The death toll in Lebanon from Israel’s attacks has now topped one thousand. According to the Lebanese government more than 90 percent of the dead have been civilians. Lebanon’s High Relief Committee estimates another thirty-four hundred people have been injured and one quarter of the country has been displaced from their homes. Meanwhile about 75 Israelis have been killed since the conflict began 27 days ago. On Sunday, Israel suffered its single deadliest blow yet when a rocket fired by Hezbollah killed 12 soldiers near the Lebanon border. Another three Israelis died in rocket attacks on the city of Haifa.
The Israeli military is reportedly planning to ramp up its attacks on Lebanon by targeting more of the civilian infrastructure as well as symbols of the Lebanese government. One military official told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “It could be that at the end of the story, Lebanon will be dark for a few years.”
Earlier today Israeli air strikes destroyed several houses in the south Lebanon border village of Houla. Dozens of civilians are feared buried under the rubble.
On Saturday, Israeli war planes bombed a farm on Lebanon’s border with Syria. The attack killed at least 33 farm workers. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Lebanon so far.
Israel has also begun dropping leaflets on the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon urging all residents to leave. Sidon is Lebanon’s third largest city with a population of over 200,000.
On the diplomatic front, efforts by the United Nations Security Council to secure a ceasefire appear to be faltering. On Saturday the United States and France announced they had agreed on a draft resolution. But Lebanon and other Arab states rejected the proposal. This is Lebanon’s special envoy to the United Nations Nouhad Mahmoud.
Lebanon’s envoy Nouhad Mahmoud also said the resolution must order the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Shebaa Farms. Lebanon accused the U.S. of drafting a resolution slanted toward Israel. Meanwhile Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Security Council to quickly approve the resolution. She said its passage will determine “who’s for peace and who isn’t.”
On the military front, Thomas Ricks, a top reporter for the Washington Post, has said that Israel is purposely not bombing all of Hezbollah’s rocket launchers. Sources have told him that the Israeli military feels that if Hezbollah continues to fire rockets at Israel it gives Israel a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon.
Protests against Israel’s attack on Lebanon occurred around the world this weekend. In London, the Stop the War Coalition said as many as 100,000 demonstrators marched to call on Tony Blair to back an immediate ceasefire. Demonstrators were urged to pile children’s shoes near Blair’s residence to protest the large number of children killed so far. Protests were also held in Capetown, Cairo, Indonesia and Morocco.
In Israel, over 5,000 protesters marched in Tel Aviv on Saturday to condemn the attack on Lebanon. The protest was one of the largest in Israel since the attacks on Lebanon began. Demonstrators called on Israel to negotiate with Hizbollah.
The protesters also encouraged Israeli soldiers to disobey orders in Lebanon.
The Observer newspaper reports that at least two Israeli fighter pilots have deliberately missed bombing targets in Lebanon because they were concerned they were being ordered to bomb civilians.
In the Occupied Territories, the Israeli military has abducted the speaker of the Palestinian parliament. Aziz Dweik was seized on Saturday after Israeli soldiers surrounded his home in the West Bank. Israel defended the arrest of the high-ranking official because Dweik is a member of Hamas. In June, Israel seized eight Palestinian government ministers and 26 legislators. Most of them remain in jail.
In Gaza, the aid organization UNICEF is warning the region is facing a humanitarian crisis. This is UNICEF Special Representative Dan Rohrmann.
Palestinian Government spokesperson Ghazi Hamad accused Israel of waging a war against the people of Gaza.
Meanwhile over 100 Palestinian cultural activists have begun distributing a letter urging artists and filmmakers to participate in an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The letter reads in part “Like the boycott of South African art institutions during apartheid, cultural workers must speak out against the current Israeli war crimes and atrocities.”
In other news from the region, the Reuters news agency has suspended a photographer for manipulating a photo of the bombing of Beirut. The photo was doctored to make the smoke look darker and thicker.
In Mexico, an electoral tribunal has rejected calls to conduct a vote-by-vote recount of the recent presidential election. Presidential runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for protests to continue in Mexico City to demand a full recount.
