Saturday, July 22, 2006

Not that what's happening with Israel and Lebanon isn't important, but, America is still fighting a War

2 Americans, dozens of Iraqis killed

Associated Press Writer

Two American soldiers were killed Saturday in Baghdad, seven Shiite construction workers were gunned down and five Sunni civilians were blown up, deepening the capital's security crisis. Shiite politicians called on the prime minister to cancel his visit to Washington to protest Israel's attacks in Lebanon.

Elsewhere, U.S. and Iraqi forces backed by a helicopter gunship launched a major attack Saturday on a headquarters of a radical Shiite militia south of Baghdad, killing 15 militiamen in a three-hour battle, the U.S. said.

One U.S. soldier died in the second of two roadside bombs that exploded in east Baghdad at mid-morning. An Iraqi civilian was killed by the first blast, police said. Another American soldier died Saturday evening when gunmen attacked his patrol with small arms fire, the military said.

The seven Shiite workers were killed and two were wounded when gunmen opened fire on a construction site near Baghdad International Airport, police said. Later Saturday, a mortar shell killed five civilians at a market in the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Amil in west Baghdad, police said.

Two rockets also blasted the heavily guarded Green Zone, which includes the U.S. and British embassies as well as major Iraqi government offices, but the U.S. military said there were no casualties.

Much of the violence appeared to be part of the tit-for-tat reprisal killings by Sunni and Shiite extremists which have led to a dramatic deterioration of security in the Iraqi capital.

With violence rising, the United States is moving to bolster American troop strength in the Baghdad area, putting on hold plans to draw down on the 127,000-member U.S. military mission in Iraq.

U.S. officials have pointed to Shiite militias as a major cause of sectarian violence. In a bid to curb militia influence, American troops moved Saturday against the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad.

U.S. troops reported killing 15 gunmen in a three-hour firefight in Musayyib but described them only as "thugs and criminals" who had tried to take over the city. Sheik Jalil al-Nouri, an aide to al-Sadr, said U.S. and Iraqi forces attacked the Mahdi Army office in Mussayib and that sporadic shooting was still underway late Saturday.

Local officials said the Americans conducted a similar raid on al-Sadr's office in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad and scene of an attack five days ago in which 50 people were killed.

In London, the British military announced Saturday that British troops arrested the Mahdi Army commander in Basra in raids last weekend against militia weapons depots.

With violence rising, the United States is moving to bolster American troop strength in the Baghdad area, putting on hold plans to draw down on the 127,000-member U.S. military mission in Iraq.

The security crisis in Baghdad is expected to figure prominently when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meets President George W. Bush at the White House on Tuesday. U.S. officials are expected to push al-Maliki, a Shiite, to move quickly to calm sectarian tensions and abolish Shiite militias blamed for much of the violence.

But the visit comes amid rising anger among Iraqis over Israel's attacks in Lebanon, launched after Shiite Hezbollah militiamen seized two Israeli soldiers.

On Saturday, the Fadhila party, which is part of al-Maliki's Shiite alliance, urged the prime minister to call off his visit.

"Fadhila demands that the prime minister cancel his visit to the U.S. in solidarity with the Lebanese people and over what is going on there, the disasters due to the Zionist aggression amid international silence about these crimes," party official Sheik Sabah al-Saiedi told The Associated Press.

Despite public anger over Lebanon, the Shiite political establishment has too much to lose politically by risking its ties with the Americans over the fate of Hezbollah.

Nevertheless, al-Maliki, a former Shiite activist who spent years in exile in Syria, has condemned Israel's offensive and has complained that the United States and the international community have not done enough to stop it.

Al-Maliki told reporters he would convey that message personally to Bush.

"The hostile acts against Lebanon will have effects on the region and we are not far from what is going on in Lebanon," al-Maliki said. "We will speak with the United Nations and American government to call for a cease-fire quickly."

Al-Maliki spoke following the first meeting of a government committee formed to reconcile Iraq's disparate sectarian and political groups, but differences emerged immediately between top Shiite and Sunni officials over the issue of amnesty for insurgents.

Al-Maliki told reporters that despite his proposal for amnesty for some insurgents, "all those whose hands were tainted with blood should be brought to justice."

But the Sunni speaker of parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, snapped back, saying that "if we punish a person who killed an American soldier, who is an occupier, we should punish the American soldiers who killed an Iraqi who fought against occupation."

Most of the insurgents who have been fighting U.S. forces are Sunnis. The United States and the Iraqi government have sought to reach out to selected insurgent groups in hopes of convincing them to lay down their arms.

In other news Saturday:

• 10 Iraqi soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb struck a convoy in Karmah, west of Fallujah in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, police Lt. Ahmed Ali said.

• Three people died and five were injured in a bombing and shooting in the market in Baqouba, where U.S. forces killed five civilians the day before. The U.S. military expressed regret over the civilian deaths and blamed extremists for putting civilians in danger.

• An American soldier died Thursday of a non-combat related injury, the U.S. military reported. He was assigned to the 43rd Military Police Brigade.

• One civilian was killed when masked gunmen attacked Iraqi police in Mosul, and three gunmen died in an a separate firefight with police there.


Eds: Associated Press correspondents Bassem Mroue, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Qais al-Bashir and Ryan Lenz contributed to this report in Baghdad.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Cliff Knizley and Letters To Baghdad on Michael Yon

This is good stuff. Check it out by clicking the link above.


From Central Command:


Release Date:

Release Number:


BALAD – Iraqi security forces conducted two separate operations in Baghdad on July 20, capturing four insurgents who may be involved in ‘extra judicial killing,’ or EJK cells.

The first operation by Iraqi security forces, a raid on back-to-back objectives in southwest Baghdad, netted three primary targets. The first individual was a key insurgent leader believed to plan and coordinate insurgent operations in Baghdad. The second is allegedly involved in financing operations and supplying weapons to insurgents. And the third is believed to be involved in kidnapping Iraqi citizens, Iraqi police and Iraqi soldiers for ransom to finance insurgent activities. He is also allegedly involved in murdering kidnapping victims and participating in attacks against coalition forces.

Iraqi forces also seized three AK-47 assault rifles and three nine millimeter pistols.

During a second raid in southern Baghdad, Iraqi Army forces captured an individual known to deal improvised explosive devices, or IEDs and small arms to insurgent groups.

Coalition force advisers were on hand during both operations, and both occurred without incident.

No Iraqi or coalition forces were injured during the operation.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Marines Return to Beirut to Aid U.S. Evacuation

July 21, 2006
The Conflict
Marines Return to Beirut to Aid U.S. Evacuation

BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 20 — United States marines landed in Beirut on Thursday for the first time in more than 20 years to help evacuate Americans from Lebanon, as Israeli officials suggested that Israeli ground troops might take a more active role in combating the Hezbollah militia. There were also more strong condemnations of Israel’s heavy use of force in Lebanon.

With the fighting continuing for a ninth day, fierce clashes erupted between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters inside Lebanon. Hundreds of Israeli troops were trying to destroy Hezbollah outposts and storage facilities, Israeli Army officials said.

