Saturday, August 12, 2006
The latest flare-up in a 59 years long war to wipe the Jewish state off the map of the world is fast approaching its expected closure. Israel is once again being forced to leave the job of eliminating the Islamist threat unfinished. The world's powers, blinded by their anti-Semitism, politico-commercial considerations, and regional agendas, want Israel to stop pursuing its legitimate campaign to secure itself by eradicating the Islamist threat from its door steps: they want an immediate cease-fire.
They are not ready to accept that in case of political Islam, cease-fires are nothing but tactical pauses which are used as tools to gain time in order to recoup losses, re-arm forces, and rebuild terrorist infrastructure. For example, the world thought that the Oslo Accord was a step in the right direction - peace. But for Yasser Arafat who signed it on September 13, 1993, it was just a tactical cease-fire "Hudna" that could be broken at any time.
Political Islam finds a number of examples in the life of Prophet Muhammad that sanction the use of treaties as a tactical necessity. In explaining why he signed the Oslo Accord, Yasser Arafat cited a truce signed by Prophet Muhammad with the Meccan tribe Quraish at Hudaybiyah in 628 C.E. According to the PLO leader, Prophet Muhammad had signed the truce when he was not strong enough to win a war and it was to last for ten years. But when, within two years of the signing, the Muslims felt that they have gained enough strength to defeat the Quraish, they broke the truce, attacked the Quraish and captured Mecca.
....Those who understand the Islamist ethos know that for political Islam, disengagement, a cease-fire, or a pull back on the part of the "enemy" is a sign of its weakness. No one has more experience with this treacherous mindset than the Israelis. It was Israel's unwillingness to escalate a raid into a full scale battle in 1968 that helped the Palestinian terrorists to win the support of the masses.
..... There is no doubt in my mind that the cease-fire at this stage when Hezbollah is still seems to posses enough rockets and other armament to continue to terrorize the Israeli civilians for some time, will be perceived as a total victory of Hezbollah by the Muslim world. The terrorist group will be transformed instantly into a standard bearer of global jihad and Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah will certainly become a leader worth emulation.
In Egypt, protesters and opposition newspapers compare him with the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Arab nationalist champion against Israel. "Nasser 1956, Nasrallah 2006: We will fight and never surrender," read one headline in a weekly newspaper run by the Nasserist party in Egypt - referring to Nasser's 1956 war with Israel, France and Britain. Nasrallah means "victory from God" and Nasser is "the victorious."
The happenings on the Muslim street in the aftermath of Hezbollah's attack on Israel leave no doubt in my mind that the Islamists are certain that they have found their Saladin in Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah. The masses are gathering in Cairo, Baghdad, Islamabad, Dhaka and other cities to celebrate the birth of a new Muslim hero. Even in Saudi Arabia, where demonstrations are rare, hundreds of Shiites waved posters of Nasrallah, chanting, "Oh Nasrallah; oh beloved one; destroy, destroy Tel Aviv."
This war has already laid the foundations of a revolutionary change in the region. The Muslim world will never be the same. Observers watching the recent developments on the Muslim street have no doubt that a new Middle East is being born. But if a premature cease-fire is imposed on the Middle East, it will be very different from what US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has in mind.
(Tashbih Sayyed is the Editor in Chief of Pakistan Today and The Muslim World Today, President of Council for Democracy and Tolerance, an adjunct fellow of Hudson Institute, and a regular columnist for newspapers across the world.)
Friday, August 11, 2006
40,000 IDF troops and reservists were massed along the northern border Wednesday evening in preparation for Israel's largest and deepest ground incursion into southern Lebanon since the beginning of Operation Change of Direction last month.
Some 7,000 IDF troops were operating in southern Lebanon Wednesday, clashing with Hizbullah guerrillas in several villages while holding and maintaining position along a 10-kilometer-deep security zone the IDF had created.
A high-ranking IDF officer and member of the General Staff told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday that it would take the military at least one week to reach the Litani and beyond, and to set up position and begin taking control of the area. The officer said that it would then take four to six weeks to clear out southern Lebanon, from the Litani river south, of the Hizbullah presence and to destroy the thousands of Katyusha rockets and rocket launchers believed to be in that area. The IDF estimates that the area between the Litani river and the security zone that military forces are currently maintaining is home to 70 percent of the Katyusha rockets launched at northern Israel.
In the plan approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, the IDF was also granted permission to cross the Litani river into areas like Nabatiyeh, from where Hizbullah has been firing rockets at the upper Galilee, as well as Haifa and other coast-lying cities. Hizbullah's Nasser Unit, in charge of southern Lebanon, was still operational, the high-ranking officer said, and numbered several thousand Hizbullah fighters, including reservists, which the guerrilla group had called up in anticipation of Israel's planned massive ground incursion. Hizbullah, the officer said, still retained its command and control abilities throughout Lebanon and had fighters deployed in between 100-130 villages from the Litani south. North of the river, the officer said, Hizbullah had a smaller presence, but one that still numbered several thousand fighters.
In southern Lebanon, within the security zone the IDF had created, soldiers were still battling in two Hizbullah strongholds - Bint Jbail and Ayta a-Shaab, scenes of heavy fighting between IDF troops and Hizbullah gunmen on Wednesday.
(Thanks to The B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) for alerting us to it)
An atmosphere of surrealism surrounds us. We are in the midst of a bitter conflict. There is carnage in the north and daily heartbreaking IDF casualties. We are depressed because despite bombastic proclamations of victory we know that this war is not going well.
Yet in the regions where rockets are not falling, beyond the notable absence of and concern for young men who have been called up as reservists and an inclination to obsessively follow news bulletins, on the surface life goes on as normal. The coffee shops, restaurants and entertainment outlets are as busy as ever.
All of us are deeply involved. Personally, because we all have family and friends battling the barbarians in the north, and collectively, because we realize that if Hezbollah win this conflict, it will have disastrous repercussions on our future.
