Anjalisa — Israeli attacks kill Lebanese civilians

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Israeli attacks kill Lebanese civilians
Tracy McVeigh
Saturday July 15, 2006
Guardian Unlimited
Israel launched a significant escalation of its military campaign
against Hezbollah militants in Lebanon today, with a series of air
strikes which left 30 civilians dead, including a number of civilian
refugees fleeing the fighting.
In one attack, apparently on vehicles full of families trying to get
away from the bombing, an estimated 13 people, including eight
children, died when a truck and a car were incinerated by an Israeli
air attack.
The small convoy was carrying people evacuating the village of
Marwaheen after Israeli loudspeaker warnings to leave their homes.
Seven of the dead were from a single family, according to
eye-witnesses including a photographer from the Associated Press,
Nasser Nasser, whose pictures show bodies, including a baby, scattered
on the road.
Last night an Israeli military spokeswoman said they were still
investigating the reports of the incident.
Other air strikes flattened Hizbollah’s headquarters in Beirut and
attacked roads, bridges and petrol stations in the north, east and
south of Lebanon, cutting the country off from the outside world and
hitting Hizbollah strongholds including the leader Nasrallah’s home
and office. Airstrikes were launched against the northern port of
Tripoli, the deepest strike yet into Lebanese territory.
Israel’s campaign, begun after Lebanese Hizbollah captured two
soldiers and killed eight in a raid on an Israeli border patrol last
Wednesday, has so far killed at least 100 people, all but three of
them civilians, and choked off Lebanon’s economy, including its
growing tourism industry.
On a separate front, Israeli troops also yesterday launched several
missiles at targets in Gaza, killing at least two people. Hizbollah
militants fired dozens of rockets across the border into Israel,
including two barrages which reached Tiberias, 22 miles inside the
border, the deepest Hizbollah missiles have so far reached. They left
two Israeli civilians dead and several wounded as well as provoking
widespread panic.
One Katusha rocket hit the roof of a seven-floor apartment building in
the Shmuel neighbourhood of Tiberius, a hillside overlooking the Sea
of Galilee, damaging several homes.
There were furious political exchanges throughout the region with
Israel accusing Iran of providing Hizbollah with its increasingly
sophisticated weaponery. Israel claims that the device which damaged
one of its naval ships off the Lebanese coast on Friday, killing four
sailors, was an Iranian-made guided missile.
Tension grew when Israeli warplanes fired four rockets at a border
crossing point between Lebanon and Syria yesterday – Iran has
threatened Israel that it will respond ferociously if there is any
incursion into Syrian territory. But Syria swiftly released a
statement saying there had been no attacks within its borders.
There is a growing chasm in the international community watching the
crisis unfold. President George Bush yesterday angrily rounded on
Hizbollah for starting the violence and demanded Syria intervene.
At a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit in St
Petersburg, he said: ‘In my judgment, the best way to stop the
violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first
place.’ Bush, visibly angry, added: ‘And that’s because Hizbollah has
been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel and because
Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. The best way to stop the
violence is for Hizbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking.
And therefore, I call on Syria to exert influence over Hizbollah.’
But in keeping with Russia’s traditional role as a counterweight to
the US in the Middle East, President Putin added: ‘We believe that the
use of force must be balanced. But in any case the bloodshed must be
stopped as soon as possible.’
The European Union has asked Israel to show restraint and Britain was
yesterday trying desperately tried to straddle the divide between
America and other world leaders at the G8 Summit, by saying it would
not become involved in the ‘blame game’, or ‘finger pointing’. Number
10 instead focused on trying to find what it described as a
‘mechanism’ to de-escalate the crisis.
The EU, France and Russia have all condemned the Israeli air strikes
as ‘disproportionate’ but Tony Blair’s spokesman, speaking on the way
to the G8 Summit in St Petersburg, refused to condemn the Israeli
actions. Instead he said it was essential for the captured Israeli
soldiers to be released ‘and for all sides to act with constraint’.
Blair will meet President Bush for a bilateral meeting at the summit
early this morning ahead of the formal discussion later today on the
Middle East and the current violence, the Iranian drive to become a
nuclear power and the continuing insurgency in Iraq.
The traditional British diplomatic position under Blair has been to
try and act as a bridge between America and the Europeans, but British
influence in the Middle East has been drastically reduced by its
d¡ecision to back the US invasion of Iraq.