Two Israeli soldiers and a Hezbollah fighter were killed late Wednesday as Israel discovered a warren of storage rooms, bunkers and tunnels. The death toll in Lebanon for the nine days passed 300; the vast majority were said to be civilians.

On Thursday evening, two Israeli soldiers were killed and three others wounded in further fighting. At least two Hezbollah fighters were believed to have been killed.

The Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, visiting northern towns hit by scores of Hezbollah rockets, hinted at a broader ground operation. “We have no intention of occupying Lebanon, but we also have no intention of retreating from any military measures needed,” he said. “Hezbollah must not think that we would recoil from using all kinds of military measures against it.”

Mr. Peretz continued, “You can mark one thing down: Hezbollah flags will not hang over the fences of Israel.”

At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned the Israeli operation as an “excessive use of force.”

Russia, which reduced parts of Chechnya to rubble in its fight against rebels there, also sharply criticized Israel, with the Foreign Ministry calling Israel’s actions in Lebanon “far beyond the boundaries of an antiterrorist operation” and urging a cease-fire.

At the White House, President Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow, said, “I’m not sure at this juncture we’re going to step in and put up a stop sign,” although he called on Israel to “practice restraint” and said that Mr. Bush was “very much concerned” about a growing human crisis in southern Lebanon.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is arranging a trip to Asia and the Middle East; she could be visiting this region as early as Sunday.

Diplomats are investigating the idea of a more robust international force under United Nations auspices but more likely made up of European troops, that could help the weak Lebanese government move its army to the Israeli border and push back a weakened Hezbollah.

Ephraim Sneh, Israel’s deputy defense minister and a former Israeli commander in Lebanon, told Israeli television: “We have no choice but go in and physically clean up Hezbollah posts on the ground. The air force can’t do that. So when we talk about a ground operation, the intention is not necessarily a massive incursion but more pinpoint operations.”

The small force of about 40 marines who landed in Beirut on Thursday were the first American military personnel to be deployed in Lebanon since the withdrawal of forces after a Hezbollah suicide bomb attack killed 241 Americans, mostly marines, in 1983. The marines who landed Thursday were from the same unit as those killed 23 years ago.

Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown of the United States Naval Central Command in Bahrain said a small number of marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit landed on a beach north of Beirut, near shorefront belonging to the American Embassy on Thursday morning. They helped American citizens board a landing craft that ferried them to the amphibious assault ship Nashville stationed offshore.

By late afternoon, 1,052 evacuees had been boarded, and the Nashville was preparing to head to Cyprus, Commander Brown said.

Helicopters also evacuated 161 Americans on Thursday, the military said, and the Orient Queen, a cruise liner that had transported the first large group of American evacuees to Cyprus on Wednesday, was expected to reach Beirut on Thursday night for reloading.

A planeload of Americans who had been on the Orient Queen’s first trip to Cyprus arrived at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport on Thursday morning. Five more naval vessels are expected to arrive in the area on Friday, along with a high-speed ferry hired to transport evacuees to Cyprus, the military said in a statement.

Citizens of Britain and other countries were also evacuated.

On Thursday, Israel continued its large-scale air attacks on Hezbollah positions and equipment. It also leafleted southern Lebanese villages, made taped phone calls, informed local leaders and broadcast messages in Arabic to warn residents to move north of the Litani River if their villages contained Hezbollah assets or rockets, but gave no deadline.

Israel dropped similar leaflets on Thursday in Gaza as well, possibly foreshadowing more attacks on populated areas where Israel believes Hamas is storing Qassam rockets.

The air attacks on Thursday also hit Beirut’s southern suburbs, following Wednesday night’s heavy attack by Israeli jets, using special burrowing bombs, to try to penetrate a bunker believed to be used by senior Hezbollah officials, including its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah said no one was hurt in the bombing, which Israeli officials said involved 23 tons of explosives in the Burj al Brajneh neighborhood.

According to Al Jazeera’s Web site, Sheik Nasrallah said in an interview on Thursday that the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in a raid last week would be freed only in the context of a prisoner exchange and otherwise would not be released even “if the whole universe comes against us.”

Hezbollah said its military capacity was largely undiminished. “The resistance has only used a small, small part of its strength,” Hussein Hajj Hassan told LBC television. “Nothing has been destroyed.”

Despite the continuous shelling of the Hezbollah strongholds of southern Beirut, the militia remains very much in control there, barring access to outsiders.

On Thursday, the militia led a group of reporters for a tour of the area, where Hezbollah’s headquarters are. Buildings as high as 12 or 15 stories had collapsed; some were still smoking.

According to Lebanese reports, four civilians were killed in a strike on a car in the coastal city of Tyre. Israeli jets also attacked a detention center in the town of Khiam in south Lebanon on Thursday, according to local television reports. The prison, formerly run by Israel’s Lebanese militia allies during its occupation of south Lebanon, was destroyed.

Israeli planes also struck at Shiite areas in the eastern towns of Baalbek and Hermil, where some Hezbollah leaders are said to live, and several southern villages.

About 50 rockets hit Israel on Thursday, the Israeli Army said, a sharp drop from 150 the day before.

The Israeli military reported that two of its helicopters collided near the border with Lebanon, injuring five of those on board.

In Gaza, Israel continued its military operation in the central sector, killing at least three Palestinians and wounding six in fighting around the Mughazi refugee camp. An airstrike on the same refugee camp killed one fighter and wounded eight more. One of the dead was a Palestinian girl, 10, wounded in an airstrike on Wednesday, when nine Palestinians, eight of them militants, were killed, according to The Associated Press.

The Israeli Army dropped the leaflets throughout Gaza on Thursday warning that “anyone who has, or is keeping an arsenal, ammunitions or weapons in their house must destroy it or will face dangerous consequences.”

On the West Bank, Israeli forces continued to surround the Mukata compound in Nablus, where Palestinians wanted by Israel have been taking refuge since Wednesday morning. About 15 wanted men gave themselves up but at least 10 remain inside. Tanks fired five shells at the buildings and army bulldozers worked to knock down the exterior walls, while warning those inside to come out or risk being buried underneath the rubble.

Israeli troops fired rubber-coated bullets at Palestinians who demonstrated against the troops, wounding five, one seriously, Palestinian medics said. About 4,000 Palestinians demonstrated in Nablus in support of Hezbollah, calling on the militia’s leader, Mr. Nasrallah, to attack Israel with rockets.

“Nasrallah, our dearest, strike, strike Tel Aviv!” the Palestinians shouted. Five Palestinians were killed in the Nablus operation on Wednesday.

The Lebanese government said it had so far sheltered as many as 120,000 refugees, mostly in public and private schools. It is considering setting up tents and temporary barracks for the refugees in public parks and sports fields. The United Nations estimates that a total of 500,000 people have been displaced.

“The losses are immeasurable,” said Nayla Moawad, the Lebanese minister for social affairs.

Ms. Moawad blamed Syria for setting off the crisis, saying that she was expressing her personal opinion. “The decision of the Hezbollah operation was not taken in Lebanon,” she said. “Lebanon was taken a hostage, a mailbox of other people’s interests. It has been taken in Damascus, probably with an Iranian coordination.”

