What’s Really Happening in Lebanon

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2006 at 5:34 pm

By Betsy Pisik
BEIRUT ? Lebanese civilians surged north in growing numbers yesterday under
a hail of Israeli rockets that struck a crowded minibus and flattened
buildings in towns and villages across the Hezbollah-dominated south.

Hezbollah responded with about 90 rockets, killing two persons and
wounding five in Haifa as officials said more than half the residents of
northern Israel have left. Ground fighting continued around the Lebanese
town of Maroun al-Ras, occupied by Israel on Saturday, but Lebanese
officials said the Israelis were not trying to advance.

Israeli mortars and rockets struck the coastal city Sidon for the first
time, hitting a Hezbollah-affiliated mosque and cultural center and throwing
into panic a city already swollen with tens of thousands of shelter-seekers
from farther south.

The exodus continued toward Beirut ? where embassies evacuated tens of
thousands of foreign nationals by ferry, warship and helicopters ? most of
them to Cyprus, where officials appealed for other countries to help.

U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator Jan Egeland condemned the Israeli air
strikes as “a violation of international law” after touring a neighborhood
in southern Beirut that had been largely leveled by air strikes. He said
about $100 million was needed immediately to provide relief to an estimated
600,000 displaced Lebanese.

“It’s terrible. I see a lot of children wounded, homeless, suffering,”
said Mr. Egeland, who visited a Hezbollah-dominated slum that was once home
to several thousand people. “This is a war where civilians pay a
disproportionate price in Lebanon and northern Israel. I hadn’t believed it
would be block by block leveled to the ground.”

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert complained that the world’s
press was unfairly criticizing Israel, which began its attack on Hezbollah
targets across Lebanon after two of its soldiers were kidnapped on July 12.

“The massive, brutal and murderous viciousness of Hezbollah is
unfortunately not represented in its full intensity on television screens
outside of Israel,” he said. “A twisted image is presented, where the victim
is presented as an aggressor.”

Israeli air strikes yesterday killed people in several villages in
southern Lebanon and in Hezbollah-controlled areas of the central Bekaa
Valley, bringing the Lebanese government’s count of fatalities to 380,
one-third of those younger than 12, said Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad

One bomb hit a minibus participating in the heaviest and most frenzied
flow yet of families desperate to leave the south, killing three and
wounding 16 others, Dr. Hassan Nasreddine of the Red Cross told the
Associated Press. Three bombs crashed into the southern Beirut suburb
visited by Mr. Egeland hours after he left.

Layal Nejim, 23, a Lebanese magazine photographer covering the
destruction in Tyre, became the first journalist to die in the conflict. An
Italian U.N. peacekeeper was wounded.

On the Israeli side, two persons were killed when a rocket smashed into
a house in Haifa, the largest Israeli city within range of the Hezbollah
missiles used to date. At least 13 Israelis were wounded as towns and
villages emptied across the north. Thirty-seven have died so far.

The Israeli army said it had seized two Hezbollah guerrillas during
fighting in the village of Maroun al-Ras in southern Lebanon, Agence
France-Presse reported.

Mr. Egeland said the United Nations would appeal for $100 million for
relief for those displaced by the bombardment and called on Israel to
guarantee safe corridors for aid and supplies.

Food, fuel and medicine were said to be running short in Sidon, where an
estimated 35,000 refugees from the south have swollen a normal population of

Some supplies have arrived in Beirut aboard vessels coming to remove
foreign evacuees, and Israel has offered to allow further goods to be
landed. But it was not clear how they could safely be delivered to the
hard-hit areas in the south.

The U.S. Embassy has coordinated the evacuation of about 10,000
Americans in the past six days. An estimated 25,000 U.S. citizens are in
Lebanon, and many of those staying here are dual nationals with Lebanese
families, consular officials think.

The British government announced yesterday that it was winding down
operations after rescuing about 10,000 citizens from Lebanon. French,
Canadian and Scandinavian nationals continue to leave, while the first
Philippine expatriates arrived home yesterday.

This article was mailed from The Washington Times
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Copyright (c) 2006 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.


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