25 July, 2006

Israeli bombings in Gaza, Lebanon, kill at least twelve

Israeli army shelling in Gaza, and an Israeli jet bombing in Lebanon killed at least twelve people Tuesday, all civilians.

The attacks formed part of an ongoing bombardment by the Israel Air Force, and army artillary shelling of Gaza and southern Lebanon, which together have killed around 500 people, almost all civilians.

In the Galilee village of Maghar A 15-year-old girl was killed and over a dozen people were wounded Tuesday as Hezbollah gunners renewed their bombardment of villages and cities across northern Israel, launching an estimated total of 55 rockets.

On the other side of the Lebanese border in the Galilee village of Maghar, a 15-year-old girl was killed when a rocket hit her home.

Haaretz newspaper quoting Magen David Adom medical crews reported a 30-year-old village resident was seriously hurt, a 12 year old was moderately wounded and 20 more people suffered from shock.

Hospital and security personnel told The Associated Press an Israeli jet fired a missile into a house in the town of Nabatiyeh in south Lebanon early Tuesday, killing seven people. An 8th person, a woman, was wounded in the attack.

It was not immediately clear why Israel targeted the house, which belonged to a man named Mohammed Ghandour. He, his wife and his son were among the seven killed, security officials told AP.

They said a man named Saad Hamza, his wife, an unidentified man and two children were also in the house at the time.

Meantime five Palestinians have been killed and dozens injured after Israeli artillery fired on the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, Palestinian medics told the BBC

Three people were killed when a shell hit a crowd outside a block of flats near the Israeli border.

Later, a shell exploded in an area of open ground to the town's west, killing a 14-year-old boy and his grandmother.

The Israeli military said both the strikes targeted militants who had been firing Qassam rockets into Israel.

Twenty such rockets have landed in Israel since Sunday morning, the BBC reported, although no Israelis have been hurt in the attacks.

'We have distributed leaflets warning civilians to leave areas from where Qassam rockets are fired,' an Israeli spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.

'The terror organisations purposely fire Qassam rockets at Israel from areas that are crowded with civilians.'

Israel is engaged in a major offensive in Gaza following the abduction of a soldier on June 28.

Four Israeli troops killed, 18 injured, in heavy fighting

The Israeli military lost four troops in fierce clashes inside Lebanese territory Monday. Another 18 were injured.

One was an officer with the rank of first lieutenant, another was a first sergeant, and two were pilots.

Staff Sergeant Koby Smileg, 20, of Rehovot and Second Lieutenant Lotan Slavin, 21, of Hatzeva were the soldiers killed. The pilots, both with the Israel Air Force, were not named.

Twenty-three soldiers have now been killed since the outbreak of hostilities on July 12. Nineteen civilians have also died, taking the Israel death toll during the conflict to 42. The Lebanese death toll currently stands at 384, mostly civilians.

Monday's combat losses were incurred in clashes with Hezbollah fighters in the town of Bint Jbail, between Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbeil, in southern Lebanon.

Ynet news said of the 18 soldiers injured, two sustained serious wounds, 5 had moderate wounds and seven were lightly injured. Five soldiers were hit by friendly fire from an Israeli aircraft. Among the injured, the commander of the armor's Battalion 52, Lieutenant-General Guy, who was moderately wounded , and the battalion's deputy assistant chief of staff, who was seriously wounded.

The incident began after armor forces were called to rescue an Egoz unit fighter who was seriously injured by Hezbollah fire and another five Orev Company fighters who were lightly to moderately hurt by an aircraft that accidentally fired at them. During the rescue attempts, one of the tanks was hit by an anti-tank missile and the other tank went over a powerful landmine.

In the other major incident Monday, two pilots were killed after their Apache helicoptert began spiralling to the ground for an unknown reason, hit a power line, crashed and caught fire within seconds. According to Ynet news the Israeli military is looking into whether the helicopter was hit by artillery fire or suffered a technical malfunction. "The reason for the crash is unknown at this stage," the head of the IAF's Air Directorate, Brigadier General Yohanan Locker, said Monday night.

