The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 28           July 31, 2006  
Israeli military expands its
murderous assault on Lebanon
(front page)
July 19—For the fifth time in the last 30 years the Israeli government has launched a massive assault on the people of Lebanon, its neighbor to the north. In the course of the first week of the attack, which began July 12, Israeli forces have killed more than 300 people, Agence France-Presse reported.

Tel Aviv has ordered its military to bomb the Beirut airport, establish a full naval blockade, and destroy hundreds of roads and bridges on the pretext of forcing the Lebanese group Hezbollah to release two Israeli soldiers it has captured.

Israeli ground forces also entered southern Lebanon July 17 and again today. Government officials described the ground invasion as “brief,” the Associated Press reported.

The Israeli security cabinet decided there would be “no time limit” on its offensive there and in Gaza and confirmed its objective of removing Hezbollah forces from the border area.

With a green light from Washington, the Israeli rulers are taking advantage of the U.S.-led “war on terrorism” in the Middle East to advance their goal of defeating armed opponents of their power in the region. “We want to put Hezbollah out of business. We want to force the Lebanese government to take responsibility and deploy [its army] along the border and dismantle Hezbollah,” said Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan of the Israeli general staff, according to the July 14 New York Times.

At the same time and without a pause, Tel Aviv continued to press its three-week-old assault in the Gaza Strip, where it has killed about 95 Palestinians, according to the director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. An Israeli helicopter fired a missile July 14 into the north Gaza offices of several legislators belonging to Hamas, the governing party in the Palestinian Authority, according to the Lebanese Daily Star. Artillery and naval units continue to pound the Palestinian territory with the stated goal of freeing an Israeli soldier captured June 25 by armed Palestinian groups inside Israel, near the border with Gaza.

The Palestinian organizations and Hezbollah say they will only return the Israeli soldiers in exchange for the release of some of the 8,000 Palestinians held prisoner by Tel Aviv. The Israeli government has said it refuses to negotiate.

Just as Tel Aviv has assassinated many of the top Hamas leaders over the last two years, it is now targeting Hezbollah officials and its supporters based in southern Lebanon and the predominantly Shiite areas south of Beirut.

“Reports indicate that there are now half a million refugees as a result of the Israeli bombings in the south as well as the southern suburbs of Beirut,” Bashar Abu-Sayfan, a Palestinian refugee in Beirut, told the Militant in a phone interview July 17. “What has been encouraging is that close to 200,000 people have been put up in schools, churches, and monasteries in Christian areas. This is an example of human solidarity.” He said 11 people forced from their homes are now living in his one-bedroom apartment.  
The Israeli assault
On the morning of July 13, Tel Aviv unleashed artillery fire, air strikes, and a naval bombardment on about 40 sites in southern Lebanon. It was the Israeli government’s first military action inside Lebanon since its withdrawal from the country in 2000, which ended two decades of occupation. Tel Aviv said the assault was in response to Hezbollah forces firing missiles earlier that day at armored patrols on the Israeli side of the border. The Israeli military said that of seven soldiers in two jeeps, three were killed, two wounded, and two captured.

Israeli warplanes then fired missiles at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, and near the Lebanon-Syria border, threatening to broaden the war beyond Lebanon. “We place full responsibility for this crisis on Syria and Iran,” said Isaac Herzog, a member of Israel’s security cabinet. “We are not ruling out any operation, and we will not forget who is responsible.”

Israeli forces imposed a sea, air, and land blockade, making it difficult for anyone to escape from the continued Israeli bombardment. On July 15 the Israeli military began attacks on the ports of Beirut and Tripoli, Reuters reported. The BBC said that at least 13 Lebanese civilians were killed in one Israeli air strike as a convoy sought to flee the southern region.

Since the Israeli assault began Hezbollah has reportedly fired some 1,000 rockets into Israel, a fraction of the total it is estimated to possess. On July 14 a Hezbollah missile hit an Israeli warship 15 miles off Lebanon’s coast. Three Israeli soldiers were reported missing. Eight Israelis were killed July 16 when Haifa—Israel’s third-largest city—was hit by such rockets.

