Lebanon: death toll mounts

Its hard to imagine where this will end… From the Reuters, July 15:

BEIRUT – Israel killed 35 civilians on Saturday, including 15 children, in air strikes meant to punish Lebanon for letting Hizbollah guerillas menace the Jewish state’s northern border.

Hizbollah rockets struck deeper into Israel than ever, wounding eight people in the Sea of Galilee town of Tiberias, and wounding 15 other people across northern Israel.

Israel’s bombing of Lebanese roads, bridges, ports and airports, as well as Hizbollah targets, is its most destructive onslaught since a 1982 invasion to expel Palestinian forces.

For the first time, ports in Christian areas were bombarded and a helicopter missile hit a lighthouse on Beirut’s seafront.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora demanded an immediate U.N.-backed cease-fire, denouncing Israel for turning his country into a “disaster zone”. He appealed for foreign aid.

Israel said the way out would be for Lebanon to implement a U.N. resolution demanding Hizbollah disarmed. The Beirut government, led by an anti-Syrian coalition, lacks the unity and firepower to disarm Hizbollah, the only Lebanese faction to keep its guns after the 1975-90 civil war.

President Bush, who has declined to urge Israel to curb its military operations, said Syria should tell Hizbollah, also backed by Iran, to stop cross-border attacks.

An Israeli missile incinerated a van in southern Lebanon, killing 20 people, among them 15 children, in the deadliest single attack of the campaign launched by Israel after Hizbollah captured two of its soldiers and killed eight on Wednesday.

Police said the van was carrying two families fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israeli loudspeaker warnings to leave their homes. Many of the bodies were charred.

Other raids on north, east and south Lebanon killed 15 people and wounded 37, security sources said.

At least 104 people, all but four of them civilians, have been killed in Israel’s four-day-old assault, which has choked Lebanon’s economy and prompted tourists and foreigners to flee.

Four Israelis, including a five-year-old child, have been killed and 300 wounded by about 700 rockets fired since Wednesday at more than 20 towns.


Israel has deployed Patriot missile batteries in the northern city of Haifa to intercept rockets. The government gave authorities the power to shut schools, factories and public institutions in the north, a Defense Ministry source said.

Lebanon’s main commercial ports of Beirut and Tripoli came under Israeli fire, as well as ports in the Christian towns of Jounieh and Amsheet, security sources and witnesses said.

One Lebanese soldier was killed when an army radar station was hit in Batroun north of Beirut.

In Beirut, Israeli warplanes flattened Hizbollah’s nine-story headquarters and destroyed the office of a Hamas leader, Mohammed Nazzal. Hamas said Nazzal had survived.

Israeli planes fired rockets near a Lebanese-Syrian border crossing, heightening fears it could extend its campaign to Syria, which along with Iran is Hizbollah’s main ally.

Israel said it had attacked targets only in Lebanon. A Syrian official also said Israel had not struck Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose troops ended a two- decade presence in Lebanon last year under international pressure, pledged to put his country’s resources at Lebanon’s disposal.

At a joint news conference with President Vladimir Putin at a G8 summit in Russia, Bush said: “The best way to stop the violence is for Hizbollah to lay down its arms. … And therefore I call upon Syria to exert influence over Hizbollah.”

The European Union, in a statement at the summit, said Israel’s assault on Lebanon was disproportionate.

Italy began evacuating nationals from Lebanon. Other Western and Arab countries made plans to pull out their citizens. Thousands of people streamed to the Syrian border and safety.

Israel aims not just to force Hizbollah to free the soldiers, whom the Shi’ite group wants to trade for prisoners in Israel, but to destroy its ability to fire rockets into Israel.

Israel’s campaign in Lebanon coincided with an offensive it launched in the Gaza Strip on June 28 to try to retrieve another captured soldier and halt Palestinian rocket fire.

Israeli aircraft attacked the Palestinian Economy Ministry in Gaza and a house where a Hamas militant was killed and eight people were wounded. Israel has killed about 85 Palestinians, around half of them militants since the offensive was launched.

See our last post on Israel and the Lebanon crisis.