Israel is considering a further expansion of its attack on Lebanon amidst a rising death toll and worsening humanitarian crisis. Israel has declared southern Lebanon a “no drive” zone and has warned residents it will bomb all moving vehicles. A leaflet dropped on Tuesday reads: “every car, of any kind, seen moving south of Litani will be targeted…all those who move in their cars are in danger.”
Within hours of Israel’s threat, the United Nations said it would suspend aid deliveries to an estimated 100,000 civilians in south Lebanon. Aid agencies rejected Israel’s assurances that deliveries would be granted safe passage. Christopher Stokes, the head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Lebanon said: “For many days, the concept of humanitarian corridors has been used to mask the reality. It is impossible to get safe access to the villages in the south. We do not have real access to the people most in need.”
Lebanon continues to suffer intense bombardment. Attacks earlier today killed at least nine people, including five children. Two people died and fifteen were wounded in an Israeli strike on the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain Al Hilweh. It was the first time the camp has been hit in the current war. In Ghaziyah, Israel bombed a funeral procession Tuesday for fourteen people killed just the day before. Six mourners died in the attack. In Nabatieh, four people were killed and sixteen wounded when an Israeli airstrike destroyed several buildings. An unidentified witness described the attack.
In Beirut, residents have set up a mock cemetery to honor the war’s dead. On Tuesday, candles were placed next to hundreds of cement blocks symbolizing graves of the dead. The Lebanese death toll has been estimated as high as 1,000 people, mostly civilians.
There have been increasing reports Israel is abducting civilians in south Lebanon. In Tyre, a seventy-three old man has been reunited with his family after what he says was five days in Israeli custody. The man, Ali Akeel Hamza, described his ordeal.
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a cabinet meeting today to discuss expanding the attack on Lebanon. Hezbollah fired over a hundred katyusha rockets on northern Israel Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people near the border. Meanwhile four Israeli soldiers were killed in south Lebanon.
On the diplomatic front, the US and France have reportedly split over the terms of a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire. France is said to have agreed to incorporate Lebanon’s demands for a Lebanese troop deployment alongside a UN-led force. Lebanon also wants Israel to withdraw from the Shebaa farms area captured in the 1967 war. The Bush administration is rejecting both demands.
At the United Nations Tuesday, an Arab League delegation said Lebanon is being abandoned and that further violence could trigger an all-out civil war. Meanwhile, Lebanese Acting Foreign Minister Tareq Mitri repeated his country’s strong objections to the US-backed resolution.
In response, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman said the issue is not whether the UN can pass a resolution but whether it can agree on confronting Hezbollah.
Meanwhile Israel’s Foreign Minister is coming under criticism for her comments on a speech given by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Speaking before a gathering of Arab foreign ministers in Beirut Monday, Siniora broke down and wept as he described the war’s toll on Lebanese civilians. On Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had this to say.
Lebanon’s environment minister is warning it could take up to ten years for the Lebanese coastline to recover from a massive oil spill caused by the Israeli bombing of a power station. Environment minister Yacoub Sarraf told BBC News the spill has killed off massive stocks of fish and severely disrupted the eco-system. Meanwhile, a UN-affiliated marine group issued a warning Tuesday that the oil spill could pose a cancer risk to Beirut’s two million residents. The group, Inforac, calls the spill a “high-risk toxic cocktail made up of substances which cause cancer and damage to the endocrine system.”
In the Occupied Territories, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament has been hospitalized after claiming he was abused by Israeli troops. Aziz Dweik was seized on Saturday after Israeli soldiers surrounded his home in the West Bank. A spokesperson said Dweik was severely beaten. The Israeli army denies the claim.
In Iraq, at least thirty-three people were killed and sixty wounded in violence that struck mostly in Baghdad. A bombing near Iraq’s Interior Ministry killed ten people. Another ten civilians were killed when a bombing ripped through a market in central Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has lashed out at a US military raid that killed three civilians in Baghdad. In a televised statement, Maliki said he was “very angered and pained” and vowed it wouldn’t happen again. Meanwhile, a US Blackhawk helicopter has crashed in Anbar province. At least two soldiers are missing.
Several Iraqi journalists are accusing US and Iraqi troops of assaulting them as they reported from Kirkuk. The journalists told Al Jazeera they’ve been physically beaten, had their equipment confiscated and been accused of “terrorism.” One reporter said he believes the assaults are intended to stop journalists reporting properly on rising levels of violence. The US military says its investigating.
In Sri Lanka, government and rebel forces are each taking credit for the reopening of a water canal at the center of two weeks of fighting. Over four hundred have been killed and thousands displaced as Tamil Tiger rebels have battled Sri Lankan forces in Trincomalee.
Here in the United States, three-term Senator Joe Lieberman lost Connecticut’s Democratic primary last night in one of the most closely-watched races in the country. He was defeated by Ned Lamont, a wealthy telecommunications executive who has run largely on an anti-Iraq war platform. Lamont won with 52 percent of the vote to Lieberman’s 48 percent. Voter turnout was nearly twice the norm for a primary. Lieberman now says he’ll run as an independent.
Meanwhile in Georgia, former Dekalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson has declared victory over Congressmember Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary. Johnson finished with 58 percent of the vote. McKinney took 41 percent. After polls opened Tuesday, McKinney’s campaign claimed there were several voting irregularities including insecure machines and the absence of McKinney’s name on the ballot in at least one precinct.
Could US officials be charged with war crimes? The Bush administration appears to be taking the possibility seriously. According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration has drafted amendments to the 1996 War Crimes Act. The law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions and threatens the death penalty to US officials if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment. The White House is proposing changes that would narrow the scope of punishable offenses. The new list would exclude humiliating or degrading treatment of prisoners. Military law experts believe the Bush administration is effectively re-writing parts of the Geneva conventions.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is calling for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson following the loss of yet another computer holding the personal data of tens of thousands of veterans. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs said a desktop computer containing private data of about 38,000 veterans had gone missing.
And finally in Japan, the city of Nagasaki is marking the 61st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing. Earlier today, dignitaries gathered for a service at Nagasaki’s peace park. Survivor Kikuyo Nakamura was among those to speak.
A moment of silence was held at 11:02 am, the moment the bomb was dropped. Over 200,000 people died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.