Israel has sent as many as 18,000 troops into Lebanon as part of a massive ground invasion. The ground assault comes as Israel continues to bomb areas around South Lebanon. Tens of thousands of Lebanese refugees are expected to once again be displaced as bombing intensifies. Newsday Middle East Bureau Chief Mohamad Bazzi joins us from Beirut. [includes rush transcript]
Israel has sent as many as 18,000 troops into Lebanon as part of a massive ground invasion. 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 Ba’albek. The assault began late Tuesday — three hours before the end of Israel’s announced two-day pause to the bombing. The raid of Baalbek marked Israel’s deepest known incursion into Lebanon in twelve years. Meanwhile, three Israeli soldiers and an unknown number of Hezbollah fighters were killed in clashes near the Israel-Lebanon border. Hezbollah launched more than sixty missiles into Israel today, after firing just eight on Tuesday. It was the furthest Hezbollah had fired since fighting began last month. Tens of thousands of Lebanese refugees are expected to once again be displaced as the Israeli bombing intensifies, and many Lebanese villages have yet to receive desperately needed aid. Mohamad Bazzi is the Middle East Bureau Chief for Newsday. He was born in Lebanon and lived there for the first ten years of his life. He joins us on the line from Beirut.
- Mohamad Bazzi Middle East Bureau Chief for Newsday, born in Lebanon.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to turn now to our guest, Mohamad Bazzi, who is in Beirut and has been covering the situation there — in fact, was born in Beirut — Middle East Bureau Chief for Newsday, has been based in Beirut for three years. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MOHAMAD BAZZI: Thanks for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you start off by just describing the situation in the latest piece that you’ve written?
MOHAMAD BAZZI: Today, there is more bombing in the south, both air strikes and artillery bombing in various villages. There is some bombing around the city of Tyre in the south, which is the largest city in the south. There is also — Hezbollah has fired, there is an estimate of 200 to 300 rockets today. And there’s a — sorry. I’m hearing several other people on the line.
AMY GOODMAN: We are not hearing anyone else on the line. So if you could just bare with it, hearing the voices and talking to us. Your line is very clear.
MOHAMAD BAZZI: Okay. Anyway, there is also about 200 to 300 rockets that were fired by Hezbollah on northern Israel today. So that brings up the question of Israel saying it’s diminished Hezbollah’s rocket and missile capability anywhere from by half or a third. Today, they’ve actually fired — they’ve been able to fire more rockets and missiles than any other day since this war began. And there’s a lot of concern about the Israeli activity in the city of Baalbek, which is in the Bekaa Valley. There was a raid by Israeli commandos on a hospital there. Three Lebanese were kidnapped from this hospital. Israel says they are Hezbollah commanders. Hezbollah denies that the three people had anything to do with Hezbollah. And there’s more bombing around Baalbek and the surrounding villages.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In your articles in Newsday, some of them, you have mentioned the possible or the almost certain radicalization of a whole new generation of people in the Middle East as a result of this attack. Could you talk about that?
MOHAMAD BAZZI: Yes. In one of my articles I talked about Osama bin Laden in a videotape in October of 2004, a few days before the U.S. presidential election. He had sent a tape to Al Jazeera in which, the first time, he claimed responsibility for ordering the September 11th attacks, and for the first time he gave an explanation of why he did it. And it was a pretty remarkable explanation. He said that he was motivated by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Then he had this remarkable quote, where he said something like, “When I saw the towers burning in Beirut, it sparked in my mind the idea that the aggressors have to be punished in the same way and we must attack the towers in America.” And this statement has gotten very little attention in the last few weeks.
Some of the images that bin Laden talked about in those tapes are things very similar to what’s happening now. And Ayman al-Zawahiri, his deputy, put out a videotape about a week ago, which he called on Muslims all over the world to join the fight in Lebanon and Gaza. And then the scenes from Qana over the weekend, ten years later in Qana, are just generating tremendous anger in the Arab world.
Also important to note that bin Laden has mentioned Qana several times. He actually mentioned Qana in 1996 in his first fatwa against the United States. He had a line talking about the images of women and children being pulled from the rubble in that attack on the UN compound in Qana. And he mentioned it several other interviews after that. So it was definitely something on his mind that motivated him.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohamad Bazzi, what happened during what was called the 48-hour ceasefire around the Israeli air strikes? What actually took place in that period?
MOHAMAD BAZZI: It was supposed to be — Israel said it would cease aerial strikes in Lebanon. It actually did not. There were fewer air attacks than there were in previous days, but even from the very first day there was fighting in some villages with Hezbollah. One of the villages was Srifa. There was the village of Aita al-Shaab. These are villages fairly close to the border. And there were pretty intense air strikes on those villages. And then there was on Tuesday, the second day of this 48-hour break, there was more air strikes in different parts of the south. There were air strikes on Baalbek late last night, Tuesday night. And all through this time there were Israeli troops entering the south, thousands of troops, as you’ve mentioned, entering different villages, going in and out of Lebanon, hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles also going in the various villages.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohamad Bazzi, I want to thank you for joining us. I’m sorry we’ve come to the end of our program. Mohamad Bazzi is Middle East Bureau Chief for Newsday, has been based in Beirut for the past three years, was actually born in Beirut.