Ms. Moawad was one of the leaders of the Lebanese revolt last year that led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

“Syria has tried to destabilize Lebanon since her troops pulled out,” she said.

Jad Mouawad reported from Beirut for this article, and Steven Erlanger from Jerusalem.

Israel, Hezbollah Intensify Ground Conflict in Lebanon

By Scott Wilson and Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 21, 2006; A01

JERUSALEM, July 20 -- Israeli ground forces and Hezbollah guerrillas engaged in heavy fighting inside Lebanon on Thursday, as senior Israeli defense officials braced the country for a long conflict against the radical Islamic groups on its borders and indicated that a large ground operation could still lie ahead.

The Israeli military said at least two soldiers were killed and six others wounded in the fighting, the most intense ground exchange in the current military campaign. Israeli military officials later said two Apache attack helicopters collided at Ramot Naftali, about two miles inside the Israeli border, just after midnight. Israel's army radio said there were four casualties in the crash, Reuters news agency reported.

Israeli military aircraft pounded targets across Lebanon for a ninth straight day amid growing international calls for Israel to suspend a bombing campaign that has ravaged that country's civilian population. The airstrikes swelled the ranks of the displaced and accelerated the evacuation of U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals, thousands of whom sailed away from the tattered country in a chartered cruise ship and a military transport vessel.

Using local radio stations and other media, Israel warned the roughly 300,000 Lebanese civilians who live south of the Litani River, which runs about 25 miles north of Israel's border with Lebanon, to abandon their homes. Israeli officials, meanwhile, indicated that a large ground offensive could follow as rocket fire continued into Israel's Galilee region, although at a diminished rate.

During a tour of northern Israel, where more than 850 rockets have rained down since Hezbollah gunmen captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the radical Shiite Muslim militia "must not think that we would recoil from using all kinds of military measures against it."

"We have no intention of occupying Lebanon, but we also have no intention of retreating from any military measures needed," Peretz said. The comments left open the possibility that Israel could move forces into southern Lebanon, the restive, Shiite-dominated region it has occupied before. Israeli military officials have raised the need to clear Hezbollah forces from a 12-mile-wide swath inside the Lebanese border to increase the distance between the group's increasingly long-range arsenal and the Israeli cities in the firing line.

Israeli officials have dismissed international proposals for a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, saying they need more time to bombard Hezbollah launch sites, bunkers and supply routes before considering a cease-fire. They say the bombing effort has severely damaged Hezbollah forces -- an assertion denied by the group's leaders in Lebanon.

Hezbollah gunmen fired about 40 rockets into Israel, about a third of the number they fired the previous day. There were no casualties reported from Thursday's rocket strikes, which have killed 15 Israeli civilians since fighting began.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday urged Israel to halt its military operations in Lebanon, claiming it is inflicting unacceptable harm on civilians while increasing Hezbollah's popularity and undercutting Lebanon's fledgling democracy. But he voiced pessimism about the prospects for a quick halt to the violence and urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties in the meantime and provide access for humanitarian relief workers throughout Lebanon.

"The Lebanese people, who had hoped that their country's dark days were behind them, have been brutally dragged back into the war," Annan told the U.N. Security Council. He was accompanied by former Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar, who had just returned from leading a peace mission in the region.

"Let me be frank with the council," Annan said. "The mission's assessment is that there are serious obstacles to reaching a cease-fire, or even diminishing the violence quickly."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice launched her diplomatic effort at a working dinner with Annan on Thursday, with a Security Council briefing scheduled for Friday morning. The United States is now working on a package of ideas for Rice to take the region when she begins talks early next week, with timing and locations still up in the air, U.S. officials said.

The fighting near the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras, just across the border from the Israeli farming community of Avivim, pointed up Hezbollah's skill at fighting in terrain it has spent years preparing against another Israeli invasion. Sixteen Israeli soldiers have been killed so far on the northern front, and 61 have been wounded.

Heavy fighting broke out several times throughout the day after Israeli tanks and bulldozers pushed a few hundred yards inside Lebanon in search of tunnels, bunkers and posts used by Hezbollah gunmen.

The clashes involved small-arms fire and antitank missiles. Israeli attack helicopters provided support as soldiers removed the wounded. Hezbollah's television station, al-Manar, said two Israeli tanks were destroyed in the clashes.

Lebanese officials say more than 300 Lebanese have died in the fighting, nearly all of them civilian, while more than 1,000 others have been wounded. It is unclear how many Hezbollah gunmen have died in the airstrikes or ground fighting.

In a statement, Hezbollah officials said bombing by Israel on Wednesday night that was described as an attack on a bunker in fact hit a mosque under construction and caused no injuries to senior Hezbollah leaders.

Hezbollah members of parliament, who number a dozen among the legislature's 128 members, appeared on Lebanese television to vow steadfastness and declare that the group's arsenal still has plenty of weapons for retaliatory strikes against Israeli towns. Hezbollah officials escorted journalists around their southern Beirut stronghold to show the damage to what they said were civilian residences.

Israeli aircraft roamed the southern Lebanese skies looking for targets, continuing their campaign to blast Hezbollah infrastructure and prevent vehicles from resupplying the militia's forces. But missile attacks seemed to diminish in the area around Beirut as foreign governments, including that of the United States, continued evacuation operations.

In the Gaza Strip, where Israeli tanks and troops clashed with gunmen from the governing Hamas movement's military wing, the death toll rose on Israel's second front. Palestinian hospital officials said four Palestinians were killed, including two children, as Israeli forces attacked Palestinian positions in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza for a second day.

[On Friday, Israeli tanks and troops withdrew from the Mughazi camp, Reuters reported, citing witnesses and an Israeli army spokeswoman.

"Yes, our forces are out, but it is important to emphasize that operations in Gaza continue," Reuters quoted the spokeswoman as saying.]

Hamas's military wing helped stage the June 25 cross-border raid on an army post in which a 19-year-old Israeli soldier was captured. Its members also regularly fire rockets into southern Israel, something Israeli officials say must stop. Hospital officials put the two-day casualty toll at 11 dead and more than 170 wounded.

About 40 Marines came ashore in a Maronite Christian area in Lebanon just north of Beirut to help U.S. nationals board a landing craft and move to the USS Nashville, a warship looming offshore. The Ocean Queen, a cruise ship chartered by Washington, returned late in the day for a second load of Americans.

U.S. authorities in Beirut also used a bus convoy Thursday to evacuate 341 American citizens from battered southern Lebanon and moved approximately 2,250 people out of the country on helicopters and sea vessels, military and diplomatic officials said. The departures marked the largest group of U.S. citizens to leave Lebanon on a single day since Israeli airstrikes began.

Since Marine helicopters first began lifting people out of Beirut on Sunday, the United States has been able to transport more than 3,850 citizens to safety, said Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs.

The U.S. move to rescue those in the south, the most dangerous area of the country, was hailed by U.S. officials as "successful," but they also said there could be more people there they just don't yet know about. Harty said another evacuation from southern Lebanon was possible. She urged U.S. citizens trapped there to "continue to stand fast" and monitor Lebanese radio for updates.