Today we are more united than at any time since the Yom Kippur war. That is why aside from one awful political remark about convergence that we would like to expunge from our memory, we have set aside all political differences. We also agree that even if a total knockout blow is unfeasible, irrespective of the price, we must be perceived as defeating the Hezbollah. We are determined to make our enemies understand we are reverting to deterrence and that any future attacks on our sovereignty will incur a tough response.
Even prominent "Peace Now" leaders endorse this conflict as a just war. Amram Mitzne, the decorated officer who launched the anti-government revolt during the former divisive Lebanese war, called for a full scale assault as did the Four Mothers who paved the way for the Ehud Barak debacle when he handed over Lebanon to Hezbollah. Even Haaretz published an editorial calling on the government and the IDF to be decisive and snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Such a newborn consensus suggests that we might be undergoing a major metamorphosis.
Yet we also have serious concerns about the performance and apparent failures of our political and military leadership.
How could they stand by and allow this build up for over six years without preemptive action? Did our leaders not realize that that these 12,000 rockets would ultimately be directed against us? Having experienced Hezbollah incursions, were there no military contingency plans for dealing with a total confrontation? Was the IDF in a state of readiness? These and many other issues trouble us but they must be set aside for the duration of the war.
However, our Prime Minister would be well advised to cease proclaiming or spinning premature victories. Likewise, he should restrict his public announcements to decisions rather than undermining confidence by publicly articulating his doubts and fears.
Our Prime Minister must also introduce some order to his War Cabinet. Ministers who leak details of internal differences, debate over policy options and engage in unseemly brawls over war strategies to the media should be summarily dismissed. Pompous politicians, unable to restrain themselves from conveying their personal opinions as to how military campaigns must be run, should be told to shut up.
Despite the complexities involved, we pray that the government will now stop prevaricating and get the job done. We realize that whereas air power is crucial, Hezbollah has deeply embedded itself in civilian locations. Therefore, unless we are willing to employ carpet bombing techniques like those employed by the allies in Afghanistan, which would make existing Lebanese civilian casualties pale into insignificance, air power alone will not succeed in eradicating Hezbollah.
But neither can we endure a lengthy war of attrition in which civilians in the north are forced to remain cowering in shelters. I am unable to judge whether the full scale land invasion should have been initiated at the outset. But, I am profoundly distressed with the media allegations that the land invasion was delayed due to the hesitation and indecisiveness of our leaders.
Of course we are painfully aware that a full scale land war may result in increased casualties. But the prime objective of an army must be to defend its citizens and win battles even at the cost of more bloodshed. Besides, in the long run such an approach may even save lives.
Nor can we delude ourselves by placing false hopes on an international force that may already be stillborn or on UNIFIL which has turned a blind eye and even been accused of collaborating with Hezbollah. And to even contemplate relying on the Lebanese army which Hezbollah would either dominate or totally absorb can only be regarded as a sick joke.
The Europeans continue to demonize us. Their double standards have now reached obscene levels. We are castigated for defending ourselves from unprovoked attacks targeting our civilians with missiles packed with ball bearings designed to shred human flesh. We are even accused of war crimes when we inadvertently kill civilians resident in areas from which rocket attacks are launched. Yet no other country in the world would have matched our restraint. It is therefore high time to stop apologizing for "civilian" casualties in Lebanon and point out that the Hezbollah utilization of human shields is a recognized war crime, whereas the Geneva Conventions specifically state that civilian casualties located in military areas are not the responsibility of the attacking force.
In fact it is time to review the level of our restraint. When IDF spokesmen say that our military casualties would be minimized if they were not so sensitive to civilians, they are in effect saying that Lebanese human shields have a higher priority than Israelis.
Having said that, we take great pride in the courage and determination displayed by the IDF. They are facing fanatical zealots trained in Iran, equipped with sophisticated high tech weaponry, who had six years to construct underground tunnels and bunkers in the midst of civilian infrastructures.
Nasrallah clearly states that his objective is to destroy the "cancerous" Jewish entity which is a "cobweb" ready to collapse. He alleges that unlike "soft" Jews, the Jihadists are willing to sacrifice their lives to achieve their objectives and that the withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza are proof of their success. We must demonstrate that Nasrallah has completely underestimated the determination we can display when confronted by foes seeking to destroy us. The outcome of this battle therefore has important implications for our future, not to mention the global battle against Islamic fundamentalism.
Ehud Olmert must take advantage of the unique and unprecedented support we enjoy from President Bush who, until now, has resisted enormous pressures to forsake us. The Prime Minister must now determine a real plan and provide every encouragement to the IDF to eradicate Hezbollah from Southern Lebanon and bring about their demilitarization. Failure will destroy our credibility with our allies, undermine our special relationship with the Americans, and worst of all, encourage the Jihadists to initiate future - probably more lethal - efforts to bring about our destruction.
Prime Minister Olmert – if you act now, despite the great sacrifices confronting us, you carry the support of a united nation! We can still achieve our primary objectives – but tomorrow could be too late.
The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel Relations Committee of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs and is a veteran international Jewish leader. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, August 10, 2006
American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on the brink of handing President George W. Bush the worst diplomatic disaster of his presidency. She is poised to agree to UN resolutions that will tie the hands of both Israel and the United States in the war on terrorism and, in particular, inhibit future action on its number one state sponsor - Iran.
The catastrophe is the brainchild of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has effectively turned the United Nations into the political wing of Hizbullah. Rice and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns are working furiously to satisfy a timetable dictated by Annan, not by the interests of the United States.
How did the United Nations become the forum for producing peace between Israel and its neighbors, which have rejected the Jewish state's existence for the past six decades? In the past three weeks, a multi-headed hydra of UN actors has risen to defeat Israel on the political battlefield in an unprecedented disregard of the UN Charter's central tenet: the right of self-defense.
