Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon has entered its sixth day and the Lebanese death toll has now topped 150: almost all of them civilians. Over the weekend Israel widened its offensive by attacking sites throughout Lebanon including downtown Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli. The Guardian newspaper reports Israel is considering launching a ground invasion of southern Lebanon.
On Sunday the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired a series of rockets at northern Israel. One missile hit a train maintenance building in Haifa and killed eight Israelis. It was the deadliest attack against Israel carried out by Hezbollah in over a decade. It brought the Israeli death toll since last week to about 24.
Meanwhile Israel has also expanded its offensive in Gaza. Overnight, Israeli warplanes leveled the eight-story Palestinian Foreign Ministry office in Gaza City. On Saturday Israel attacked the Palestinian Ministry of Economy. Since late June Israel has killed about 85 Palestinians in Gaza.
Israel’s bombing campaign in Lebanon has become the most destructive assault on the country since Israel’s invasion in 1982. On Saturday as many as 15 Lebanese villagers — including women and children — were killed in an Israeli airstrike near the border village of Ter Harfa. Photos showed the bodies of the children strewn across a street. The civilians were trying to evacuate their home. On Sunday, eight Canadians from the same family were killed when Israeli aircraft bombed a house in southern Lebanon where they were vacationing. The dead included four children aged one, four, six and eight.
Israel continues to target Lebanon’s infrastructure and bomb civilian neighborhoods. Over 90,000 Lebanese residents have fled to Syria. Many foreigners are unable to leave after Israel’s attack on Beirut’s international airport. In a report from Beirut, Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid writes that Israel has “systematically dismantled the country’s infrastructure, displaced thousands of residents and instilled a new sense of foreboding and fear in the now-deserted streets of this brash, confident city still shadowed by the legacy of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.”
Earlier today UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for an international force to be sent to Lebanon to stop Hezbollah from attacking Israel. But Israel — which has rejected calls for a ceasefire — said it is too soon to talk of deploying an international force.
Meanwhile Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has warned that its attacks against Israel are just beginning. On Sunday he defended the attack on Haifa and threatened to possibly bomb Israeli chemical factories.
President Bush is coming under criticism for failing to take a role in ending the bloodshed. On Sunday the White House revealed the president has not yet spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert since Israel began attacking Lebanon. On Saturday, Bush spoke from Russia at the G8 Summit said Israel has a right to defend itself.
On Saturday the United Nations Security Council again rejected pleas from Lebanon that it call for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the U.S. was the sole member of the 15-nation UN body to oppose any council action at all at this time.
Meanwhile The Vatican has condemned what it describes as the terrorist attacks on one side and the military reprisals on the other. But the Vatican’s harshest words were for Israel. A spokesperson for the Pope stated that Israel’s right to self-defense “does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian populations.”
Up to 40 people died in Iraq today when gunmen attacked an open-air market in the town of Mahmoudiya. This is the same town where four U.S. soldiers have been charged with raping an Iraqi teenager and murdering her and three family members. On Sunday, in northern Iraq, a suicide bomber blew up a café packed with Shiite Muslims. 26 people died. Another 22 were injured.
In other news from Iraq, gunmen dressed in police uniforms kidnapped the head of Iraq’s national Olympic committee along with 30 others on Saturday. A day later, gunmen seized a top Oil Ministry official. Meanwhile Iraq’s parliament voted on Saturday to extend a nearly two-year state of emergency in Baghdad for another 30 days.
Here in this country the Army’s top uniformed officer has admitted the war in Iraq is just beginning. At a forum in Washington, Gen. Peter Schoomaker said “I believe that we are closer to the beginning … than we are to the end.” When he was asked if the U.S. military was winning the war in Iraq, General Schoomaker replied by saying “I don’t think we’re losing.”
In Mexico, over one point one million people rallied on Sunday in Mexico City to demand a full recount in the country’s contested presidential election. Presidential runner up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called on the crowd to commit acts of “peaceful civil resistance” to force a recount.
The U.S. General overseeing operations at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay has been promoted. General Bantz Craddock is becoming the new commander of operations for NATO. President Bush proposed Craddock for the job. Up until now, Craddock had been serving as the chief of U.S. Southern Command which oversees Guantanamo.
Fighting in southern Afghanistan has left 100 dead over the past three days. Meanwhile the Independent of London reports the Afghan government has approved a plan to reintroduce a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Human rights groups have expressed concern because this is the same governmental body once used by the Taliban to enforce its religious doctrine.
In Haiti, over 3,000 people demonstrated on Saturday to call for the return of ousted President Jean-Betrand Aristide. The protesters also called for the release of all political prisoners including Aristide’s former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. The protest marked Aristide’s 53rd birthday. He was ousted two and a half years ago in a U.S.-backed coup. Many of his supporters have been jailed for the past two years.
In news from Washington, Valerie Plame has spoken publicly for the first time since she was outted as a CIA operative three years ago. Last week she filed a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney, presidential aide Karl Rove and Cheney’s former chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby for conspiring to end her career and putting her and her family at risk. She was outted as a CIA operative shortly after her husband Ambassador Joseph Wilson had gone public with findings challenging one of the Bush administration’s pre-war claims on Iraqi weapons.
In news from Asia, the United Nations has unanimously agreed to impose sanctions on North Korea while condemning the country’s recent missile tests. The resolution requires all U.N. member states to stop imports and exports of any material or funds relating to the nation’s missile programs. The resolution also demanded North Korea “suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program,” and re-establish a moratorium on the launching of missiles.
In labor news, the Ford Motor Co. has announced plans to cut up to 24,000 hourly jobs in North America by the end of next year.
And in Washington State, about 250 people gathered outside the Fort Lewis military base on Saturday to show support for Suzanne Swift. She is the Army Specialist who has been arrested and confined to base for going AWOL after her charges of sexual harassment and assault went un-addressed by the military. Saturday was Suzanne’s 22nd birthday. Solidarity protests were held in St. Louis, New York, Honolulu, Maui, Kentucky, Philadelphia and Eugene.