Harty said the 341 citizens who were bused out of southern Lebanon were scheduled to board a cruise ship for Cyprus.

European and other governments also proceeded with evacuations of their nationals, most of them Lebanese with foreign passports who had returned for summer vacations. Officials estimated that more than 12,000 foreigners have been taken out of the country in the past three days.

The Israeli public, while so far largely supportive of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's war effort, has been generally less tolerant of ground operations since Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the bloody 18-year occupation that followed. Israel left southern Lebanon in May 2000.

Amos Yaron, a retired general who commanded the paratroop division that entered Beirut in 1982, said that "people make a lot of mistakes when they are drawing lessons" from the Lebanon invasion.

"We didn't have any problem entering Lebanon in 1982," Yaron said. "The problem was leaving it."

Yaron said he believes a ground operation might be necessary before the fighting ends. "At the end of the day," he said, "you have to take Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. No one will do it for you."

Yagil Levy, a professor of public policy at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba and author of the "The Other Army of Israel," said most of Israel's senior commanders served as young officers during the 1982 invasion and the Hezbollah attacks that followed during the occupation.

He said the leadership is suffering "schizophrenia" from the lessons it learned from that experience. On the one hand, he said, military commanders understand "never to get involved in a war of attrition" that turns the Israeli public against it.

"But the opposite element is that some of these people carry with them a lot of frustration," Levy said. "For some of these officers, this operation now is something like unfinished business."

Cody reported from Beirut. Staff writers Josh White and Robin Wright in Washington and Colum Lynch at the United Nations also contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company


From Central Command:

Release Date:
Release Number:

KIRKUK, Iraq (July 20, 2006) – Thursday morning, Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division and Bastogne Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division simultaneously surrounded and entered the cities of Hawija and Riyadh, just west of Kirkuk, searching for suspected al-Qaeda terrorists as combined Operation Gaugamela (gaw'guh-MEE-luh), gets underway.

The ongoing operation, requested by local Sunni Arab leaders, follows a series of terror attacks in the area, and comes as there are reports indicating the presence of al-Qaeda terror cells in the area. In the past five weeks, 31 Iraqi soldiers have been killed in terrorist attacks in the region and just three days ago six policemen were killed in Hawija.

In Hawija, Bastogne Soldiers and Iraqi Security Forces surrounded the city, blocking off escape routes, as another combined force air assaulted into the market in the heart of the city. The units are cordoning off the area and searching for terrorist forces. Meanwhile, Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces surrounded the village of Riyadh, approximately 10 miles away, and are also searching that city.

Operation Gaugamela is named for the battle in which Alexander drove the Persian army from the city of Gaugamela.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Extremists linked to drug trade



July 18, 2006
Release # 060718-07

Extremists linked to drug trade

KABUL , Afghanistan – Coalition Soldiers have seized an estimated $3 million in opium from an extremist compound July 13 after a Coalition patrol held off more than two dozen fighters until additional firepower arrived.
Following the engagement, the Soldiers found five dead extremists, but believe many more were killed.
A search of the compound found 70 kilograms of opium paste, a rocket propelled grenade launcher, four rockets, an AK-47 and ammunition, a passport and other documents.
“Recovering these weapons and drugs increases the safety and security of Afghans, and reduces the danger posed by criminals and extremists who might use those munitions indiscriminately to cause harm on the Afghan people, Afghan security forces or Coalition forces ,” said Col. Thomas Collins, Coalition spokesman. “This engagement also confirms with physical evidence that the extremists are linked to the drug trade in southern Afghanistan .”

Israeli Tanks in Central Gaza; Fighting Is Fierce

The New York Times
July 19, 2006
The South

Israeli Tanks in Central Gaza; Fighting Is Fierce

GAZA CITY, Wednesday, July 19 — Just hours after withdrawing from the northern Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks moved into central Gaza early Wednesday, encountering fierce fighting that wounded at least three Israeli soldiers. One Palestinian was killed, Reuters reported.

The renewed fighting after a day of relative calm came as the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, returned to the territory from his home on the West Bank for meetings with United Nations envoys.

With Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon, the fighting in Gaza has been largely overlooked. But people continue to die daily in the territory, with 103 Palestinians killed so far, and Palestinian fighters continue to fire rockets into Israel.

Late Tuesday, Palestinian militants fired two homemade Qassam rockets from Beit Hanoun, which earlier in the day was vacated by Israeli tanks. The rockets, simple finned tubes carrying just a few pounds of explosives, landed near Sderot, Israel, without causing injuries, according to an Israeli Army spokesman.

The current crisis began with a raid by Palestinian militants on an Israeli Army post, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and one, Cpl. Galid Shalit, 19, was taken prisoner.

But Palestinians are quick to point out that the dying began long before Corporal Shalit was captured, when what they say was shelling from an Israeli gunboat in early June in response to rocket attacks killed a family of seven while they were picnicking on a northern Gaza beach. Israel denied responsibility.

The abduction of Corporal Shalit set off an initially strong Israeli response, in which roads and bridges, the territory’s main power station and government offices were bombed. Most border crossings were closed and Israeli forces eventually moved into central Gaza, cutting the roughly 28-mile-long strip in two. Israel arrested 8 of the 24 ministers in the Hamas-led government and 20 members of the Palestinian parliament.

But the intensity of the initial assault waned as negotiations with the Palestinians’ Hamas-led government began through Egyptian mediators. Hezbollah’s attack on Israeli troops along the Lebanese border soon drew attention and resources away.

Israel withdrew from central Gaza last week and its incursions since then have been relatively light, limited to menacing tank and artillery fire without penetrating far into the territory. Most of their activity has been airstrikes focused on individual militants or suspected munitions factories.

On Tuesday, as Israel withdrew from the north, there were hopeful signs of normalcy. The border crossing with Egypt opened to allow traffic into Gaza. The Palestinian cabinet members not under arrest, including the prime minister, Ismail Haniya, and the foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar, met at Mr. Haniya’s office. Both he and Mr. Zahar are on Israel’s list of targeted officials and have not often been seen in public since the crisis began.

On Tuesday evening, Mr. Abbas arrived for meetings with United Nations envoys in hopes of ending the conflict. The United Nations delegation, led by Vijay Nambiar, met with Israeli officials in Jerusalem earlier Tuesday.

But by midnight the boom of artillery fire once again echoed across northern Gaza, and by early Wednesday the Israeli Army was moving back into the middle of the territory. The target this time was the Maghazi refugee camp, north of Khan Yunis and not far from where Israel had earlier cut Gaza in two.

The refugee camp, which has grown into a crowded town since it was established a half century ago, is near the fence separating Gaza from Israel.

The Israeli Army said the incursion began late Tuesday with tank movements on the Israeli side of the border. It said it encountered heavy fighting as it entered the refugee camp and that “three or four” soldiers had been wounded. It did not say whether they were seriously hurt.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

U.N. Force in Lebanon Offers Harsh Realities and Lessons

The New York Times
July 19, 2006

HOSH, Lebanon, July 18 — Buried in the rubble of one of the homes demolished in Israel’s relentless bombardment of southern Lebanon was a stark illustration of why the United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts have been seen as ineffective.