Existing Security Council resolutions have for years required "the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, [and] ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it."
A combination of Iranian aggression, Syrian support, and Lebanese impotence and malfeasance, has actively prevented the implementation of the existing resolutions. But how did the UN respond to the aggression against the UN member state of Israel, which was launched once again from Lebanese territory and which continues to the present hour? By accusing Israel of murder, mass genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the deliberate attack of children, and racism. UN actors have even denied that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization and analogized it to anti-Nazi resistance movements.
....The Geneva Conventions clearly state that combatants are prohibited from using civilians as human shields, but if they do so, the presence of civilians does not render the area immune from military operations.
Israeli soldiers and civilians are paying with their lives daily as a consequence of Israel's efforts to avoid disproportionate action - a dramatic exercise of restraint taken in order to reduce Lebanese civilian casualties.
But in the face of the UN's obvious predilection to subvert Israel's well-being and American foreign policy interests, to whom has Secretary Rice turned to save the day? The United Nations!
THE RESULT has been as predictable as it has been disastrous. The UN's verbal assault on Israel is coupled with a three-pronged political agenda. The UN seeks to: (1) protect Hizbullah from further Israeli attacks, (2) produce a political win for Hizbullah by giving them the territorial prize of the Shaba Farms, and (3) increase UN presence, oversight and control of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Every element of this agenda is satisfied in the current draft UN resolution and is part of the declared intention of a second resolution to follow (some of which may end up being incorporated in the first.)
The resolution calls for a "full cessation of hostilities" and "the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations." What offensive military operations? Has Israel been engaged in a single military operation offensive and not defensive in nature?
The resolution reintroduces the notion that Israel might occupy Lebanese territory, calling for action on "areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including in the Shaba farms area." Though the resolution doesn't mention the states who are party to the dispute, leaving some possibility that the territorial dispute is between Syria and Lebanon, Syria is not mentioned.
Given that the only states named in the resolution are Israel and Lebanon, either the presence of the Shaba Farms issue means Lebanese territory is occupied by Israel (contrary to explicit UN determinations in the past) or Syria's role in arming Hizbullah is now being rewarded by the UN.
The draft resolution on the current crisis says the Security Council "expresses its intention…to authorize in a further resolution under Chapter VII of the Charter the deployment of a UN mandated international force to…contribute to the implementation of a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution."
It calls for renewed involvement of UNIFIL, the UN troops that stood and watched Hizbullah rearm and plan its deadly assault on a UN member state for the last six years. Such an international force is to be authorized under the first-ever Chapter VII resolution - a legally binding resolution that can be implemented through sanctions or the use of force - in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In other words, Secretary Rice has approved of a UN-authorized and monitored force that has its sights set on Israel too, coupled with a claim that Israel is currently engaged in "offensive" operations.
THE VERY UN that accuses Israel of murder and heinous violations of international law is now to be charged with judging compliance with a legally binding instrument purporting to define the terms and conditions of Israel's self-defense. The original idea of a Chapter VII force to disarm Hizbullah was coupled with a serious NATO presence. The current draft is the worst of both worlds - a much-watered down force with considerable UN-control coupled with a Chapter VII mandate that could easily be turned on the UN's perpetual whipping boy - Israel.
In addition, the draft resolution:
- fails to call in its operative section for the immediate release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers,
- introduces the notion that settling the issue of all Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel - regardless of their crimes - will be the quid pro quo for the Israelis' release,
- speaks of financial and humanitarian assistance only to the Lebanese people while ignoring restitution or aid for the one million Israelis in bomb shelters over the last three weeks and the 300,000 displaced
- lends credibility to another manufactured grievance, the return by Israel of "remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon" - though Israel has already returned maps of old mines years ago, and no mention is made of Hizbullah providing the UN with maps of its newly-laid land mines,
- enhances Kofi Annan's authority to judge Israel by extending an open-ended invitation to inform the Security Council continually about any action he believes "might adversely affect the search for a long-term solution"
- fails to mention "Hizbullah" or terrorism even once, let alone stating that Hizbullah is directly responsible for the Lebanese civilian casualties it cynically promotes.
omits entirely any reference to Iran or Syria, as if the address of the arms suppliers and bosses of their Hizbullah proxies are too sensitive to include.
THERE WILL be only one sure result of this move - the empowerment of terrorists whose ultimate target is the United States, Israel and all democratic values. Secretary Rice's belief that there is a serious convergence between the United Nations agenda and American foreign policy needs in the age of terrorism is a profound error in judgment for which democratic societies everywhere will be forced to pay a heavy price.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, professor at Touro Law Center and editor of www.EYEontheUN.org.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Tuesday night, Aug. 8, the UN Security Council was to begin discussing a resolution drafted by the US and France calling for a full cessation of hostilities based on the immediate halt of all Hizballah’s attacks and immediate end of all Israeli offensive military operations.
....France pushed for two changes in the original text to address the Arab-Lebanese demands: one, calling for the Israeli pullout before an international force is in place, the other, the handover of the tiny disputed Shebaa Farms enclave to UN custody.
The United States is reluctant to amend the text, but US Condoleezza Rice has promised to “listen to the concerns of the parties and see how they may be addressed.” ...
The French-Arab-Lebanese-ploy was carefully stage-managed. As part of the show, prime minister Fouad Siniora burst into tears at the Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Beirut Monday, Aug. 7, when he counted the war’s cost to Lebanon, and the Syrian foreign minister Walild Mualem marched out of the meeting in protest against the proceedings.
The same day, US president George W. Bush delivered an address from his Texas ranch in which he labeled Hizballah the “root cause” of the Lebanese crisis and backed Israel’s case all the way. However, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice broke in with some down-to-earth comments. “We believe the first resolution draft is the right solution but we will listen to the parties after the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Beirut,” she said.
