The Israeli attack on Lebanon has entered its second week. Early this morning Israeli air strikes killed at least 54 civilians in a series of raids in southern Lebanon. Another 37 people were killed on Tuesday. The death toll now stands at about 300, nearly all Lebanese civilians. Over the past week Israel has attacked more than 100 villages, towns and cities across the country.
Early this morning Israeli ground troops crossed back into Lebanon to carry out attacks near the southern border. The Israeli government has yet to rule out staging a massive ground invasion. For the first time, Israeli soldiers exchanged heavy fire with Hezbollah fighters inside Lebanon. Israeli tanks have also re-entered Gaza.
The humanitarian crisis in Lebanon continues to worsen. At least 500,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Scores of roads and bridges have been hit making it hard to transport food or humanitarian aid. Recent Israeli strikes have targeted the country’s largest milk factory, a major food factory and two pharmaceutical plants. Earlier bombs hit water processing plants, power plants and grain silos. On Tuesday a convoy of two trucks carrying medical supplies donated by the United Arab Emirates was hit. The trucks were destroyed and both drivers died. The Israeli military has denied targeting the factories or aid trucks. Two ambulances were also bombed on Tuesday. They were carrying Lebanese soldiers who were injured in an Israeli attack on their base that had killed eleven soldiers. A Greek Orthodox Church also suffered a direct hit. Inside the church were civilians who had taken refuge. At least 10 people were injured.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fuad Siniora accused Israel of committing massacres against Lebanese civilians and working to destroy everything that allows the country to stay alive. Another Lebanese cabinet minister accused Israel of waging a war to inflict famine in Lebanon. The Beirut Bar Association has begun discussing plans to file a complaint with the United Nations against Israel for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Siniora called on the militant group Hezbollah to free the two Israeli soldiers it captured last week. On Tuesday Hezbollah continued to fire missiles into Northern Israel. One person was killed and several others were injured. Human Rights Watch accused Hezbollah of violating international law by firing the missiles at civilians. Hezbollah rocket attacks have killed twenty-five Israelis including 13 civilians. Human Rights Watch also called for an investigation into Israel’s attacks in Lebanon
The Bush administration has openly rejected calls for a ceasefire. The New York Times reports that U.S. and Israeli officials have agreed the bombings will continue for another week.
On Tuesday Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected an immediate ceasefire and said one could only occur once certain conditions are met. During a joint news conference in Washington, she openly disagreed about the issue with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit.
Secretary of State Rice is expected to head to the Middle East within the next week but no official plans have been announced. According to the Wall Street Journal her mission will not be to arrange for a ceasefire but to “build support for the effective crippling of Hezbollah.”
President Bush defended Israel’s attacks and placed the blame on Syria.
President Bush said the world cannot allow Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel to continue.
On Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution endorsing Israel’s military attack and condemning Hezbollah as well as Iran and Syria. The House is expected to approve a similar resolution. Last night Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman declared “today, we are all Israelis” during a speech to the organization Christians United for Israel.
At the United Nations, US Ambassador John Bolton said there was no moral equivalence between the civilian casualties from the Israeli raids in Lebanon and those killed in Israel from what he called “malicious terrorist acts”. He maintained that Israel has only been acting in self defense.
The Bush administration is coming under increasing criticism for being too slow to evacuate U.S. citizens stranded in Lebanon. Thousands of Europeans have been evacuated but only a few hundred Americans have been able to leave. A total of 25,000 U.S. citizens are believed to be in Lebanon.
In Gaza, Israel troops re-entered the area early morning. In actions today, Israeli troops killed nine Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Around 100 Palestinians have been killed since late June.
In Iraq, the United Nations has determined that about 6,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the months of May and June making it the deadliest period of the war. This means an average of 100 Iraqis are dying every day. The UN figures are based on data from the Baghdad morgue and the Health Ministry.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate voted Tuesday to expand federal support of medical research using embryonic stem cells. President Bush has vowed to veto the legislation. The bill received the support of 63 Senators, short of the two-thirds majority it would take to override the veto. So far during his presidency President Bush has not vetoed any legislation. Opponents of stem cell research claim that conducting medical experiments on fertilized human eggs amounts to ending human lives. On Tuesday Democratic Senator John Kerry urged Bush not to veto the legislation.
Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum voted against research on stem cells saying it was the equivalent of taking a human life.
On Tuesday reporters asked Press Secretary Tony Snow why President Bush opposed the bill. Snow responded, “The simple answer is he thinks murder is wrong.”
In another vote on Capitol Hill, an effort by House Republicans to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage has failed.
In Indonesia, the death toll from Monday’s tsunami has risen to at least 520. An investigation has been launched to determine why residents of Java received no warning that a six-foot-high wall of water was approaching the island.
In New Orleans, a doctor and two nurses have been arrested in connection with the deaths of four patients in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti accused them of using lethal injections to kill four patients.
The medical personnel worked at the Memorial Medical Center. The hospital lost power after the hurricane and patients had to wait four days to be evacuated. The doctor and two nurses have not yet been formally charged. Last fall the state of Louisiana launched an investigation into the deaths of at least 140 patients at six Louisiana hospitals and 13 nursing homes.
In Washington, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed on Tuesday that it was President Bush himself who blocked Justice Department lawyers from investigating the legality of the administrations’ secret domestic surveillance program. The National Journal reported that Gonzales’s statement stunned some senior Justice Department officials, who were led to believe that Gonzales made the decision. Bush blocked the Justice Department investigation of the National Security Agency program by denying necessary security clearances to investigators from the department’s ethics unit.
In media news the former editor of Time Magazine, Norman Pearlstine, is set to become a senior advisor to the Carlyle Group. The investment company is reportedly stepping up its ownership of media companies. It is part of a consortium that recently bought VNU, owner of Nielsen Media Research and Hollywood Reporter.
In Georgia, Ralph Reed has failed in his attempt to become the state’s lieutenant governor. The former head of the Christian Coalition lost Tuesday’s Republican primary to a little known state senator named Casey Cagle.
In other news from Georgia, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is facing an uphill battle in her bid for re-election. She won Tuesday’s Democratic primary but but she failed to secure 50 percent of the vote. She now faces a runoff on August 8 against Hank Johnson, a former county commissioner. McKinney is the first African-American woman from Georgia to be elected from Congress and has been a vocal critic of the Iraq war and the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina.