26 July, 2006

Israeli bomb kills UN observers

Four United Nations observers have been killed in an Israeli air strike on an observation post in south Lebanon.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "shocked" at the "apparently deliberate targeting" of the post. Israel has expressed "deep regret".

Israel earlier said it would control an area in southern Lebanon until international forces deployed.

The force will be discussed at international crisis talks to be held in Rome on Wednesday.

The meeting is being attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mr Annan, as well as foreign ministers and top o
fficials from five European and four Arab countries.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall said the Italian prime minister and others believe a quick ceasefire to be the main priority.

But the US and Britain will not push for a ceasefire unless root causes of the conflict are addressed, she adds.

The summit will take place without a delegation from Israel.

Observers sheltering

Ms Rice will attend the talks after ending her tour of the Middle East on Tuesday.

More than 380 Lebanese and 42 Israelis have died in nearly two weeks of conflict in Lebanon, which began after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July.

The UN in Lebanon says the Israeli air force destroyed th
e post, in which four military observers were sheltering.
It said the four, from Austria, Canada, China and Finland, had taken shelter in a bunker under the post after it was earlier shelled 14 times by Israeli artillery.

A rescue team was
also shelled as it tried to clear the rubble.

"I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defence Forces of a UN Observer post in southern Lebanon," Mr Annan said in a statement from Rome.

Unifil has been operational in the border area since 1978 and is currently 2,000 strong.

Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed the group w
ill continue its rocket attacks on Israel.

Mr Nasrallah told Hezbollah's al-Manar television that the militant group would fire rockets deeper into Israel and would counter any Israeli advance into southern Lebanon, and criticised what he called an Israeli-US plan for a "new Middle East".

"There is no way that we can accept any humiliating conditions on us, our people or our country... especially after all these sacrifices... we are open to political
discussions and solutions with flexibility, but the dignity and national interest is a red line."
Source:BBC News

China slams Israel over UN deaths

China has condemned an Israeli attack in south Lebanon which killed four United Nations observers, including a Chinese national.

"We are deeply
shocked by this incident and strongly condemn it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

Israel's ambassador to Beijing was summoned and authorities asked
for an investigation and an apology, Mr Liu said in a statement.

r Du Zhaoyu died when an Israeli bomb hit a UN observation post.

Three other UN observers - from Austria, Canada and Finland - were also killed in the incident.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "shocked" at the "apparently deliberate targeting" of the post. Israel has expressed "deep regret".

Mr Liu called for an immediate ceasefire to the two-week conflict in the region in his statement, which was carried on the ministry's web site.

"We urge all parties to immediately implement a ceasefire and quickly return to the path of negotiation," he said.

He also urged that all sides, "especially Israel, take all measures to ensure the safety of UN peacekeepers".

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, who is currently in Malaysia attending a regional security forum, said he was saddened by the incident and urged increased efforts to end the conflict in the Middle East.

"We should try harder to call on the parties to be restrained and to be calm and restore the peace process of the Middle East immediately," Mr Li said.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has been operational in the border area since 1978 and is currently 2,000 strong.

Mr Du was one of a group of some 180 Chinese military peacekeepers sent to Lebanon as part of the UN mission earlier this year, Xinhua news agency said.

Source : BBC News

Look like third world war is in the making.

The G8 convened just as Israel's tanks pounded Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, while a few miles away its warplanes set Lebanon’s skies ablaze, turning its nights into an inferno of bombs, death and misery.

Scores of innocent people have lost their lives. Villages have been levelled, and bridges, hospitals, roads, airports, fuel storage facilities and even milk factories have been destroyed.

Years of regeneration effort are reduced to rubble. Pressure from the Americans and their British and German allies is such that no mention is made of a ceasefire in the statement issued. Israel is given leave to impose its agenda on Lebanon at gunpoint. After all, Ehud Olmert had said it: there can be no talk of a ceasefire, since "Israel needs more time".

This unconditional support for Israel as it invades, occupies, demolishes, maims and massacres puts the entire Western moral and political order to the test.

While evangelising about democracy and reform, the US and increasingly Europe continue to give Israel open leave punish the Palestinian people collectively for their electoral choice, through air raids, ground incursions, siege and starvation.
In its latest military operation in the Gaza Strip, which has left more than 200 civilians dead, many of whom are children, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have abducted the Palestinian deputy prime minister, along with two cabinet ministers and 56 parliamentarians. On July 1 its warplanes attacked the headquarters of the recently elected Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh.

