Israel, Lebanon, Hizbullah: 14 more observations on the situation

July 17, 2006

CONTENTS

1. Rockets fired at Haifa were Syrian-made
2. Missing Israeli soldiers “held at the Iranian embassy in Beirut”
3. Iranian revolutionary guards attacked Israeli boat
4. Al-Sharq al-Awsat: Hizbullah have been receiving training in Iran
5. Iranian weapons “started conflict”
6. Sharansky: “A unique moment of unity”
7. G8 supports Israel
8. BBC shows its partiality
9. Reuters cameraman hit by Hizbullah
10. Israel also has a tourist industry
11. Ahmadinejad compares Israel to Nazis
12. “Why is this Arab-Israeli war different from all other Arab-Israeli wars?”
13. Saudi Arabia, Egypt & Jordan criticize Hizbullah
14. “Curse you Hizbullah to hell and back”



[Note by Tom Gross]

ROCKETS FIRED AT HAIFA WERE SYRIAN-MADE

The rocket that yesterday killed eight Israeli civilians at a train station in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, was manufactured in Syria, said Israeli Transport Minister and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. “The metal from the missile shows that it was made in Syria. We know that over the last few years, Syria has transferred ammunition to Hizbullah and that is what they used today,” Mofaz said after touring the site of the attack. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz today confirmed that Fajar missiles fired at Haifa were made in Syria.

So far today, Katyushas have been fired by Hizbullah at the western Galilee villages of Julis, Abu Snaan, and Kfar Yasif as well as at Safed, Acre, Kiryat Shmona, Tiberias and elsewhere. Another barrage of rockets hit Haifa this afternoon. One landed on an apartment building, severely damaging the top two floors, and injuring at least 11 people. In the most far-reaching missiles yet launched, Katyushas have also landed in Afula and near Nazareth, well inside Israel.

Approximately 1,400 rockets have been fired at northern Israel since last Wednesday. A number of rockets continue to be fired each day into southern Israel by Hamas. At least 10 have been fired from Gaza so far today. Additionally, a 25-year-old Palestinian man was caught with a 5-kilogram bomb in downtown Jerusalem today. The man was intercepted at a major intersection between Jerusalem’s old and new cities. Israeli police sappers successfully removed the device from the area.

MISSING ISRAELI SOLDIERS “HELD AT THE IRANIAN EMBASSY IN BEIRUT”

The website of the Lebanese government in exile (www.free-lebanon.com) reports that intelligence sources inform them that Hizbullah have transferred the two Israeli soldiers they kidnapped in Israel last week (Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev) from Southern Lebanon to the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, where they are being held under the direct supervision of Iranian security guards.

Separately, Israeli foreign ministry officials have voiced concerns in recent days that the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah may have already been transferred to Iran.

IRANIAN REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS ATTACKED ISRAELI BOAT

It now appears that the Israeli ship hit off the coast of Lebanon on Friday, killing four Israeli sailors, was struck by an Iranian-provided C-802 shore-to-sea missile.

Military sources tell me that these radar-guided high-tech weapons may have never seen battle before. These missiles are armed with a strong anti-jamming capability, which give them a 98% chance of avoiding interception.

It has also been reported that Iranian Revolutionary Guards were involved on some level in the missile strike that badly damaged the Israeli boat.

AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT: HIZBULLAH HAVE BEEN RECEIVING TRAINING IN IRAN

The London-based, Saudi-owned daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat, reported yesterday, citing military sources “close to the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards,” that between 150 and 250 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are currently in charge of Hizbullah’s training. (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, is a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard.)

Al-Sharq al-Awsat added that part of the training takes place in Iran, and includes shooting missiles, firing cannons, flying unmanned aerial vehicles and gliders, marine warfare, driving speed boats and other basic war skills. Some 3,000 Hizbullah operatives are said to have undergone such training during the last two years. Iran has also trained some 50 Hizbullah pilots.

In addition to equipping Hizbullah with mobile bases, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have also established 20 missile bases in the Bekaa valley and near the Lebanese-Israeli border, according to the Saudi newspaper. The full article can be read in Arabic here:
aawsat.com/details.asp?sectionfiltered=1&issue=10092&article=373285.

IRANIAN WEAPONS “STARTED CONFLICT”

Israeli army officers have said in recent days that the weapons used by Hizbullah to attack Israel came from Iran. Rockets provided by Iran are thought to have been used in the initial diversionary attack that preceded the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday. The anti-tank weapon that destroyed an Israeli Merkava tank on the same day is also thought to have been provided by Iran.