Within hours of the meeting’s breakup, the Arab delegation was on its way to UN Headquarters in New York bearing aloft Lebanon’s demands for changes in the US-French UN Security Council resolution draft. Paris stood ready to chip in with two textual changes. After night fell, the Beirut government decided unanimously to post Lebanese soldiers in the south to cooperate with UNIFIL - as soon as Israeli troops had departed. Surprisingly, the five Hizballah ministers and allies endorsed the motion.
The props were now in place for the next stage of the performance: a combined effort to rewrite the US-French resolution so as to hustle Israeli troops out of South Lebanon and wrap up the Lebanon war by a ceasefire, without waiting for the “robust” international force which Israel is holding out for to come into being.
In his address, the US president conveyed the impression that Israel had plenty of time to complete its mission – Israeli officials were still talking on that fateful Monday about “several weeks of combat” still to come. But DEBKAfile reports that Rice, in an effort to regain American initiative in the Lebanese crisis, was busy making quiet contacts, mainly through the Saudis, to terminate the conflict. DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that in Paris, the Saudis put the Lebanese majority leader Saad Hariri to work with guidelines for PM Siniora on the force for South Lebanon.
In Washington, ex-ambassador to the US Prince Bandar, coordinator of the Saudi secret services, undertook to bring Syrian president Basher Assad aboard. If the French-Arab-Lebanese initiative is allowed to proceed according to plan, DEBKAfile’s analysts foresee the following potential results, none of which were envisaged a month ago:
1. Lebanon will place on the ready units for deployment in South Lebanon. It will be a token force. While making a show of calling up reserves to deploy 15,000 men in the south, Lebanon has no reserve army only a special airborne commando battalion called The Leopards which numbers no more than 1,000 men.
2. France will place on standby a similar number of paratroops to eke out UNIFIL’s deployment ahead of the main multinational stabilization force.
3. Following a UN Security Council call for the immediate cessation of hostilities, the French contingent will fly to South Lebanon to form a buffer between the IDF and Hizballah forces.
4. It will do so on the basis of a Hizballah pledge to refrain from firing on the French-Lebanese deployment.
5. A token UNIFIL force of no more than some scores of troops will be posted at the Lebanese border crossings to Syria to try and monitor arms deliveries from Syria and Iran to Hizballah.
6. Either the Security Council or the commanders of this mixed force will demand that Israel desist from attacking Hizballah after obtaining a commitment from Hassan Nasrallah to stop firing rockets at Israel. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Hizballah is badly in need of a pause in the fighting. Israeli military pressure has taken a heavy toll of his resources.
7. Israel will face the demand to immediately pull its troops behind the international border, the Blue Line.
8. Hizballah will face a corresponding demand to pull its forces out of South Lebanon. But it will be understood in private exchanges that they will leave only after Israel cedes to international control the disputed Shebaa Farms. In the interim, Hizballah fighters will stay put with the status of “civilian residents.”
9. Indirect talks on the exchange of prisoners leading to the release of the two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hizballah, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, will begin through an international broker.
If this plan goes through, the Olmert government will come out of a painful and devastating war without achieving any of its objectives. Hizballah will have suffered a beating without being broken or bowed. The IDF will not have repaired its deterrent strength, and Hizballah, rather than Israel, will be seen - at least by Arab opinion -as having come out on top. A ransom in the coin of a prisoner exchange will be paid for the Israeli hostages. It is hard to see any force capable or willing to make Nasrallah pull his troops out of South Lebanon or disarm after the Israeli army failed.
Financial assistance will flood into Lebanon to repair the damage caused by Israeli bombardments; Israel will have to foot its own bill for the destruction wrought by Hizballah to one third of the country and the ruin of its economy.
Of course, Israel is still free to accept or reject these terms.
Wednesday, Aug 9, the day after the first Security Council discussion on the crisis, Israel’s inner cabinet will be asked to approve the expansion of the military offensive to push Hizballah up to the Litani River and beyond. The Olmert government must also decide whether to stick by its demand for an “effective” multinational destabilization force to move into the south before Israel removes its army.
The snap appointment of a high-powered general, deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen Moshe Kaplinsky, to supervise the war from the IDF’s northern command, is designed to give wings to the slow slog of Israel’s war effort. But it may be too late to turn the war round.
The role played by France in this initiative is ambivalent. While the Americans believe the French are partners, in fact Paris is playing a double game and working closely with Tehran. The amendments France is pushing for would manipulate the United Nations into granting Nasrallah everything he wants if only he makes a show of removing his guerrillas from the south until the heat is off and they can filter back.
Until it is decided which way diplomacy is going, both Hizballah and Israel will intensify their effort to gain the upper hand on the battlefield.
Chief of staff appoints his deputy Maj.-Gen Moshe Kaplinsky as personal representative in the IDF’s northern command ...
....In the first month of the conflict, Israeli tanks and their crews have borne the brunt of battle losses, prey to Hizballah’s anti-tank weapons, for which no tactical answer has been found. Neither have Hizballah strongholds been cracked in places such as Bin Jubeil ,where the fighting flares up time and again after Hizballa fighters have been ostensibly cleared out. The IDF’s backbone, the Merkava tanks, are clearly too vulnerable and Hizballah fortifications too difficult to breach.
....Tuesday, August 8, ...Halutz ... decided to send Gen. Kaplinsky, 49, into the breach. As former OC Central Command, Kaplinsky’s forte is the disposition of ground forces. He is a former commander of the Golani infantry brigade.