A Ghanaian member of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, known as Unifil, was killed along with his family here on Sunday by an Israeli bomb. And more than 24 hours later, peacekeeping troops could not even leave their base to dig out his body, because the short trip to his house was too dangerous.

“They are barely able to take care of themselves,” said Timur Goksel, who spent 20 years as an official with Unifil, and now lectures at American University in Beirut. “How can you expect them to do their work? It’s a mini-force with small engineering capacity and a narrow area of operation right along the border. What can anyone expect them to do?”

The saga of the troops, who are charged with keeping the peace and observing the border, offers a sobering reminder of the grueling realities of peacekeeping to politicians hoping that a new United Nations contingent might be the solution in Lebanon.

And, peacekeeping experts say, it offers lessons on how to shape a more effective force.

On Monday, Secretary General Kofi Annan, backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, called for a new stabilization detachment in southern Lebanon.

Mr. Annan said that the unit would have to be much larger than the existing 2,000-man Unifil, and that it would operate with a broader mandate, which would give it the ability to stabilize Lebanon so that the government could gain control of the south and “sort out the question of the disarmament of the militia.” It is not clear if Mr. Annan will propose that any new force be drawn from major powers.

Mr. Annan, who returns to New York from Europe on Wednesday, is expected to brief the Security Council on Thursday. Creating a blue-helmeted contingent will require a Council resolution, a requirement that can delay swift action.

In a telephone interview from Brussels, Mr. Annan said, “I will be appealing for their political will for action because around the world people do not understand why the Council has not been able to act when the Middle East is burning.”

The Council has met three times to discuss Lebanon without taking any action or making any statement. On Monday, John R. Bolton, the American ambassador, discouraged talk of either a multilateral force or a cease-fire, both proposals that Mr. Annan has made.

Mr. Annan said he questioned a call from Israel to set up its own security cordon in south Lebanon. “They may call it what they want, but to the others it will be an occupation, since it will be on somebody else’s territory,” he said. “You need a third party, hence my suggestion for a stabilization force.”

Mr. Goksel emphasized that any unit with the job of deterring actions would immediately be seen as an attempt to rein in Hezbollah.

“This will immediately be seen as an occupation force, and then the trouble will start,” Mr. Goksel said.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the under secretary general for peacekeeping, said the problems confronting Unifil were ones frequently experienced when peace broke down.

“One should never forget that peace is made by those who fought, it is not made for them by the international community,” he said in a telephone interview from Brussels, where he was accompanying Mr. Annan.

When Unifil was formed in 1978, it was meant as an interim force to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, restore security in the area and help the government regain authority over the area. But to many here, Unifil gradually became a lifeline, too, as a series of flare-ups and wars forced the mission to undertake humanitarian missions as well.

Undermanned and often outgunned, Unifil did not have the political backing of major powers to enforce peace.

At times, the force served as a successful buffer in Lebanon, but ultimately the system broke down. Unifil troops failed to control first Palestinian guerrillas, then Israeli occupiers, and then the Hezbollah militia, which drove out the Israelis.

The Unifil force shrank significantly after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000. It has 2,000 members today, including Indian, Ghanaian, French, Italian and Polish troops and aides, down from more than 6,000 troops and aides at its peak.

The unit was reduced deliberately, according to United Nations diplomats, in an effort to pressure the Lebanese government to take action to disarm Hezbollah and declare its authority over the south.

That number of troops has proven woefully low as the bombing campaign began last week. The force has had a hard time supplying its own bases and observation posts in the south.

They have about a week of diesel fuel left and are running short of food and water, and the bases have come under fire, said Richard Morczenski, a civil affairs officer with the force.

“If you operate in a war zone and you are also helping people, there are risks, calculated risks, but risks nonetheless,” Mr. Goksel said. “That’s why you have armies doing the job.”

Hassan M. Fattah reported from Hosh for this article, and Warren Hoge from the United Nations

Evacuations Underway in Beirut

The Washington Post

Israel Continues Deadly Airstrikes; Hezbollah Fires Scores of Rockets

By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 19, 2006; A01

BEIRUT, July 18 -- By helicopter and ship, hundreds of Americans and Europeans fled on Tuesday from Beirut, ending its first week of siege, as casualties mounted in deadly Israeli raids that struck a Lebanese military base, a truck carrying food from Syria and a village near the border. The militant group Hezbollah fired at least 100 rockets into Israel, killing one civilian.

On a sweltering day, Norwegian, Swedish, Greek and British ships pulled into Beirut's harbor, most of them trying to load their passengers before nightfall. From a helipad at the U.S. Embassy overlooking Beirut, the dull thud of rotors announced the arrival of helicopters, which ferried passengers to the island of Cyprus, taking 30 people on each trip. Other U.S. citizens waited, growing more frustrated over having to endure another day of a conflict that has begun to impose a wartime logic in the city.

"I had to come and cry at the door of the U.S. Embassy, kissing hand and foot, telling them they must let me leave," said Raba Letteri, a child-care provider from Reston, Va., who was on vacation in Lebanon with her husband and two children.

They were living near Beirut's international airport, a swath of the capital barraged in Israeli airstrikes. Her 2-year-old son, Aaron, had a stomach infection. As they waited to board, he burst into tears. "This is the worst thing in my life," she said.

Through the day, Beirut itself was relatively quiet. Life returned to some streets so far unscathed by the attacks. Even traffic in the battered Shiite Muslim suburbs, Hezbollah's stronghold, trickled past the rubble of destroyed bridges and the shattered glass from apartment buildings that littered the streets. To some, the day was a brief respite as evacuations got underway. What might follow the foreigners' departure was a question many asked.

"I feel in my heart that after the foreigners leave, big problems are on the way," said Jamil Abu Hassan, a burly 56-year-old, loitering near the port. "Today, the embassies are taking their people. Tomorrow, the next day? God knows what will happen."

Hezbollah fired at least 100 rockets at Israel on Tuesday, including a large barrage an hour before sunset, striking about 10 towns and cities across northern Israel, from Haifa on the Mediterranean coast to tourist communities in the southern Galilee region. [Two big explosions reverberated over Beirut early Wednesday, and missiles hit towns to the east and south of the capital, the Associated Press reported.]

One Israeli was killed Tuesday in a rocket strike in Nahariya about four miles south of Lebanon on the coast, the Israeli military reported. Twenty-one people were injured. So far, in the fighting, 25 Israelis have been killed, including 12 soldiers.

[Israeli forces entered the central Gaza Strip early Wednesday and clashed with Palestinian militants, the Reuters news agency reported. Witnesses reported heavy gunfire near the Maghazi Refugee Camp, not far from the Gaza Strip's border with Israel. There were no immediate reports of casualties.]

Several rockets struck Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, about 22 miles south of Lebanon, where eight civilians were killed in a rocket barrage Sunday, the Israeli military said. The city's port remained closed for a second day because of the danger.

