The Lebanese government says the death toll in the two weeks of Israeli bombing could be as high 600. Earlier today, at least eleven Lebanese were killed in dozens of Israeli strikes on south Lebanon. The news comes as Israel has announced a massive call-up of up to 30,000 reserve troops. Israeli military radio told south Lebanese Thursday that Israeli forces “will totally destroy any village from which missiles are fired toward Israel.” Earlier this morning we reached independent journalist Dahr Jamail in Beirut.
The destruction to Lebanese infrastructure continues. Israel bombed a field of radio and television relay stations belonging to Lebanon’s state broadcaster. In the eastern Bekaa Valley, Israeli warplanes hit three trucks carrying food to Beirut. One driver was killed. It was at least the second attack on aid vehicles in as many days. On Wednesday, an Israeli warplane hit a truck carrying medical and food supplies donated to Lebanon by the United Arab Emirates. The driver and two others were killed. The strike came a week to the day Israel hit another truck carrying supplies from the Arab Emirates, also killing the driver. In Beirut, a resident spoke Thursday while touring the damage to his neighborhood.
Meanwhile photographs have emerged showing a Lebanese ambulance was bombed earlier this week even though the vehicle was clearly marked as an emergency vehicle. The photos show the roof of the ambulance smashed and pockmarked. Robert Fisk of the London Independent wrote that Israel’s missiles pierced the very centre of the red cross painted on the roof, raising speculation the pilots used the cross as a target.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah fighters fired at least 110 rockets at Israeli border towns Thursday. No injuries were reported.
Children continue to pay a heavy price in the attack on Lebanon, forced to take refuge in schools, mosques and shelters around the country.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military has admitted it has been using cluster bombs. Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch said Israel is shelling civilian areas with cluster bombs in violation of international law. Israel says its used the weapons lawfully.
Israeli airstrikes continue to kill Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — at least five on Thursday. The dead include 75-year old woman whose home was hit by an Israeli missile. Funerals have become a daily phenomenon. Two young children and their mother were laid to rest Thursday. They were among the 24 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes the day before. It was the highest single-day Palestinian death toll in two weeks. At least 149 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s month-long assault following the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. On Thursday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh rejected the comments from Palestinian President Mahmound Abbas that a deal for Shalit’s release is imminent.
In other news, Israel has dismissed UN Secretary General Koffi Annan’s call for a joint investigation into the deadly Israeli air bombing of a UN base. The UN says it wants to be part of a probe into Tuesday’s strike, which killed four international observers. Koffi Annan has accused Israel of deliberately attacking the base. According to UN officials, Israel was asked a dozen times to stop firing on the observers. In total, Israel launched more than twenty strikes around the base. The bombing continued even as rescuers tried to save the victims. Israel denies the attack was intentional. There is concern the bombing will lead to the withdrawal of international monitors and aid workers. On Thursday, the Australian government said it was withdrawing a dozen specialists who were helping with evacuation efforts in south Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Israel has also ruled out major UN involvement in any possible international force in Lebanon. In a speech to an Israel advocacy group Thursday, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman said Israel would only accept “an international, [professional] force, with soldiers from countries who have the training and capabilities to be effective.” Speculation is growing a possible international force would include US troops. Harper’s Magazine correspondent Ken Silverstein is reporting a highly-placed former CIA officer says the Bush Administration is considering deploying troops. According to the former officer, the proposal is meeting resistance from Pentagon officials who say the military is overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Justice Minister, Haim Ramon is drawing controversy for claiming the indecision at this week’s conference in Rome means Israel has been given “a green light” to continue attacking Lebanon. European Union officials have rejected Ramon’s statement. The talks broke down after the US and Britain blocked an international effort for an immediate ceasefire.
President Bush continues to dismiss ceasefire calls. Speaking at the White House Thursday, Bush also suggested Iran bore responsibility for the current conflict.
Meanwhile, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud criticized the US government’s support for Israel’s continued bombing.
In other news, Al-Qaeda has released a new recording urging Muslims to attack Israel and its allies over the ongoing Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza. On the tape, Al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri says his group will not stand by while Israel attacks Lebanon and Gaza. Zawahari also calls the world an “open battlefield” and says because “Muslims are being attacked everywhere, Al-Qaeda will attack everywhere.” It was the first Al-Qaeda statement to address Israel’s attack on Lebanon.
In news from Iraq, a series of rocket and mortar round struck a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad Thursday. Thirty-one people were killed and more than 150 wounded.
In Haiti, former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune has been freed after spending more than two years in prison. Neptune walked out of the National Penitentiary on Thursday frail and barely able to speak. He has been on a hunger strike for much of the past 15 months to protest his imprisonment. He was immediately taken to a hospital for treatment. Yvon Neptune was jailed shortly after the 2004 coup that ousted Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. He was never charged with a crime and was the most high profile political prisoner detained by the U.S.-backed interim government.
This news from Europe — the Polish government is expressing concerns over a US plan to establish a missile base that would be immune from Polish control. The Bush administration is insisting the proposed site be designated sovereign US territory. Poland would have no legal authority over the base and would not be informed of US missile tests. The base would be the sole European site to host the Bush administration’s controversial missile defense program.
Here in the United States, the U.N. Human Rights Committee called on the White House today to shut down all “secret detention” facilities and grant the International Committee of the Red Cross access to any detainee held in armed conflict. The committee says it has “credible and uncontested” information the US has detained prisoners “secretly and in secret places for months and years.”
This news on a story we’ve been following: There are new developments in the growing internal battle over the American Psychological Association’s support for the participation of psychologists in military interrogations. Salon.com is reporting is reporting six of the ten people on the APA task force that drafted the psychologists’ policy have close military ties. Four of the six worked at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib or Afghanistan. Dissident APA members say those task force members have a significant conflict of interest. The news comes as APA members prepare to discuss the issue at a conference next month. More than 1300 members and outside psychologists have signed an online petition denouncing the APA’s current stance.
In Colorado, a seventy-five year old woman will begin a ten-day jail sentence today for taking part in an anti-war protest. Bonnie McCormick is one of a dozen activists calling themselves “The No Blood for Oil 12.” They were found guilty of trespassing after demonstrating outside a military recruitment office last November. McCormick is one of five defendants who chose to serve their sentences behind bars. Two of the defendants say they will hold a fast during their detentions.
In other news, peace activist Cindy Sheehan is a new landowner — in Crawford, Texas. Crawford is the site of President Bush’s ranch, where he refused to meet with Sheehan almost one year ago. Sheehan says her new property will be used to host anti-war activities around the President’s vacation next month.
In business news, the oil conglomerate Exxon Mobil has announced another record-breaking profit — $10.4 billion dollars in this year’s second quarter. The total was the second biggest ever reported by a US company. In first place — Exxon’s $10.7 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of last year.
In other news, National Security Agency whistleblower Russell Tice has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury. According to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition two FBI agents served Tice the subpoena outside his house on Wednesday. Tice was one of the sources for the New York Times article that exposed the government’s secret domestic surveillance programs. He also spoke out about the domestic wiretapping in a series of televised interviews, including on Democracy Now. Tice is now accusing the government of trying to silence him. After being served the subpoena, he said “This latest action by the government is designed only for one purpose: to ensure that people who witness criminal action being committed by the government are intimidated into remaining silent.”
And finally the New York Daily News is reporting in May 2002 President Bush signed a directive that granted the Environmental Protection Agency the power to classify information as secret. Critics are questioning the timing of the Bush order, saying it may be linked to the EPA’s handling of the cleanup of Ground Zero. Joel Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project said: “I think the rationale behind this was to not let people know what they were potentially exposed to.”