Kaplinsky needs to pull off the feat the late Moshe Dayan managed in 1967 on the eve of the Six-Day War – to pick up in short order the Israeli army’s once-acclaimed capabilities as a limber, versatile, fast-moving, innovative force that is crowned with success. After a campaign which has dragged on for too long with too much loss of life and too few successes, Israel thirsts for a breakthrough to victory.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The US president said ...in a special Middle East statement Monday, Aug. 7.... The US is working with allies to bring pressure on ... [the Syrian and Iranian] governments. The choice is theirs. But they sponsor Hizballah and therefore act to create chaos and obstruct democracy. The first UN resolution draft aims at a cessation of violence, the second to address the root cause of the crisis which is a state operating within a state. The Hizballah is an armed movement which provoked the crisis. We can’t have a vacuum. Our intent is to strengthen the Lebanese government, to extend its sovereignty to the whole country and with the help of an international force make sure there are no armed groups in the south. Israeli forces will then withdraw.
From Ynet News, 8/8/06, by Sharon Roffe-Ofir ....
'Didn’t even have time to say goodbye.' Yotam Lotan (Reproduction photo: Hagai Aharon)
Members of Kibbutz Beit Hashita mourn the death of Captain (res.)Yotam Lotan, who was killed Monday morning by an anti-tank missile in Lebanon. Relative: Yotam didn’t even have time to say goodbye to his family; he just packed his duffle bag and left
Members of Kibbutz Beit Hashita are having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that Captain (res.) Yotam Lotan, who was killed in Lebanon Monday morning, will not return home.
Yotam, 33, the eldest son to Batya and Amir, grew up in the kibbutz, where he loved to sing and play music; he was called up for reserve duty just a few days ago, and was killed by an anti-tank missile in the south Lebanese village of Bint Jbeil.
Relatives Smadar and Amit Hameiri, who arrived at the family home upon hearing of Yotam’s death, said that following his release from compulsory service Yotam worked and later traveled to the Far East and New Zealand. When he returned to the kibbutz he began working as a children’s councilor.
He received the call-up letter from the army last Friday upon his return from a trip to Turkey.
“He was an admired councilor; one that everyone loved to love,” his cousin Amit said. “I spoke with him yesterday (Sunday) after what happened in Kfar Giladi, and he said he had not entered Lebanon yet. I asked him if he was scared and he said he was afraid of anti-tank missile fire.”
Smadar: “Yotam didn’t even have time to say goodbye to his family. He just packed his duffle bag and left. He was such a strong person; I wasn’t worried about him at all, I simply trusted him. “I can’t believe he’s gone....” she said.
....“We don’t know who will sing and play for us now that Yotam is gone,” another relative said.
Yotam is survived by his parents and two siblings - Ofir and Rotem.
To prevent a possible nuclear war, the Howard Government should consider backing US sanctions against Tehran, even if it hurts our wheat trade in the Middle East, insists Labor MP Michael Danby
AUSTRALIA'S ambassador to the UN, Robert Hill, suggested last week that Australia might not back the US in imposing financial sanctions against Iran if sanctions were not approved by the Security Council. Hill's caution focuses Australia on the wider issue behind the present conflict in Lebanon - the role of Iran in instigating the Hezbollah attack on Israel, and its ambitions to become a nuclear power. This is an issue Australia cannot avoid.
The role of Iran explains why Israel has responded so strongly to Hezbollah's attacks. Some have seen Israel's response as "disproportionate". But whether a country's response to an armed attack is proportionate or not depends on the dimension of the threat it faces.
Despite Hezbollah's missiles forcing a million Israelis into shelters or into mass evacuations, the real existential threat to Israel - and not just to Israel - is the longer-term ambition of Hezbollah's sponsors, the regime in Iran. Only last week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the Islamic Conference in Malaysia, made another call for the "elimination" of Israel. In Australia, both the Government and Opposition have forcefully told the Iranian ambassador that such belligerence is outrageous and will have consequences.
....On July 11, the day before Hezbollah launched its barrage and abducted two Israeli soldiers, Iran's nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, met EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Brussels and told him that Iran would not meet EU demands to stop its nuclear weapons program. Solana told Larijani the EU would therefore support the US in imposing sanctions on Iran.
On his way home, Larijani stopped in Beirut and met senior Hezbollah leaders. At that meeting, Hezbollah was given its orders - attack Israel. The motive for this order is clear: to divert attention from Iran's conflict with the US and the EU over its nuclear weapons program.
The proposed ceasefire in Lebanon, desirable though it obviously is from a humanitarian point of view, may retard Iranian activities in Lebanon but is not a comprehensive answer to the wider problem: the role of the Tehran regime.
Iran is publicly committed to the destruction of Israel and is bent on the development of nuclear weapons. Its agents are seeking to extend their influence in Iraq. Iran ultimately has its eye on Saudi Arabia's oil provinces, where Shi'a arabs are the majority of the population.
Iran and North Korea are the only countries in the world whose leaders openly canvass the use of nuclear weapons. Iran's "supreme leader", Ayatollah Khamenei, has said the casualties Iran would sustain in a nuclear exchange with Israel would be acceptable if it meant Israel could be "eliminated" at the same time.
It is striking that the EU, antagonistic to both Israel and the policies of the US in the Middle East, has taken such a strong stand on the Iranian nuclear question. France and Germany may not be admirers of the Bush administration but they know a real threat to their security when they see one, and they see one in the fanatic ambitions of the theocrats in Tehran.
Unfortunately, Russia and to a lesser extent China are making a lot of money helping Iran develop nuclear capacity. They will almost certainly block any move at the Security Council to impose serious economic sanctions on Iran. This means the burden of imposing sanctions will fall on the US and its allies. Australia will have to decide where it stands. Demands from the Prime Minister's Muslim reference group that Hezbollah be delisted as a terrorist organisation will cut no ice with 95 per cent of the Australian parliament. When parliament voted for this measure, Australia was keenly aware of Hezbollah's role in sponsoring terrorism outside the Middle East.
Sanctions on Iran might mean the loss of AWB Ltd's $80million wheat contract there, so we can expect the National Party to take a strong interest. This may explain former National Party leader Tim Fischer's recent criticisms of Israel and the allegedly sinister influence of the "Israel lobby".