More than 720 Hezbollah rockets -- a small portion of the militant Islamic group's arsenal -- have struck Israel since hostilities began a week ago, when Hezbollah crossed the border and seized two Israeli soldiers. In the wake of the attack, Israel has unleashed a destructive military offensive that has killed more than 230 Lebanese, most of them civilians. The country's airport is closed, and the south is largely cut off from the rest of the country by wrecked roads and collapsed bridges.

The Israeli military said its jets flew about 110 raids over Lebanon on Tuesday, part of a campaign that has created competing narratives of the war. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the raids were targeting trucks carrying Hezbollah weapons, Katyusha rocket launchers in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah weapons storage facilities, bridges and roads used to transport weapons and fighters -- "all of this to damage the Hezbollah infrastructure," she said. In Lebanon, anger grew at the number of civilians killed and the dismantling of infrastructure that many Lebanese saw as their greatest achievement in the post-civil war era.

"This is a city of ghosts," said Adib Hourani, a 26-year-old gas station attendant, pointing down a deserted street.

In Aitaroun, a village near the Israeli border, a family of five was killed, although some witness accounts put the toll at nine. On the twisting mountain road to Damascus, an Israeli raid struck a truck carrying sacks of sugar and rice bound for Beirut, as well as two other large trucks, a pair of sedans and a four-wheel-drive taxi. In Kfar Chima, a Lebanese army base took a direct hit as troops rushed to bomb shelters, killing at least 11 Lebanese soldiers and wounding 35, the military said. Black fires stained nearby cinder-block tenements, and charred, twisted fenders, engine blocks and debris were scattered along the highway overlooking the base.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that Israel wants the Lebanese army to deploy to the border, now under the effective control of Hezbollah, but on several occasions, Israeli aircraft have targeted Lebanese military installations.

An Israeli military spokeswoman, Capt. Noa Meir, said the military was checking reports of the strike on the base, reiterating that Israeli forces were "doing everything we can to keep civilians and the Lebanese military out of harm's way."

Even the most optimistic Lebanese officials have acknowledged that diplomacy to end the conflict remains at its initial stages. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan have suggested that a U.N. force deploy to the Lebanese border. Annan said the force would have to be more effective than the current U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, which was largely ineffective in stopping either Hezbollah or Israel.

Although some European countries have expressed support, both the United States and Israel have responded coolly, and Israeli officials, after meeting U.N. negotiators Tuesday, said that the campaign will not let up before the soldiers are released and Hezbollah withdraws from the Israeli border. For their part, Hezbollah officials seem to have become convinced that the stakes of the war have become much higher: a U.S.-backed Israeli plan to strategically realign the region.

To a striking degree, both the Israeli public and Hezbollah's supporters seem prepared for a longer struggle.

A poll in Tuesday's Yedioth Aharonoth, an Israeli daily, found that 86 percent of those surveyed said that the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah was "the right thing to do," and 81 percent wanted it to continue; 58 percent said it should continue until Hezbollah is destroyed, and 17 percent said they favored a cease-fire and the start of negotiations.

In Beirut's southern suburbs, where trash has piled up on corners and shops were almost uniformly shuttered, Abbas Fattuni sat with a friend smoking a water pipe in front of his auto parts store. They watched the traffic, enjoying the respite of bombing in the capital.

"We're nothing without the resistance," he said, as his friend nodded his agreement between puffs. "When a Lebanese dies, anywhere in the country, no one in the Arab world lifts a finger. Only the resistance takes care of them."

Across Lebanon, the siege began reverberating in people's lives. The price for items like kerosene for cooking and flour have all increased. Residents are withdrawing money from banks and trying to convert their Lebanese pounds into U.S. dollars, fearing a devaluation. The price of gasoline in the southern city of Tyre has increased more than sixfold.

"Six days, no sleep. We couldn't even buy bread," said Mirna Ballout, a 30-year-old Lebanese American who left Tyre on Monday and was standing outside the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday. "It's not fair -- whether it's for Hezbollah or whether it's for Israel. It's just not fair for the people living here."

Her two sons, Bassam, 7, and Yassine, 4, leaned against a suitcase. A few hours earlier, she comforted them after they thought a car door slamming was a bomb. Her daughter, 9-year-old Dana, held the handle of her pink Hello Kitty suitcase and recounted the days, her eyes wide with fear and surprise. "It's my first time," she said. "That was why I was really scared."

She smiled. "I hope this is my last time."

The helicopters ferried what the embassy called special cases on Tuesday -- the sick, elderly and families with young children. Officials said 136 American students studying at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University were evacuated aboard a Norwegian vessel from Beirut's port.

U.S. officials said they believe they will have the capability to transport as many as 2,400 U.S. citizens out of Lebanon on Wednesday, using two civilian cruise ships and Marine Corps helicopters to ferry people to nearby Cyprus. The boosted evacuation effort could include the removal of more than 5,000 citizens by the end of the week.

State and Defense department officials said they have been limited to air and sea evacuations because they have deemed the roads leading out of the country into Syria to be too hazardous. The Orient Queen cruise ship, with the ability to carry 800 to 1,000 people, docked in Beirut on Tuesday night and was preparing to leave for Cyprus at dawn Wednesday. A second ship, slated to carry about 1,400 people, was also scheduled to be available Wednesday.

Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, said sailors and Marines from the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit had been ordered to the Mediterranean Sea to assist in the large-scale evacuation. Nine U.S. warships were headed to the region to provide security and, if needed, to help transport civilians to safety.

One of those departing was Adam al-Sarraf, a 20-year-old American from Los Angeles, who was studying Arabic at the American University of Beirut. His Iraqi-born father, working in Baghdad, had called to give him advice: Get off the fifth floor and stay in the basement. Watch out for the windows. The two planned to meet in Amman after the son was evacuated.

"The students really sympathize with the people here," Sarraf said, standing on the campus before his departure to the port, where he was to board a Norwegian ship. "We understand they're going through much more than we are."

Correspondent John Ward Anderson in Jerusalem, staff writer Josh White in Washington, and staff photographer Michael Robinson-Chavez and special correspondent Alia Ibrahim in Beirut contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

U.S. Appears to Be Waiting to Act on Israeli Airstrikes

The New York Times

July 19, 2006
U.S. Appears to Be Waiting to Act on Israeli Airstrikes

WASHINGTON, July 18 — The outlines of an American-Israeli consensus began to emerge on Tuesday in which Israel would continue to bombard Lebanon for about another week to degrade the capabilities of the Hezbollah militia, officials of the two countries said.

Then, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go to the region and seek to establish a buffer zone in southern Lebanon and perhaps an international force to monitor Lebanon’s borders to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining more rockets with which to bombard Israel.

American officials signaled that Ms. Rice was waiting at least a few more days before wading into the conflict, in part to give Israel more time to weaken Hezbollah forces.

The strategy carries risk, partly because it remains unclear just how long the rest of the world, particularly America’s Arab allies, will continue to stay silent as the toll on Lebanese civilians rises.

On Tuesday, the seventh day of the face-off, Israeli warplanes battered more targets in Lebanon, killing 30 people, including 11 members of the Lebanese Army, when bombs hit their barracks east of Beirut. Four of the dead were officers, and 30 more soldiers were wounded.

In southern Lebanon, nine members of a single family were killed and four wounded in an Israeli airstrike on their house in the village of Aitaroun, near the Israeli border.