The harsh battle occurred near Bint Jbeil, which is considered 'Hezbollah's capital' in southern Lebanon. An officer in the armor's Battalion 52 was killed during the battles after an anti-tank missile hit a Merkava tank. The tank entered the area in order to rescue fighters who were hurt in the fighting against Hizbullah.

Almost simultaneously, another of the battalion's tanks went over a powerful landmine, killing a soldier. The battalion's commander was moderately injured and another officer was seriously injured in the tank.

Ynet says Israeli soldiers are operating in the town of Bint Jbeil and in several other villages in southern Lebanon in a bid to damage Hezbollah's infrastructure and redefine the security reality along the border.
Source : Big News network.

Go home Condoleezza, says Arab press

The unusually blunt headline on the front page of the normally conservative UAE daily newspaper, Gulf News, Monday, was matched with an equally blunt article below it.

Arabs are known for their hospitality, but they do not want U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice here, it will be futile, says the newspaper in a front page editorial.

"Claims of impartiality are not credible, Arab patience has worn thin, her bias and a U.S. agenda driven by Israel, is there for all to see," says the piece.

Maybe her visit is to confirm the early delivery of Israel's requested replenishment of precision bombs, and approval for Israels's actions whatever they might be, the article infers.

The newspaper is critical of Rice's statement that, "now is not the right time for a ceasefire," and that it would be a "false promise."

"Only Israelis are happy to see Rice here. From an Arab perspective Condoleezza is wasting her time and should go home," the editorial concludes.

The Arab press generally is emblazoned with coverage of the Middle East crisis providing graphic stories and photos of events in Gaza and Lebanon. Coverage also extends to losses in Israel, and a general concensus of the futility of war.

There is harsh treatment though of Israel's methods. The main editorial of Gulf News Monday was headlined, "Israel's method of ethnic cleansing."

An additional editorial piece says Israel stands condemned by all Arabs, and that Hezbollah is gaining widespread support even from moderate Arabs because of Israel's actions. It claims, without nominating any source for its information, that support in Lebanon for Hezbollah was at 20% before the latest crisis, but has since risen to 85%.

Meantime Rice met Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Later Tuesday, she met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Both officials say there will be no return to the previous situation along the Lebanon-Israel border.

Broad agreement was evident between Rice and Olmert as they held talks in Jerusalem. Olmert says Israel is determined to keep fighting Hezbollah until it is no longer a threat.

"Israel is determined to carry on the fight against Hezbollah," he said. "We will reach out for them and stop them. And, we will not hesitate to take the most severe measures against those who are aiming thousands of rockets and missiles at innocent civilians for one purpose - to kill them."

Mr. Olmert describes Israel's offensive in Lebanon as "self-defense" and he urges Lebanon's government to distance itself from Hezbollah.

Both Israel and the United States say any ceasefire in Lebanon should not leave Hezbollah in place in southern Lebanon. Lebanon's government has asked for an immediate ceasefire, saying details of how to defuse tensions in southern Lebanon can be worked out later. Secretary Rice says any agreement to end the fighting should be durable.

"The people of this region, Israeli, Lebanese and Palestinian have lived too long in fear and in terror and in violence," she said. "A durable solution will be one that strengthens the forces of peace and democracy in the region."

Israel says it would support an international peacekeeping force to replace Hezbollah in south Lebanon, but, so far, no countries have offered to supply troops. The United States has ruled out participating in such a force and NATO officials say they have not received any request for troops. Other European countries, such as France, say talk of an international peacekeeping force is "premature."

U.N. officials say they are waiting for final approval from Israel to dispatch a humanitarian aid convoy from Beirut to south Lebanon. They say they are planning convoys for Wednesday and Friday. According to the United Nations, more than 700,000 Lebanese have been displaced by the fighting. Prime Minister Olmert acknowledges Israel's military operations have caused humanitarian problems for Lebanese civilians, saying Israel will work with the United States to try and alleviate the problems.

Israeli troops continue to encounter heavy resistance in their bid to capture the town, Bint Jbail, which they describe as a Hezbollah stronghold, about four kilometers inside Lebanese territory. Israel has been trying to capture the town for several days, saying it serves as a major supply and communications hub for Hezbollah in the area.

Source : Lebanon News.Net


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