So, back to Australia's role at the UN. If Iran refuses to abandon its nuclear ambitions, and if we are serious about preventing a possible nuclear war initiated by Iran, we should support financial sanctions against that country.
Michael Danby is a federal Labor MP, secretary of the caucus national security committee and a member of the parliamentary joint standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade.
From The Australian, August 08, 2006, by AFP ...
MONTREAL: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has led a major change in Canadian foreign policy by fully supporting Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah, diplomats and observers say. After 13 years of Liberal Party rule in Canada, a minority Conservative Government led by Mr Harper took office in January and closely aligned itself with the US, especially concerning Middle East policy.
The alignment is in sharp contrast to the lead-up to the Iraq war, when then prime minister Jean Chretien fell out with George W.Bush over his strident opposition to the war. Mr Harper's Government "is voicing for the first time in many many years a clear-cut position toward the Middle East and toward fighting terrorism", said Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Ottawa. "That is definitely welcome by Israel."
Mr Harper has said Israel's military response to the abduction of two of its soldiers and repeated rocket attacks into Israel was "measured", while Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay has described Hezbollah as a "cancer". Canada supports the idea of an immediate ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel, as long as the Lebanese Shia militia first return two kidnapped Israeli soldiers unharmed and stop rocket attacks on Israel....
Stern warning: Defense minister vows to operate anywhere in Lebanon to minimize Hizbullah Katyusha rocket attacks on Israel should diplomatic efforts to end ongoing violence fail. Olmert: No restraints on IDF in stopping Katyusha fire
Defense Minister Amir Peretz warned Monday afternoon that he issued an "unequivocal order" to operate anywhere in Lebanon in order to curb rocket attacks on Israel should diplomatic efforts to end the fighting fail. "The IDF will operate anywhere in Lebanon and we'll take over Katyusha launch sites in order to minimize the fire," Peretz said at the opening of a Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee session at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Peretz noted that he toured the north Monday along with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and witnessed "amazing" motivation on the part of IDF troops. The defense minister said the sense among security forces is that the current campaign in Lebanon is one of the most important operations in Israel's history. "We're at one of the critical junctions of the war and we're no longer referring to it as a military operation," he said. "The most important decision before us is curbing the Katyusha fire."
"It could end in two ways – one is through a diplomatic process, something that will change the equation regarding everything taking place on the northern border," Peretz said. "The other way would be without taking into consideration the (diplomatic) process being formulated." ....
Monday, August 07, 2006
The film "Hezbollah Attack by Proxy", describes the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and the subsequent terror attacks Israel has suffered.
The film length is about 6 minutes in the English language. Please forward the links to your email list!
Sunday 6 August, Day 26 of the war, 15 Israelis killed, more than 200 injured – men and women, Jews and Arabs
[Hizbullah] fired at least 250 rockets across northern Israel, four times as many as the Germans ever dropped on Britain in one day during World War II. An estimated 13 heavy 220 mm rockets from Syria hit seven buildings in Haifa.
Israel struck back fast and took out the launchers at at Burj Rahal northeast of the Lebanese port of Tyre which fired at Haifa. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Hizballah no longer bothers to conceal the launch sites of its heavy missiles. Their crews are under orders to execute “suicide launchings,” accepting that the moment they let their rockets fly they will be exposed to reprisal. Hizballah is now bent on maximizing the number of Israeli casualties.
Eight hours earlier, Hizballah launchers in four separate command posts coordinated their rocket fire on an Israeli reservist unit unloading trucks outside Kibutz Kfar Gileadi near Kiryat Shemona, killing 12 soldiers and injuring 13.
Our sources also disclose that Hassan Nasrallah has ordered all members of his senior command, military and political alike, to go underground, disconnect their phones and refuse media interviews in the present period which he sees as marking the decisive stage of the war.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
POLICE are trying to establish the motive for the stabbing murder of an Israeli man left for dead outside a shop in Bondi after a brutal attack by a carload of men.
The 36-year-old victim was set upon by the gang whom witnesses say bashed him with a pole or something similar and left him with multiple stab wounds about 9.45pm (AEST) last night [5/8/06].
When police arrived at the scene outside a convenience store at the intersection of Glenayr Avenue and Beach Road at Bondi Beach, the man was slumped on the footpath.
He was treated at the scene and taken to St Vincent's Hospital for emergency surgery but died shortly before 4am (AEST) today.
Superintendent Mark Walton said detectives were trying to contact the man's family, who live overseas. He said the man, an Israeli citizen, had lived in the area for some time and was helped following the attack by about six people who are currently being interviewed by police.
....Police have issued descriptions of two men they wish to interview over the murder.
One man is described as 178cm tall, of medium build with shoulder length dark hair and clean shaven, wearing jeans and a black top. The second is 170cm tall, of medium build with dark short hair. "We are trying to determine how many people were involved but at this stage we are focused on those two men," Supt Walton said outside Bondi Police Station. "We have neither recovered or have a good description of the weapon." Detectives are also hunting for a green Mitsubishi Pajero with NSW registration SVJ 201 which was seen driving away from the area immediately after the attack.
"The motivation in relation to this incident is unknown at this stage," Supt Walton said.
"We are very open minded but there is nothing in relation to information or evidence that it is connected to this man's nationality or religious background." ...
In the middle of the fourth week of the Lebanon War, the tide began to turn in Israel’s favor. DEBKAfile’s military sources report the battlefield finally responded to the effect of Israel’s air might, its tank columns, the pounding by mobile artillery and naval craft and its repeated armored infantry assaults.
....as soon as Israeli ground forces shifted to the massive, long-distance firing mode which they know best, the impact on the warfront was immediate. The battle went their way with a minimum of casualties. In places where Israeli troops adhered to the close combat tactics practiced in the first three weeks, they continued to suffer high casualties.