Some 500,000 Lebanese have fled their homes to escape the violence, the United Nations estimated.

Hezbollah rockets again hit Israel’s port city of Haifa and Nahariya, a coastal town just south of the border, where one man died and several were wounded, one critically. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis continued to spend their time in shelters, and Haifa was largely shut down, with only grocery stores and pharmacies open. More than 130 rockets were fired, Israeli officials said.

American officials said Washington was discussing with its Arab allies and Israel how to beef up Lebanon’s borders, a central Israeli demand. Israel has been lukewarm to the idea of an international force in Lebanon, but is willing to consider such a deployment if it includes troops from major powers and is used to prevent Hezbollah from supplementing its arsenal.

On Tuesday, Israel said it blew up six more long-range rockets that it said were being transported by road into Lebanon from Syria.

American and Israeli officials are also contemplating a 12-mile buffer zone in southern Lebanon to keep Hezbollah away from the Israeli border. While disarming Hezbollah entirely remains Israel’s goal, it is no longer demanding that as a condition of a cease-fire, officials said.

Israeli airplanes have been pounding Hezbollah targets, in particular the two dozen or so long-range rockets in the militant group’s arsenal believed to be capable of hitting Tel Aviv.

Israel had made clear that it does not want Ms. Rice to begin a peacemaking effort yet, and the Bush administration has, for the time being, gone along with an Israeli request for more latitude. President Bush and American officials have resisted joining other world leaders in calling for an immediate cease-fire, reflecting the Israeli view that reaching a truce before destroying a significant number of Hezbollah’s missiles would open Israel up to the possibility of more attacks.

President Bush, as he has repeatedly, said Tuesday that Israel must be allowed to defend itself. “Everybody abhors the loss of innocent life,” he said, speaking at the White House before a meeting with Congressional members. “On the other hand, what we recognize is that the root cause of the problem is Hezbollah.”

“Some people are uncomfortable with the American position, and we’re very careful how we talk about it,” a senior American official said yesterday. “We are not going to be wagering with the lives of innocent people here,” he said, adding that privately, Bush administration officials are telling the Israelis that there is a limit to how much more time the United States will be able to give Israel. He spoke on condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules.

Beyond the desire to give Israel time to weaken Hezbollah militarily, administration officials said Ms. Rice should not go to the region until she can actually produce results. Israel, which is trying to destroy the military capacity of Hezbollah and secure the release of two captured soldiers, said it is targeting only Hezbollah and not the Lebanese Army, although attacks on Monday and Tuesday killed 19 Lebanese soldiers.

Again on Tuesday, cities and towns in southern Lebanon and the densely packed slums at the southern edge of Beirut that are Hezbollah’s stronghold bore the brunt of the barrage. While the Israelis say they have carefully targeted 1,000 sites thus far, the attacks seem to have spread almost randomly across the country.

A cement truck near Jbeil, also known as the ancient city of Byblos, up the coastline in Christian territory, was hit on Tuesday. The Israeli military said the vehicle was suspected of carrying weapons.

The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, criticized the world for not stopping the Israeli offensive. “The international community is not doing all that is can in order to stop Israel continuing its aggression against Lebanon,” Mr. Siniora said in an interview in his Beirut office. “They are stopping short of exercising the necessary pressure on Israel while Israel is taking this as a green light.”

In other comments, he accused Israel of “committing massacres against Lebanese civilians and working to destroy everything that allows Lebanon to stay alive.”

As the bombs and rockets fell, diplomats and officials continued to debate the effectiveness of any new international force that could patrol the border and help Lebanon implement United Nations Security Council resolutions that call for Hezbollah to be disarmed and for the Lebanese government to extend its authority over the whole country.

A team sent by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan met in Jerusalem on Tuesday with senior Israeli officials, including the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and top aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Mr. Olmert dropped in at the end of their meeting to explain the Israeli position, Israeli officials said, underlining his skepticism about how any new force might work.

Mr. Olmert, in a televised speech to Parliament on Monday night, said that Israel would continue fighting until its soldiers were free, the Lebanese Army was deployed along the border and Hezbollah was effectively disarmed in line with Security Council Resolution 1559. Hezbollah has consistently rejected those terms.

In the last seven days, the Israelis have carried out about 2,000 sorties by warplanes and attack helicopters and hit 650 targets, the Israeli Army said.

After meeting the United Nations envoys, Ms. Livni said Israel would insist that any settlement include provisions to ensure that Iran and Syria cannot rearm Hezbollah, perhaps through some form of international monitoring at the Syrian border and the Beirut airport. Israel has bombed the airport and routes from Syria, and has put a sea blockade on Lebanese ports.

Ms. Livni said that any settlement must “end the Iranian and Syrian control over Lebanese and Israeli lives” and repeated Israel’s demand that its three captured soldiers — two by Hezbollah and one by Hamas and other militants in Gaza — be released “immediately and without conditions.”

Mr. Annan said in Brussels that any force must have a different set of instructions from the current, toothless United Nations force, known as Unifil, still in southern Lebanon. “It is urgent that the international community acts to make a difference on the ground,” Mr. Annan said.

Giora Eiland, until recently Israel’s national security adviser, said an international force is not in Israel’s interest if it acts just as a buffer. It can only be effective, he said, “if the other side does not want any provocation and wants to maintain quiet” and “if there’s a credible address on the other side” with control over Lebanon.

Israel should, he said, insist that any international force “make it possible for Lebanon to do what it has to do and not be a buffer between us and them, which would reduce the Lebanese government’s responsibility.”

Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel, the president of the Iranian Parliament, told a rally in Tehran on Tuesday that Israelis should “flee occupied Palestine.” He called Israel “this filthy tumor” that “lies in the body of the Islamic world,” and he warned the United States that as long as Israel exists, “Muslims will not stop hating America.”

In other attacks in Lebanon on Tuesday, a convoy of medical goods donated by the United Arab Emirates was hit in the Bekaa region near Zahle, a mostly Christian town on one of the few open roads linking Syria and Beirut. Two trucks were destroyed and their drivers killed.

The evacuation of foreigners continued for a second day as a ferry chartered by the French government carrying over 1,200 people reached Cyprus. The American Embassy began airlifting its citizens by helicopter, with some 320 Americans scheduled to leave by the end of the day, and another 1,000 on Wednesday. About 8,000 Americans are registered with the embassy but there are an estimated 25,000 Americans or dual nationals living in Lebanon. Britain sent six ships to the region.

In the interview, Mr. Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, said that he favored a release of the two Israeli soldiers. But he coupled that call with other requirements.

Any solution to the crisis, he said, should include Israel’s withdrawal from the disputed Shebaa Farms area of the border, the release of Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails and a return to the terms of the 1949 armistice between the two countries.

He suggested the Lebanese Army would move to southern Lebanon once these conditions were met. He backed the idea of a more robust international force, but only after “all the issues” were put on the table, and he stopped short of condemning Hezbollah for inviting the Israeli attacks on the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, Beirut settled into its first week of violence and conflict. Many shops, banks and stores opened for a few hours in the morning, but closed much earlier than usual. The city streets were calm, with little traffic.

