At least 72 civilians died in Lebanon on Wednesday making it the deadliest day of the Israeli assault. In the village of Srifa, Israeli warplanes flattened an entire neighborhood. 15 homes were destroyed. At least 17 civilians died including several children. The local mayor described the attack as a massacre.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora issued an urgent appeal to the international community. He said the country had been torn to shreads.
But John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, rejected the call for a ceasefire.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has broken with the Bush administration and denounced what he called the Israeli aggression.
The British newspaper Guardian has reported The Bush administration has given Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah before it will consider a ceasefire. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Israel is weighing a ground invasion of South Lebanon. Some Israeli military experts are now saying the air war has been insufficient and that a ground war will be needed to dislodge Hezbollah. Israel’s Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the attack on Lebanon would continue "without letup and time limit."
Last night Israeli warplanes attacked what the military described as a bunker in Beirut used by senior members of Hezbollah. 23 tons of explosives were dropped on the site. In a statement that aired on Al Manar, Hezbollah said none of its leaders were killed and that the site was actually a mosque under construction.
The death toll in Lebanon now stands at around 330. The Israeli bombardment has displaced over 500,000 people. One in every eight Lebanese residents has been forced to flee their homes — and the refugee situation is expected to worsen. The Israeli military is broadcasting radio messages in South Lebanon ordering all civilians to leave the region. The Israeli military has also warned it will bomb any truck driven in the area.
While the U.S. has fully backed what Israel is calling Operation Just Reward, criticism of the war is growing in the international community. A top UN official is warning that Israel may be committing war crimes in Lebanon by attacking civilians. Louise Arbour of the UN High Commission on Human Rights said "International humanitarian law is clear on the supreme obligations to protect civilians during hostilities." Her comments were also directed at Hezbollah.
On Wednesday the militant Lebanese group fired over 100 missiles into northern Israel hitting Haifa and, for the first time, Nazareth. The rocket attacks killed two boys in Nazareth — they were both Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. 37 others were wounded.
Over the past nine days, 10 times as many Lebanese have died as Israelis. The United Nations’ emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, said that neither Israeli nor Hezbollah seemed to care about civilian suffering. He estimated that nearly a third of the dead or wounded were children. He warned that many of the wounded could not be helped because roads and bridges had been cut by Israeli air strikes. The International Committee of the Red Cross also criticized Israel for killing so many civilians and for destroying much of Lebanon’s public infrastructure.
Thousands of foreigners continue to evacuate Lebanon. The United States is being widely criticized for being too slow to help Americans leave. A report on the American Prospect website indicates that the Bush administration might have purposely delayed evacuating Americans for diplomatic reasons. The report claims that the State Department has been reluctant to create an impression that the Israeli assault on Lebanon is as bad as it is or that civilian U.S. citizens are being threatened by Israel. Earlier today U.S. Marines landed in Lebanon for the first time in 22 years to help in the evacuation. On Wednesday, U.S. Brigadier General Carl Jensen discussed the evacuation plans.
Meanwhile 20 people have reportedly been arrested by Lebanese security forces for spying for Israel and for aiding Israel’s air assault. Last month the Lebanese Army uncovered an Israeli spy cell inside Lebanon that admitted to assassinating members of Hezbollah and other militants on behalf of Mossad. All of the killings occurred inside Lebanon.
The Israeli military has also stepped up its attacks in Gaza. On Wednesday 30 israeli military vehicles moved into the Maghazi refugee camp. At least 13 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and the West Bank.
In other news, President Bush has issued the first veto of his presidency in order to bar the expansion of federally funded stem cell research.
The House came up 51 votes short of the needed required two-thirds majority to overturn the veto. Scientists have widely criticized Bush’s move to block the use of embryonic stem cells to find treatments or cures for many debilitating diseases. Polls show 70 percent of the country back stem cell research.
In environmental news, a top U.S. climate expert revealed on Wednesday that the first six months of the year were the warmest in the United States since records have been kept.
In Chicago, special prosecutors have released a major report confirming that African American men have been systematically tortured inside the Chicago prison system. The report said enough evidence exists to support the prosecution of three police officers but that the statute of limitations had expired. We’ll have more on this later in the show.
In Africa, the Associated Press is reporting Ethiopia is threatening to invade Somalia if Islamic militias there seize more control of the country. The militias are on the verge of taking the city of Baidoa where the U.N.-backed interim government is based.
And in media news the editor of the New York Times editorial page has admitted the paper’s editorial board made mistakes in the lead up to the war in Iraq. Gail Collins told Editor and Publisher "If I had to do it over again, I would have paid a lot more attention to the people on the board who had doubts. I thought there were weapons of mass destruction and most of the board members did. Collins went on to say "Frankly, we did not spend enough time debating the issue."