While preaching freedom to the people of the region, the US and many Western countries do not hesitate to provide political cover for the illegal seizure and occupation of Arab land in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.

And while filling the air with demands for the release of two captured Israeli soldiers, it turns a blind eye to the 10,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians languishing in Israeli jails, about 4,000 of whom are detained administratively without charge or trial.
No wonder that most have lost faith in the American-led rhetoric of democracy, human rights and reform.

Much of the region’s troubles issue from this increasing convergence between American and Israeli policy in the Middle East. The similarity between the two strategies concocted in Tel Aviv and Washington is such that it has become increasingly difficult to tell which is which.

Breaking what has been a taboo for decades, Professors John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt concluded in their article "The Israeli Lobby" that American foreign policy is more representative of Israeli than American national interests. The US Middle East policy is contrary to the long-term strategic interests of the United States.

The alliance between the US and Israel is not something new. Since the end of the 1950s, preserving Israel's security was passed from the British to the US.

Ever since, American national interests have been seen as wedded to those of the state of Israel. However, what is new is that Israel has moved from a proxy at the service of British/American interest in the strategic Middle East to a definer of American policy itself.

It has become customary for consecutive British and American administrations to provide full support for Israel in its invasions, incursions and wars. With Bush and Blair, however, the usual frigid calls for restraint have vanished, making way for assertions of Israel’s right to defend itself and combat terrorism.

This is as though Israel were a wretched occupied country, not the world’s fourth-largest military force and the region’s sole nuclear power. It has repeatedly invaded its neighbours’ lands, colonising the Egyptian Sinai desert, Lebanon, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories.

Its massive military arsenal has been used to impose and expand illegal settlement, pursue collective punishment of the local populations and terrorise its neighbours through raids, kidnappings, assassinations, massacres, violations of air space and territorial waters and detentions of scores of prisoners with impunity.

Since 1979 Israel has received over $130 billion and continues to receive nearly 40 per cent of total US foreign aid. Direct American aid to Israel in recent years has exceeded $3.5 billion annually, with an additional $1 billion through other sources, and has been supported almost unanimously in congress, even by liberal Democrats who normally insist on linking aid to human rights and international law.

Israel’s long record of violation of international law is made possible by the heavy diplomatic support guaranteed by the US. In the past 30 years, the latter has used its veto in the Security Council to protect Israel from international criticism, censure, or sanction, more than 40 times. The last one was on July 13, 2006, when it blocked a draft resolution condemning Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip and demanding an end to the tragic humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories.

The US has to know it cannot aid and abet aggressive occupation and rampant expansionism while hoping to "win Muslims’ hearts and minds". The two cannot go together.

A series of reports and surveys have indicated growing animosity to the United States in the Muslim world.

The latest was a Pew Research Centre poll of six Muslim countries (Indonesia, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, and Morocco). An earlier Pew Global Attitudes survey of 50 nations in 2002 and 2003 found that the US was less popular in the Middle East than any other part of the world. Even in Turkey, a longstanding US ally, 83% had an unfavourable opinion of the US, matching levels in Jordan and Palestine.

Today, the survey concludes: "The US remains largely disliked in the region. Anti-Americanism in the region is driven largely by aversion to US policies, such as the war on Iraq, the war on terrorism and US support for Israel."

No amount of PR or media propaganda can improve those troubled relations. The problem is not with the marketing, as American statesmen like to believe, but with the product itself. It is with the great strategies pursued in the region.

So long as the US insists on imposing Israel as its chief agent in its overarching designs to rearrange the map of the Middle East within a master/slave relation, it will reap nothing but more disasters and chronic chaos.

Two facts are becoming clearer by the day: Israel is increasingly turning into a burden on itself, on its guardians, as well as on its countless victims; and that the people of the region will never accept an Israeli Middle East.

Sooner or later the US will have to decide between the whole Middle East along with the Muslim world beyond, and its Israeli ally. There lies the problem and the remedy.

Soumaya Ghannoushi is a researcher at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London.

The opinions expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.


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