The Iranians were directly involved in creating the network of control towers and monitoring stations along the border between Lebanon and Israel which enabled Hizbullah to launch its attack.

Con Coughlin, writing in the Daily Telegraph, asks “For the ayatollahs in Teheran trying to find a way out of their nuclear difficulties, what better way to divert the world’s attention from their nuclear-enrichment programme than to provoke a fresh Middle East crisis between Israel and its neighbours?” (His article can be read here.)

Over the past year, three relatively advanced weapons supplied by Iran to Hizbullah have been used: UAVs that have flown over northern Israel, extended-range artillery rockets, and now anti-ship cruise missiles.

SHARANSKY: “A UNIQUE MOMENT OF UNITY”

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident, has urged Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to utilize the upcoming days. Sharansky said that Israel may only have a few days as “the moment Israel starts becoming successful, the world will tell us to stop.”

Sharansky asserted that “This is a unique moment of unity” as Ehud Olmert with his current center-left coalition is the only leader capable of a forceful response to Hamas and Hizbullah which almost everyone in Israel agrees is necessary. “Ariel Sharon would not have responded this strongly because he was so concerned with changing his image, and while Bibi would have done exactly the same thing as Olmert is, half of the country would have been protesting about what the ‘monster’ is doing.”

The entire Israeli public except for a far left fringe is supportive of Olmert’s military response.

G8 SUPPORTS ISRAEL

World leaders at the G8 (Group of Eight) meeting in St Petersburg have released a joint message calling for the Israeli soldiers abducted in Gaza and Lebanon to be released unharmed and for the shelling of Israeli territory to end.

Even though they also called for Israeli military operations to cease, Israeli forces to withdraw from areas they have entered in Gaza, and for arrested Palestinian ministers and legislators to be released, the G8 statement marks a significant move to support Israel’s argument that it has been acting in self-defense.

The statement placed the blame for the start of the current crisis on Hamas and Hizbullah, which were mentioned by name. It did not call for a release of Arab prisoners held in Israel – which the terrorist groups have been trying to achieve – and expressed support for disarming Hizbullah.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters “We do not want to let terrorist forces and those who support them have the opportunity to create chaos in the Middle East… Therefore we place value on clearly identifying the cause and effect of events... the relevant UN resolutions regarding the south of Lebanon must also be implemented.”

Since the conservative leader Merkel assumed power in Berlin last September, German positions have been significantly more supportive of Israeli and U.S. ones than when her left-leaning predecessor Gerhard Schroeder was in power.

BBC SHOWS ITS PARTIALITY

The BBC’s correspondent in Lebanon, who has spent many hours on air since Hizbullah began this conflict, is Kim Ghattas. She has been markedly partisan in her reporting, although not to the same hysterically anti-Israeli extent that Orla Guerin and Barbara Plett were during the Palestinian Intifada.

Ghattas has been both emotive in her language and at the same time has refused to explain Israeli aims, as if Israel didn’t have any. For example, this morning on BBC World News, Ghattas said “it is quite unclear what the Israeli strategy is.” She also informed viewers that the strikes on Beirut are “heartbreaking.”

Ghattas was born in Lebanon, but her official BBC biography only makes clear she is Lebanese in the final paragraph.

The chances of the BBC employing a pro-Israeli Israeli Jew as their main correspondent in Israel are next to none.

REUTERS CAMERAMAN HIT BY HIZBULLAH

A Reuters cameraman working in Israel was wounded in the leg last Thursday in a rocket attack by Hizbullah. Rami Amichai, an Israeli, was filming in the coastal city of Nahariya when the rocket struck nearby, sending shrapnel flying into his lower leg. He was taken to hospital for treatment.

Reuters is yet to formally complain about this to the government of Lebanon. Had he been wounded by a rocket fired from Israel, Reuters would almost certainly have complained to the Israeli government.

ISRAEL ALSO HAS A TOURIST INDUSTRY

The BBC and others have made repeated references to the difficulty being experienced by the Lebanese tourist industry and the fact there are foreign nationals in Lebanon caught up in the fighting.

At the same time, almost no international media have made mention of the tourist industry in the north of Israel which has been greatly harmed by the Hizbullah attacks. The months of July, August and September are the peak season for both domestic and incoming tourism and the violence taking place is likely to set the tourism industry back to its lean years of 2001-2.

