At least 215 people have now died during Israel’s seven-day-old assault on Lebanon. All but 14 of the dead are civilians. The Israeli bombings have displaced more than 400,000 Lebanese residents from their homes. Tens of thousands of foreigners are trying to leave the country to escape the daily air strikes. Early this morning Israeli warplanes killed at least 11 people including seven civilians from the same family in southern Lebanon. On Monday, Israeli attacks killed at least 42 people making it one of the deadliest days of the week-old invasion. Among the dead were 12 civilians who were killed when an Israeli bomb hit their minivan just south of Beirut.
Calls continue to mount for the international community to do something to stop the bloodshed but there has been little progress on the diplomatic front. The cover of today’s Guardian newspaper shows a photograph of a bombed-out section of Beirut under the headline “Lebanon: The World Looks On.” Israel is refusing to rule out a massive ground invasion of Lebanon. The Israeli military has been massing troops, tanks and artillery pieces along the border. The military has also called up thousands of reserve troops. On Monday Israeli troops briefly crossed the Lebanese border but then returned to Israel. The Washington Post has reported that Israeli and U.S. officials are privately saying the Israeli bombing of Lebanon is expected to continue for several weeks. The paper also reports that the U.S. is supporting Israel in its refusal to agree to a ceasefire. On Monday President Bush was caught on tape privately telling Prime Minister Tony Blair that he felt UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s call for a ceasefire “seems odd.” Then Bush proceeded to curse as he blamed Syria for what was happening.
During a prime-time televised address Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to continue the bombardment of Lebanon until Hezbollah is crippled. On Monday Hezbollah fired 50 rockets at Northern Israel. Several injuries were reported. Over the past week Hezbollah rocket attacks have killed at least 24 Israelis including twelve civilians.
Israel says it will continue its assault until three conditions are met: the release of the two captured Israeli soldiers; the disarmament of Hezbollah; and for the Lebanese Army to take control of southern Lebanon.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora accused Israel of trying to turn Lebanon back fifty years.
A new report by the Lebanese government shows that the Israeli air strikes have devastated the country’s infrastructure. Lebanon’s airports and seaports have been destroyed. Thirty-Eight roads have been cut off by bombs or shells and 42 bridges have been destroyed. Power stations, water-processing plants, grain silos and gas stations have also been targeted as well as communication and television antennas. The Daily Star newspaper in Beirut has accused Israel of violating the Geneva Conventions by attacking Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure.
The United Nations is warning of a looming humanitarian disaster. The World Health Organization expects the number of Lebanese residents displaced from their homes to reach 900,000 by the end of today. Over one hundred thousand people have already fled to Syria. Public parks in Beirut now resemble refugee camps filled with displaced residents. The UN peacekeeping force in South Lebanon has said it has been unable to deliver humanitarian aid to stranded civilians because Israel would not guarantee the safe passage of the aid workers. Last week Israeli fire hit an ambulance run by the Lebanese Red Crescent. Aid organizations report many injured people are also unable to reach hospitals because so many roads and bridges have been bombed. Food and medical supplies are also running out in areas.
Tens of thousands of foreigners have begun fleeing the country in what has been described as one of the largest mass evacuations by sea in world history. Foreign embassies around the world have been sending in boats and helicopters to rescue citizens trying to escape the bombing. But the Bush administration is being accused of moving too slow. 25,000 U.S. citizens are believed to be in Lebanon. According to the Detroit News, only 64 Americans had been evacuated as of Monday night.
Lebanon’s Information Minister Ghazi Aridi has accused Israel of using banned weapons in violation of international law. Reports in the Lebanese media have claimed that Israel has used phosphorus incendiary bombs and vacuum bombs that suck up air and facilitate building collapses. The use of incendiary weapons against civilians has been banned since 1980. The U.S. military used similar phosphorus weapons during the siege of Fallujuah in Iraq.
Several legal experts in the United States have accused Israel of violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act by using U.S.-made fighter planes and missiles to kill civilians and to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure. Defense experts say Israel has over five-hundred F-16 and F-15 fighters planes — all of them supplied by the United States.
In Washington, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is holding a peace rally outside the White House at 5 p.m. today to protest the Israeli military action in both Lebanon and Gaza. The group is the largest American Arab civil rights organization in the United States.
Meanwhile on Monday thousands of supporters of Israel gathered in New York. Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton addressed the crowd vowing support for Israel.
Prior to the rally, Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch threw a fundraising breakfast for Hillary Clinton in New York.
A car bomb attack in the southern Iraqi city of Kufa has killed at least 53 people and injured over 100 more. A crowd of laborers looking for work had been lured into gathering around a minibus which then exploded. In Hawija, a roadside bomb near a bus station killed another nine persons, including six police officers.
The Washington Post reports over 600 people died in Baghdad last week alone. The figure was provided by Iraq’s interior ministry.
In Indonesia, a tsunami hit the island of Java killing at least 325 people. Another 140 people are reported missing. An undersea earthquake triggered the tsunami which produced a six-foot wall of water. The tsunami has displaced over 50,000 people. More than 230,000 people were killed in a massive tsunami that hit the region in December 2004.
In Britain, officials have decided not to press to prosecute any of the police officers involved in the shooting death of Jean Charles de Menezes. He was the innocent Brazilian man shot in the London subway last year after police mistook him to be a possible terrorist.
In Chile, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled that a major human rights lawsuit against former dictator Augusto Pinochet can proceed. Four years ago the same court ruled Pinochet was unfit to stand trial because of dementia but on Monday the court reversed itself. Monday’s high court ruling will allow Pinochet to be tried for the so-called Caravan of Death case dating back to 1973. After Pinochet seized power in a 1973 coup, he oversaw the systematic execution of political opponents. By the time Pinochet’s 17-year-dictatorship ended, more than 3,000 people had died in political killings and tens of thousands more had been arrested and tortured.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate is expected to vote today to approve expanding embryonic stem cell research. But President Bush is threatening to issue the first veto of his presidency in order to block the legislation. A debate over stem cell research has split the Republican Party. Several prominent party members including former First Lady Nancy Reagan and Senate Majority Leader Doctor Bill Frist back the research. But many religious leaders who oppose abortion claim that conducting medical experiments on fertilized human eggs amounts to ending human lives.
And in Nelson Mandela turns 88 years old today. On Monday he held a private party of his staff of his foundation. Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail, said he never expected to live to be 88.
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