Israel has sent as many as 18,000 troops into Lebanon as part of a massive ground invasion. An Israeli military official told the Washington Post the number of troops could soon triple.
The ground assault comes as Israel continues to bomb areas around South Lebanon. A Lebanese official said Israel is carrying out an “unprecedented” air attack on the ancient city of Baalbek. The assault began late Tuesday — three hours before the end of Israel’s announced two-day pause to the bombing. At least twelve civilians were killed in an Israeli air strike in a nearby village. Five family members were found dead in their collapsed home. Witnesses said Israel bombed Baalbek’s main hospital, which was already filled with wounded patients. The raid of Baalbek marked Israel’s deepest known incursion into Lebanon in twelve years, when Israeli forces abducted a Lebanese militant leader it later released in a prisoner exchange. Meanwhile, three Israeli soldiers and an unknown number of Hezbollah fighters were killed in clashes near the Israel-Lebanon border.
Hezbollah launched at least 63 rockets into Israel today, after firing just eight on Tuesday. An Israeli man was killed when a rocket struck close to the Israeli town of Nahariya. Meanwhile, a Hezbollah rocket landed in an open area near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. It was the furthest Hezbollah strike since fighting began last month.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese refugees are expected to once again be displaced as the Israeli bombing intensifies.
Many Lebanese villages have yet to receive desperately needed aid. A U.N. spokesperson said Israel has tightened restrictions on the travel of relief convoys. Meanwhile, aid workers are also warning Lebanon is close to running out of fuel. Officials say there may be only two or three days’ supply left.
Meanwhile, demonstrations continued around the world Tuesday over the Israeli strike on Qana that killed nearly sixty civilians. Hundreds of Palestinians marched in Gaza and Ramallah. In Jerusalem, protesters gathered outside the American consulate to protest US support for the war. Humanitarian aid has begun to reach Qana in the aftermath of the attack. One resident said the town was not looking for aid but for an end to the violence.
The US and Israeli governments insist the fighting will continue. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the assault could continue for weeks. Olmert said Israel would be ready for a ceasefire only when an international force is deployed to South Lebanon. His comments came as the European Union adopted a statement calling for a cessation of hostilities but stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Meanwhile, former President Jimmy Carter has weighed in on the war in Lebanon. Writing in the Washington Post, President Carter said: “It is inarguable that Israel has a right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens, but it is inhumane and counterproductive to punish civilian populations in the illogical hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the devastating response.” Carter went on to write: “There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is […] occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians… A major impediment to progress is Washington’s strange policy that dialogue on controversial issues will be extended only as a reward for subservient behavior and will be withheld from those who reject U.S. assertions.”
In Cuba, President Fidel Castro released a statement Tuesday assuring Cubans his condition is “stable.” A government spokesperson read out Castro’s remarks.
Meanwhile in Miami, hundreds of Cuban-Americans took the streets Tuesday to celebrate the news of Castro’s poor health. Miami is home to around 650,000 Cuban exiles. In Havana, thousands of people took part in rallies honoring Castro.
In military news, a high-ranking officer admitted Tuesday more than two-thirds of the Army National Guard’s thirty-four brigades are not ready for combat. Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, the top general of the National Guard, said the Army is suffering a major shortfall in equipment.
In Iraq, more than 70 people died in violence around the country Tuesday. The deadliest attack claimed the lives of least twenty-three Iraqi soldiers on a bus traveling to Baghdad.
ABC News is reporting the military is investigating the commanding officer of four US soldiers who have been charged with murdering three Iraqi civilians. The soldiers have admitted to the killings but have claimed they were only following orders to kill all military-age males. In this new development, the soldiers’ commanding officer, Col. Michael Steele, is being investigated for inciting his troops to go on a killing spree. Col. Steele has had a celebrated military career. He was portrayed in the 2001 Hollywood film “Black Hawk Down”, about a US military unit fighting in Somalia in 1993. Sources told ABC News soldiers in Col. Steele’s unit believed they had been ordered to shoot all Iraqi men. Col. Steele apparently kept a “kill board” counting the number of Iraqis killed under his command and gave out commemorative knives to soldiers who killed Iraqis believed to be insurgents.
In other Iraq news, Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana has announced the death of his nephew serving in Iraq. Cpl. Phillip Baucus died Saturday while serving in Anbar province. His uncle initially voted to authorize the Iraq war but earlier this year backed a Democratic measure calling for a phased redeployment of US troops by year’s end.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an opposition presidential candidate is alleging massive fraud in Sunday’s national elections. Azarias Ruberwa, who leads the Congolese Rally for Democracy, said irregularities were so widespread his party may challenge the final vote. Final results are expected later this month.
Back in the United States, the New York Times is reporting union leaders representing thousands of scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency are accusing agency heads of bowing to political pressure and allowing harmful chemicals in agricultural pesticides. The call comes ahead of a deadline Thursday for Congress to approve thousands of chemicals the scientists say pose serious risks for fetuses, pregnant women, young children and the elderly. In a new disclosed letter sent in May, union leaders representing 9,000 scientists said the EPA is ignoring principles of sound science and putting the concerns of the agriculture and pesticide industry before the health of US citizens. In some cases, the EPA has allegedly ignored independent scientific studies that contradict those sponsored by the pesticide industry. An EPA specialist involved in the pesticide program told the New York Times: “The pesticide program functions as a governmental cover for what is effectively a private industry licensing program.”
In other news, a new Senate report is warning about the use of off-shore tax havens by wealthy Americans. The cheating accounts for up to $70 billion dollars per year. That’s seven cents out of each dollar paid by regular taxpayers. Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin, who headed the investigation, said: “Offshore tax cheating has become so large that no one, not even the United States government, could go after all of it.”
In other news, the US government has won an appeal to obtain the phone records of two New York Times reporters over a story on the government’s investigation of Islamic charities before the 9/11 attacks. Prosecutors are investigating how former New York Times reporter Judith Miller and her colleague Philip Shenon learned of government plans to search the premises of two Islamic charities. On Tuesday, a federal court overturned a previous ruling that said the New York Times was protected by a reporter’s privilege under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
And finally Sunil Kumar, a survivor and leading campaigner for victims of the 1984 Bhopal chemical gas leak, has died of an apparent suicide. Kumar founded the group Children Against Carbide, which attempted to bring the company Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemical, to justice. He was found dead last week wearing a t-shirt that read: “No More Bhopals.”