Over the past two weeks, supporters of Lopez Obrador have virtually shut down parts of Mexico City by setting up street blockades and tent cities in the middle of the capital city. On Sunday thousands of supporters of Lopez Obrador took to the streets to form a human chain along miles of Mexico City’s streets. Lopez Obrador’s chances of being declared the winner are not over. The electoral commission has agreed to conduct ballot-by-ballot recounts in about one-tenth of the country’s polling places.
In Iraq, the U.S. is sending 3,700 more troops into Baghdad to help contain the increasing violence. An average of 100 people are dying a day in Baghdad. Last week General John Abizaid, the top US military commander in Iraq, admitted that Baghdad is now more violent than ever. The general warned that Iraq could be moving toward civil war.
In other news on Iraq, the U.S. military has opened a military hearing for the five Army soldiers who allegedly raped and murdered a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killed her family in the town of Mahmudiya. On Sunday, an Iraqi doctor testified about what he saw after he was called to the girl’s home. The doctor said the young girl was raped and shot in the head, just under her left eye. Her parents and her five-year-old sister were also shot to dead. The doctor said he was ill for weeks after witnessing the crime scene.
Cuban President Fidel Castro is reportedly recovering from surgery and will back to work soon. On Sunday Cuban vice president Carlos Lage said, “In a few weeks he’ll be recovered and he’ll return to his duties.” Last week Castro temporarily handed over power to his brother Raul. Meanwhile the Bush administration has sent a message to the people of Cuba. The statement from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was beamed into Cuba on the U.S.-government run Radio and TV Marti.
Meanwhile the Miami Herald reports the Bush administration is increasing its broadcasts into Cuba.
In Bolivia, president Evo Morales has opened up a constitutional convention to rewrite the country’s constitution. Supporters of Morales have vowed to adopt measures to benefit the majority indigenous population. Portions of the country’s economic elite have opposed the moves.
In Japan, about 45,000 people attended a memorial at the Hiroshima Peace Park to mark the 61st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bomb attack on the city. Hiroshima’s Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba called on the international community to abolish all nuclear weapons.
Memorials are also scheduled for Wednesday to mark the bombing of Nagasaki. Over 200,000 people died in the atomic bombings of the two cities.
In political news, Republican Congressman Bob Ney has reportedly decided not to seek re-election. In May, the House Ethics Committee announced an investigation into bribery allegations against Ney who has been linked to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
In Connecticut, Senator Joseph Lieberman and the millionaire TV executive Ned Lamont have entered their last full day of campaigning before Tuesday’s Democratic primary. On Sunday Lieberman tried to distance himself from President Bush. He said he was the only Democrat in America to twice run against Bush in a national election. Lamont has campaigned as an anti-war candidate but he has openly joined Lieberman in supporting Israel’s attacks on Lebanon. Lamont said “when Israel’s security is threatened, the United States must unambiguously stand with our ally to be sure that it is safe and secure.” One recent poll showed Lamont leading Lieberman by 13 percentage points.
Cindy Sheehan has returned to Crawford Texas to hold another series of protests outside of President Bush’s estate. Last year Sheehan became the face of the country’s anti-war movement after she set up Camp Casey. It was named after her 24-year-old son who died in Iraq. President Bush arrived in Crawford on Thursday for a 10-day vacation. Meanwhile in Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair has postponed his summer vacation in order to deal with the crisis in the Middle East.
In Chicago, the newly reformed Students for a Democratic Society held its first national convention this weekend in 37 years. The original SDS was founded in 1960 and played an instrumental role in protesting the war in Vietnam. Student organizers reformed SDS this past January and new chapters have sprung up on campuses across the country.
And finally a new book by former U.S. ambassador Peter Galbraith has raised questions about President Bush’s understanding of the Middle East. According to Galbraith, the president didn’t understand as recently as 2002 that there were two major branches of Islam in Iraq — Sunnis and Shiites. At a meeting with Iraqi Americans the president reportedly said, “I thought the Iraqis were Muslims.”