Hizballah soon showed signs of distress. Lacking the weapons and resources to stand up to IDF’s precise-shooting juggernaut, their commanders quickly pulled their men out most combat sectors of South Lebanon and ordered them to regroup in five places:
1. The Western Sector and the center of Tyre.
2. The Wadi Hajar pocket east of Tyre.
3. The Central Sector surrounding Bint Jubeil, where the outcome is still unresolved after many days of fighting.
4. The Wadi Saluki area northwest of the northernmost Israeli town of Metullah.
5. The Eastern Sector, including al Khiam, the Shabaa Farms and Mt Dov, which has seen little fighting - although last week Israeli forces began - then stopped - a major offensive before it got underway.
These pockets are now the main launching-pads for rockets fired into Israel.
Outside, there is no ground fighting in South Lebanon but for Israeli air strikes.
Hizballah also has also been using the Tapuach and al-Haroub areas south and northeast of Sidon for shooting rockets. It is from this region that Hizballah fired the long-range Khaibar-1 missiles at Hadera Friday night, August 4, which came 45 km short of Tel Aviv. Saturday morning, Sidon’s 200,000 inhabitants and its outlying villages up to the Zahrani River were warned to leave their homes and head north to escape the coming Israeli air offensive.
....Iran and Syria are constantly restocking Hizballah’s diminishing supplies of rockets of all types, launchers and operating manpower by a round- the-clock airlift from Iran via Syrian military air fields. Some of the incoming supplies are destroyed by Israeli air attacks as they cross into Lebanon, but a substantial part is conveyed to Hizballah by smuggling networks employing mules to traverse Lebanese mountain paths. Even if 2,000 have been wiped out and a similar amount has been fired, no one knows how many are left in stock because it is replenished. As long as that corridor is not severed by bombing the Syrian stopover air facilities, Iran will continue to top up Hizballah’s stockpile. Therefore, the rocket offensive cannot be reduced by very much.
...Hizballah’s withdrawal to five pockets in South Lebanon affords the IDF certain tactical advantages - although liabilities too.
It is now possible to carve the region the Israeli army controls into three sections, western, central and eastern, a tactic familiar from the Gaza Strip, for encumbering Hizballah guerrilla movement between the sections. The goal is to confine Hizballah to the five pockets and place them under blockade. They can then be made to capitulate or face liquidation.
Leaving the two banks of the Litani River, the Nabatea plain and Hazbaya to the north of the river in Hizballah hands leaves a route open for its reinforcements to come through and to strike Israeli forces from the rear.
Nonetheless, by Thursday, August 3, Hizballah was showing signs of being in trouble.
A. Local Hizballah village commanders signaled repeated appeals for more manpower and ammunition. The appeals were not met because outside forces cannot break through the defense lines held by the advancing Israeli troops. The village commanders were therefore told by their superiors to fight to the last man and last bullet and reserve the last grenade for suicide.
B. Hizballah’s shadowy leader, the long-wanted Imad Mughniyeh, was hurriedly appointed commander of the southern front as a last resort to save South Lebanon from falling to Israel..... this appointment raises the conflict to a new and dangerous level on several counts.
Mughniyeh, wanted for a quarter of a century by the FBI for the huge bombing attacks he orchestrated on the US embassy in Beirut and American and French troops, as well as a spate of hijackings and murders, is important enough to take orders from no-one ranking lower than Iran’s supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Those orders come through the Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Rahim Safavi.
....Informed circles in the West have a high opinion of Mughniyeh’s military, intelligence and tactical skills. His hand was seen in the transformation of al Qaeda’s 2001 defeat in Afghanistan into a launch pad for its anti-US campaign in Iraq and many other ventures in the terror war against America. After the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Mughniyeh is rated the world Islamic terror movement’s most outstanding field commander.
Therefore, while the appointment is a measure of Israel’s belated military success in the Lebanese war, it also brings the conflict ever closer to two dangerous orbits – Tehran and al Qaeda. Mughniyeh is the only undercover agent in the Middle East who enjoys the complete personal trust of Khamenei and Osama bin Laden, on both of whom he is in a position to call for aid.
On the diplomatic front, even if the United States and France can get together on a unified UN Security Council ceasefire resolution, DEBKAfile’s military sources report that neither Iran nor Hizballah has any intention of complying with a resolution dictated by the United States, France and Israel.
Residents of Arab al-Aramshe find it difficult to comprehend disaster in which mother, her two daughters were killed as Katyusha rocket hit their house yard. One of daughter recently got engaged. 'We can't believe we will not be seeing these three dear and beloved women anymore,' residents say
Fadia Jamaa, 60, and her two daughters Samira, 33, and Sultana, 31, were sitting in the yard of their house in the Bedouin village of Arab al-Aramshe, near the northern town of Shlomi, when a Katyusha rocket directly hit the yard. The three women were immediately killed. The yard is located next to a fortified structure, but the village's proximity to the Lebanon border does not enable the residents to be warned in time before rockets land there.
In one moment, the father of the family lost his wife and two daughters, who have another two sisters and a brother. The village residents said that Sultana got engaged about two months ago, and her engagement was accompanied by great celebrations in the village.
...."Unfortunately, there is barely any warning time before Katyushas or mortar shells land here due to our proximity to the border with Lebanon. When we heard the blast we identified its origin, and when we arrived we saw the great horror. The mother and her two daughters were lying side by side bleeding, and the Magen David Adom crews that arrived at the place had nothing left to do but to determine their death," the community center manager, Mazaal Muhammad, told Ynet.
Every house in the village today has a fortified area, a secure room or a nearby shelter, but in recent days, due to the prolonged fighting and the great difficulty to stay in the fortified areas most of the day, residents tend to go out to the houses' balconies, take a breath of fresh air and stay outside the closed structures for several hours.
