguished any political farsightedness. Hence its attempt to impose a military solution upon a political problem.

Source: Kathimerni


Related: U.S. vetoes U.N. resolution on Mideast

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Paralyzed man moves computer cursor through thought

By Patricia Reaney Wed Jul 12, 1:46 PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - A Paralyzed man using a new brain sensor has been able to move a computer cursor, open e-mail and control a robotic device simply by thinking about doing it, a team of scientists said on Wednesday.

They believe the BrainGate sensor, which involves implanting electrodes in the brain, could offer new hope to people Paralyzed by injuries or illnesses.

"This is the first step in an ongoing clinical trial of a device that is encouraging for its potential to help people with paralysis," Dr Leigh Hochberg, of Massachusetts General Hospital, said in an interview.

The 25-year-old man who suffered paralysis of all four limbs three years earlier completed tasks such moving a cursor on a screen and controlling a robotic arm.

He is the first of four patients with spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, stroke or motor neurone disease testing the brain-to-movement system developed by Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems Inc in Massachusetts.

"This is the dawn of major neurotechnology where the ability to take signals out of the brain has taken a big step forward. We have the ability to put signals into the brain but getting signals out is a real challenge. I think this represents a landmark event," said Professor John Donoghue of Brown University in Rhode Island and the chief scientific officer of Cyberkinetics.

The scientists implanted a tiny silicon chip with 100 electrodes into an area of the brain responsible for movement. The activity of the cells was recorded and sent to a computer which translated the commands and enabled the patient to move and control the external device.

"This part of the brain, the motor cortex, which usually sends its signals down the spinal cord and out to the limbs to control movement, can still be used by this participant to control an external device, even after years had gone by since his spinal cord injury," added Hochberg, a co-author of the study published in the journal Nature.

Although it is not the first time brain activity has been used to control a cursor, Stephen Scott of Queen's University in Ontario, Canada said it advances the technology.

"This research suggests that implanted prosthetics are a viable approach for assisting severely impaired individuals to communicate and interact with the environment," he said in a commentary in the journal.

In a separate study, researchers from Stanford University Schools of Medicine and Engineering described a faster way to process signals from the brain to control a computer or prosthetic device.

"Our research is starting to show that, from a performance perspective, this type of prosthetic system is clinically viable," Stephen Ryu, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Stanford, said in a statement.

Source: AP via Yahoo! News