Whilst the mainstream media has rushed to condemn the Israeli bombing of Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut (“the Paris of the Middle East”), with the BBC showing extensive footage of foreign tourists vacating Beirut, there has been little sympathy for the Israeli hotels, tourism companies, tourist agencies, restaurants and cafes which have been affected in northern Israel. In Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, close to the spot where Christians believe Jesus walked on water, a hotel was hit by a Hizbullah rocket on Saturday afternoon. I have not seen this mentioned once on international media.

In 2002, the peak year of the Intifada, only 862,000 tourists visited Israel. By 2005 the figure had risen to 1.9 million, and 2.5 million tourists were expected in Israel during 2006, more than in 2000, the peak year before the Intifada. In recent months, some airlines, including Lufthansa and British Airways, added seats to their Israel route, and Continental and other airlines added flights.

AHMADINEJAD COMPARES ISRAEL TO NAZIS

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has compared Israel’s military strikes on Gaza and Lebanon to tactics used by Adolf Hitler against Jews during World War II.

Speaking in Tehran, he said “Their methods resemble Hitler’s. When Hitler wanted to launch an attack, he came up with a pretext… Zionists say they are Hitler’s victims, but they have the same nature as Hitler.”

Since becoming President in June 2005, Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and described the Holocaust as a “myth”.

Agence France Presse (AFP) have also used World War Two terminology to describe Israel’s actions. An AFP article on July 15 was titled “Scores dead as Israel steps up Lebanon blitz.” AFP used similar terminology in its heading of June 30: “Israeli jets blitz Gaza.”

“WHY IS THIS ARAB-ISRAELI WAR DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER ARAB-ISRAELI WARS?”

William Kristol, writing in The Weekly Standard, says: “Why is this Arab-Israeli war different from all other Arab-Israeli wars? Because it’s not an Arab-Israeli war. Most of Israel’s traditional Arab enemies have checked out of the current conflict. The governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are, to say the least, indifferent to the fate of Hamas and Hizbullah. The Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah) isn’t a player. The prime mover behind the terrorist groups who have started this war is a non-Arab state, Iran, which wasn’t involved in any of Israel’s previous wars.”

Kristol argues that this “is a new and different threat. One needs to keep this in mind when trying to draw useful lessons from our successes, and failures, in dealing with the threats of the 20th century… Islamism became really dangerous when it seized control of Iran – which then became, as it has been for the last 27 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

His full article can be read here.

SAUDI ARABIA, EGYPT & JORDAN CRITICIZE HIZBULLAH

Many Arab governments reacted with relative restraint to Israel’s offensive, condemning Israeli attacks on civilians but criticizing Hizbullah too.

Saudi Arabia accused Hizbullah of “uncalculated adventures” which could lead to “an extremely serious situation which could subject all Arab nations and its achievements to destruction.”

A Saudi official quoted by the state Saudi Press Agency said “The kingdom sees that it is time for those elements to alone shoulder the full responsibility for this irresponsible behavior and that the burden of ending the crisis falls on them alone.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have also criticized Hizbullah for harming Arab interests. In a joint statement, published by the Petra news agency, the two leaders warned of “the region being dragged into ‘adventurism’ that does not serve Arab interests.” They urged the Lebanese government “to establish its authority over all of Lebanese territory,” and also called for an immediate halt to any Israeli military escalation.

On Saturday, as 18 Arab foreign ministers gathered for an emergency meeting in Cairo, the Saudi representative called the Hizbullah attacks “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible… These acts will pull the whole region back to years ago, and we cannot simply accept them.” The Saudi stance was supported by Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and even the Palestinian Authority.

By contrast, Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa said “Israel is behind all that is happening.”

(A missile fired from Lebanon on Saturday missed its target and hit an Egyptian boat. The crew of 12 survived. MENA, Egypt’s state news agency reported incorrectly that the ship was hit by Israeli fire.)

“CURSE YOU HIZBULLAH TO HELL AND BACK”

Lebanese critics of Hizbullah have been strangely conspicuous from much of the international TV and newspaper coverage of the recent clashes. One Lebanese blogger has written about the anger directed towards Hizbullah:

“And tomorrow when I will see the destroyed bridge linking my home town of Saida to Beirut, I will only say from the bottom of my heart: Enough! Enough wars, death and destruction! Curse you Hezbollah to hell and back! For all this destruction, for all this death! No it is not Israel fault! It is your own! Curse you!”

“I want peace with Israel! NOW! I do not care for your ideologies, or your lines drawn on maps!”

To read this blog entry in full, see
lebanonheartblogs.blogspot.com/2006/07/peace-now.html.

-- Tom Gross


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.