Hostilities raging in Middle East
News about hostilities in the Middle East has been inescapable. If there isn't something happening Iraq, one is certain to find hostilities raging in Israel and Lebanon.
There seems to be no letup in sight with U.S. troops in Iraq reporting a 40 percent increase in attacks in the Baghdad area and Israel actively preparing for a major ground offensive into southern Lebanon.
Two weeks into the recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict, members of the world community continue to weigh in on the action, with various leaders shouting for a cease fire but many Arab countries keeping mute, or at least not offering open support for Hezbollah against Israel.
At the Arab League's meeting of 22 foreign ministers in Cairo two Saturdays ago, leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and Morocco stated succinctly that they are not willing to commit their 350 million Arabs into a war with Israel because they feel that "behavior undertaken by some groups in apparent safeguarding of Arab interests does in fact harm those interests."
The U.S. has maintained Israel's right to defend itself, as have others. President Bush believes that the status quo - the presence in a sovereign country of a militant group with missiles capable of hitting a U.S. ally - is unacceptable. Bush sees this as an opportunity to seriously degrade a big threat in the region, just as he believes he is doing in Iraq, a former member of the White House council says.
However, other countries see things differently and have criticized Israel, among them Russia and Spain. For example, during an event at which he wore a Palestinian scarf, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said to a meeting of young Socialists that Israel was using "abusive force." And Russia has called for an immediate ceasefire.
The Israeli army denies it is using abusive force. In fact, an army official said on Thursday that Israel has been willing to give up the element of surprise to warn civilians that they should flee areas where the Air Force is planning to attack. On top of that, Israel has agreed to allow humanitarian aid transported on a French ship to flow directly into Lebanon.
For the last nine days, residents of northern Israeli communities, including Israel's third largest city, Haifa, have stayed in bomb shelters and security rooms as more than 1,600 Hezbollah rockets have crashed into the country. Hezbollah leaders claim they possess about 13,000 rockets.
The Israeli campaign against Hezbollah has killed at least 312 people in Lebanon, the vast majority civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands. At least 29 Israeli troops and civilians have been killed.
The land from which Hezbollah has been firing missiles is supposed to be free of militias, according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559. That resolution calls for the deployment of the Lebanese army throughout the country and for all militias to be disarmed. Israel continues to call for enforcement of this resolution and for the release of its abducted soldiers. For his part, the U.N. secretary general has called for an immediate cease fire.
Israel is intent on driving Hezbollah away from their northern border. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Wednesday that Israel has "no intention of ending this crisis [to] go back to living under the same reality."
Haaretz, Reuters, CNS, and the Associated Press, Washington Post, American Spectator, New York Times, New York Sun, Jerusalem Post and Washington Times contributed to this report.
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