Combat between Israeli and Lebanese government forces broke out for the first time over the July 15-16 weekend when the Lebanese army fired at an Israeli jet, the Wall Street Journal reported. On July 17 Israeli forces killed at least nine Lebanese soldiers in an attack on two bases along the northern coast.  
Hezbollah isolated
The Israeli rulers have faced little opposition worldwide to their military onslaught. The U.S. representative at the United Nations vetoed a UN resolution calling on Tel Aviv to halt its attack in Gaza. In reference to the invasion of Lebanon, “The best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms,” U.S. president George Bush told the press July 15, while in Russia for the meeting of the Group of 8. “I call upon Syria to exert influence over Hezbollah.”

A joint statement at the G8 summit—made up by the imperialist states of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Moscow—followed Washington’s line. “The immediate crisis results from efforts by extremist forces to destabilize the region,” said the statement. Refusing to demand an end to the assault on Lebanon, they called on Tel Aviv to “exercise utmost constraint.”

Many governments in the Middle East have condemned the Israeli invasion and assault in the Gaza Strip. However, representatives of several governments in majority Arab countries have also charged that Hezbollah’s actions were a source of the current conflict.

In a joint statement July 14, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak warned of the risk of “the region being dragged into ‘adventurism’ that does not serve Arab interests.” The same day, the official Saudi Arabian news agency SPA quoted Mohammad al-Zalfa, a member of the appointed Shura (consultative) Council, saying, “A distinction must be made between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventures taken by elements inside Lebanon.” Referring to Hezbollah without naming the group, he said its forces should “end the crisis they have created.”

On the other hand, the Cuban Foreign Ministry issued a statement July 14 condemning “Israel’s military aggression against Lebanon” and calling on Tel Aviv “to immediately put an end to such acts of barbarism.”

The Associated Press reported July 15 that the governments of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have quietly voiced similar criticisms of Hezbollah.

“Concern about some kind of Israeli troop landing in Beirut has led to young people getting arms and starting to form vigilance in neighborhoods,” said Abu-Sayfan from Beirut. “This has also opened up a discussion on what we are fighting for. Some say we have to follow Hezbollah’s lead, while others say they will fight against Israel but they will not support Hezbollah’s, Iran’s, or Syria’s political agenda.”

At an emergency meeting in Cairo of governments of predominantly Arab countries, Lebanese prime minister Fawzi Salloukh said, “Arab people will sooner or later take matters into their own hands if their governments do not find serious ways to give them hope.”

Hezbollah is a capitalist party with two seats in the Lebanese cabinet. It has called for an “Islamic Republic” and gained substantial support in Lebanon because of its prominent role in the resistance to the Israeli occupation. Both the Iranian and Syrian governments back the group. Hezbollah’s position in the country has been weakened over the last year with the withdrawal of some 14,000 Syrian troops as the result of both imperialist pressure on Damascus and a series of mass protests in Lebanon last year condemning decades-long intervention in the country by Syria’s rulers.

On July 15 Lebanese prime minister Fuad Siniora gave a speech in which he expressed his willingness to accept the Israeli demand for Lebanon’s army to replace Hezbollah forces on the southern border. Siniora said in exchange for an Israeli cease-fire, his government would “work to extend the state’s authority over all its territories, in cooperation with the United Nations in southern Lebanon.” About 2,000 UN troops have been stationed in the area since 1978.

Israeli officials say their assault could go on for weeks. “Lebanon is paying a very heavy price because of Hezbollah: bridges, roads, and airports destroyed—and it could yet be deprived of other infrastructure,” Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz told the press.

Georges Mehrabian in Athens, Greece, contributed to this article.
Related articles:
Stop bombing of Lebanon!
Israeli troops out! No to U.S. support for Tel Aviv
Supporters of socialist campaign join actions protesting imperialist wars in Mideast, make progress in ballot drives
Initial list of Socialist Worker Party candidates in 2006  
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