Mufid Mazaal, who lives a few houses a way from the yard which was hit by a Katyusha, said that "our village is one big family, and therefore we all today fell like a part of our body has been uprooted and find it difficult to believe that we will not see these dear and beloved women anymore."
"This is a great disaster. Several hours have already passed and we miss them even more – the disaster is incomprehensible," he added.
Immediately after the blast, neighbors and family members gathered at the yard and began collecting the pieces of memory – shoes, towels, a blood-stained pillow. They then began washing the blood-stained yard. The swing on which one of the daughters was sitting and the two chairs of the mother and the other daughter were moved aside.
....Mazaal Muhammad told Ynet that the Jumaa family house was a symbol of coexistence.
"The house is located on the main road in the center of the village and has become for many years now an intermediate station for any person passing in the area. Under the Margosa tree and next to the swing, Muslims, Druze, Christians and Jews would sit side by side. The real meaning of coexistence and peace was expressed in this house," he said.
Senior Saudi Sheikh Safar al-Hawali, in past teacher of Bin Laden, issues fatwa forbidding support of any kind of Hizbullah organization, which is not 'Party of God,' but 'Party of Satan'
A senior Saudi religious figure, Sheikh Safar al-Hawali, published a fatwa establishing that "Hizbullah is not the 'Party of God' (the meaning of Hizbullah in Arabic), but the 'Party of Satan.'"
Al-Hawali is considered an extreme religious figure in Saudi Arabia. In the past Osama Bin Laden was among his students. In the fatwa published on al-Hawali's website, it was written that it is forbidden to pray for Hizbullah, or to support the organization in any way. Al-Hawali's position, from the Wahhabi stream in Saudi Arabia, exemplifies the prevailing historic rift between Sunnis and Shiites , who, in the eyes of the Wahhabists are apostates.
The Wahhabists seek to cleanse Islam from innovations and deviations, which, according to them, violate Islam at its core, such as worshipping holy men and their graves, or decoration of mosques. The controversy between Sunnis and Shiites is not absolute. For example, the Sunni Muslim Brothers in Egypt have declared their support of Hizbullah.
Al-Hawali's words are an addition to a previous fatwa issued two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia by the leader of the Wahhabi movement, Sheikh Abdullah bin Jabrin, which declared that it is illegal to support, join, or even pray for Hizbullah. In the same fatwa, Iran was condemned for her involvement and financing of terrorist organizations.
The Saudi fatwas are joined by a fatwa issued by a Kuwaiti sheikh after the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers on the northern border, in which a harsh condemnation of "the imperialist aspirations of Iran by means of the organization" was published.
The conflict is also expressed in the Saudi government's position which has changed during the fighting. At first, the Saudi government condemned the kidnapping of IDF soldiers calling the Hizbullah operation "unplanned adventures," yet with the continuation of fighting between Israel and Hizbullah, Saudi Arabia called the US to stop Israel's operations in Lebanon lest the entire region deteriorate in war.
THE Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, who claimed he had received information that Israel was planning to attack Lebanon between September and November, should soon be held accountable for what is happening in Lebanon. In issuing such statements Nasrallah was acting as if he was the head of CIA or Pentagon. Assuming his claims were true, Nasrallah has succeeded only in speeding up Israel’s preplanned attack on Lebanon.
Nasrallah’s statements remind us of the former Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser who also claimed to have received information Israel was planning to attack Egypt. Gamal Abdul Nasser acted on that false information leading Egypt to defeat in a war in which a large number of Egyptian soldiers were killed. Whoever gave this “information” to Nasrallah was only planning to put him in trouble and destroy Lebanon.
This wrong information will make Nasrallah lose the war because all of us know Israel is not alone. It has the United States and the international community on its side. So when we fight Israel, we will be fighting the whole world. When we lose the war we may justify it by saying “Israel was not alone but had the support of the US.” The million dollar question is, if we knew Israel has strong supporters why didn’t we prepare for the war by constructing shelters and refuge centers for our citizens. Why didn’t we stock adequate energy for the duration of the war? Today Israel has the necessary shelters and energy reserves to save its citizens from any attack by Hezbollah or others. Why did Nasrallah and his associates fail to think about this issue and prepare for the war before they started it?
Did anybody bother to think about the feelings of people of southern Lebanon who have lost their homes and properties and have been forced to flee to Beirut and the central regions of Lebanon? These innocent people will soon demand answers to questions like why such horrible things happened to them and who is responsible for their sufferings. When they realize they lost everything they had because of the political games of Iran and Syria, will Tehran and Damascus compensate their loss? Everybody knows people of southern Lebanon have lost their property due to the policy of some foreign countries implemented by their local agents. Until now the Lebanese have received no support either from Syria or Iran. All their assistance has come from other countries in the region — including Jordan, Egypt, and the UAE. The only gift Lebanon has received from Iran is death and destruction.
The Iranian Foreign Minister, who recently visited Beirut to see the real situation in Lebanon, understood that the false propaganda of Hezbollah through TV channels and other media will not help it to win the war against Israel. The Iranian minister realized thousands of refugees have abandoned Hezbollah to face Israel alone and nobody wants to fight for Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Israel is going ahead with the war without distinguishing between children or adults. Until now they have not asked for any assistance or help from any part of the world.
The tragedy in Lebanon will soon bring those who are responsible for this issue to justice. These people have converted a beautiful country like Lebanon into an arena where Israel can play war games using live ammunition with its fighter aircraft and bombs. There is nobody in Lebanon to shoot at Israeli aircraft or even scare them from flying over that country. We can accept all the losses suffered by Lebanon on the condition that the Lebanese government musters the strength to exercise its authority all over the country. The Lebanese must be a part of the government and mercenaries, who get instructions from foreign countries, must be rooted out. It is time a strong, democratic and free Lebanon is established.