In the newly rebuilt city center, where thousands of tourists and Lebanese usually gather at the end of the day to smoke a water pipe, meet for a drink before dinner, or take the children for a walk, there were only private security guards and soldiers. Beirut’s luxury stores, famous throughout the region, were shut.

Helene Cooper reported from Washington for this article, and Steven Erlanger from Jerusalem. Greg Myre contributed reporting from Haifa, Israel, and Jad Mouawad from Beirut, Lebanon.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Israeli ground troops enter Lebanon

Yahoo News
July 19, 2006

Israeli ground troops enter Lebanon
By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer

Israel declared Tuesday it was ready to fight Hezbollah guerrillas for several more weeks, raising doubts about international efforts to broker an immediate cease-fire in the fighting that has killed more than 260 people and displaced 500,000. The military said early Wednesday it sent some troops into southern Lebanon searching for tunnels and weapons.

Despite the diplomatic activity, Israel is in no hurry to end its offensive, which it sees as a unique opportunity to crush Hezbollah. The Islamic militants appear to have steadily built up their military strength after Israel pulled its troops out of southern Lebanon in 2000.

Israeli warplanes struck an army base outside Beirut and other areas in south Lebanon on Tuesday, killing 27 people, and Hezbollah rockets battered Israeli towns, killing one Israeli. Five big explosions reverberated over Beirut early Wednesday, and missiles hit towns to the east and south of the capital.

At daybreak Wednesday, a small number of Israeli troops were operating just across the border inside southern Lebanon, looking for tunnels and weapons, the Israeli military said without providing any more details.

The incursion came a day after Israel indicated that it might send large numbers of ground troops into the southern Lebanon, but Israel's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman denied Wednesday's operation was part of any such operation.

"What is going on at the moment is a number of Israeli ground troops very near to the border on the Lebanese side, trying to destroy some Hezbollah outposts," he told CNN.

"This is an operation which is very measured, very local," he said. "This is no way an invasion of Lebanon. This is no way the beginning of any kind of occupation of Lebanon."

Israel's forecast of a lengthy campaign, coupled with President Bush's evident reluctance to bring pressure on Israel to agree to a cease-fire, seemed to quash any hopes for an early resolution of the crisis, now entering its second week.

Hundreds of Americans and Europeans fled Lebanon aboard ships, and hundreds of other foreigners prepared to evacuate in coming days. Many Americans complained over what they saw as a slow U.S. response. And after criticism from Congress, the State Department dropped plans to ask Americans to pay for their evacuations on commercial vessels.

Families in southern Lebanon, the site of most Israeli airstrikes, drove north on side roads, winding among orange and banana groves and waving improvised white flags from their car windows.

In an interview with the BBC, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said Israel is "opening the gates of hell and madness" on his country. He urged Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, to release two captured Israeli soldiers but said Israel's response had been disproportionate.

Bush said he suspects Syria is trying to reassert influence in Lebanon more than a year after Damascus ended what had effectively been a long-term military occupation of its smaller, weaker neighbor.

"We have made it very clear that Israel should be allowed to defend herself," Bush said in Washington. "We've asked that as she does so that she be mindful of the Saniora government. It's very important that this government in Lebanon succeed and survive."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert blamed Iran for sparking the clashes between Israel and Hezbollah, saying the country was trying to distract the world from the controversy over its nuclear program.

The offensive was sparked by the soldiers' capture July 12 but has now broadened into a campaign to neutralize Hezbollah.

"I think that we should assume that it will take a few more weeks," Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, head of the army's northern command, told Army Radio.

The army's deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski, said Israel has not ruled out deploying "massive ground forces into Lebanon."

Israel, which has mainly limited itself to attacks from the air and sea, had been reluctant to send in ground troops because Hezbollah is far more familiar with the terrain and because of memories of Israel's ill-fated 18-year-occupation of south Lebanon that ended in 2000.

But Kaplinski said Israel had no intention of getting bogged down for a second time.

"We certainly won't reach months, and I hope it also won't be many more weeks. But we still need time to complete the operation's very clear objectives," he told Israel Radio.

Israeli Cabinet minister Avi Dichter said the country may consider a prisoner swap with Lebanon to win the soldiers' release, but only after the military operation.

White House spokesman Tony Snow declined to react to Kaplinski's comments, but said the administration opposed a return to the situation before the outbreak of violence.

"A cease-fire that would leave intact a terrorist infrastructure is unacceptable," Snow said. "So what we're trying to do is work as best we can toward a cease-fire that is going to create not only the conditions, but the institutions for peace and democracy in the region."

Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting, which has killed at least 237 people in Lebanon and 25 in Israel, continued Tuesday, as a U.N. mediation team met with Israeli leaders a day after speaking with Lebanese officials in Beirut.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said a cease-fire is impossible unless the soldiers captured by Hezbollah in a cross-border raid are released and Lebanese troops are deployed along the border with a guarantee that Hezbollah would be disarmed. Her comments indicated Israel would not demand that Hezbollah be disarmed before any cease-fire deal can take effect.

A proposal to send a new international force to bolster the 2,000-member U.N. force in south Lebanon gained momentum.

Western nations have proposed the stronger force as part of a possible cease-fire agreement, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday that a new force must be "considerably" larger and better armed than the current force, which is viewed as weak and ineffectual. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also called for the introduction of a strong peacekeeping operation.

Livni said Israel's experience with the current U.N. force was "not satisfactory," and it prefers no such force in the long-term, but left open the possibility of a temporary international force.

In a statement, Olmert said he would be cautious about a new force. "It seems to be it's too early to debate it," he said.

The Israeli air force kept up its strikes early Wednesday with two major blasts that appeared to be from hits in Beirut's southern suburbs. Missiles also hit Chuweifat — a coastal town where several factories are located, just south of the capital — and Hadath, a mainly Christian town just east of Beirut, local television said. There were no immediate word of casualties.

On Tuesday, Israeli jets struck across southern Lebanon, hitting a military base at Kfar Chima as soldiers rushed to their bomb shelters, the Lebanese military said. At least 11 soldiers were killed in an engineering unit and 35 were wounded, it said. The base is adjacent to Hezbollah strongholds often targeted by recent Israeli strikes.

Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr denounced the strike as a "massacre," saying the regiment's main job was to help rebuild infrastructure. The Lebanese army has largely stayed out of the fighting, confining itself to firing anti-aircraft guns at Israeli planes. But Israeli jets have struck Lebanese army positions.

Israel did not give a reason for the strike on the base.

Nine members of the same family were killed when a bomb hit their house in the village of Aitaroun, near the border, Lebanon's state-run news agency said, citing the police. Israeli warplanes also struck southern Beirut, and hit four trucks that Israeli officials said were bringing in weapons.

"That is intolerable terrorist activity," said Capt. Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman.

Hezbollah guerrillas fired a barrage of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday afternoon, killing a man in the town of Nahariya and setting fire to the top of a two-story apartment building.

At least 100 rockets fell into Israel, hitting a string of towns, including the city of Haifa.

More than 750 rockets have hit Israel since the violence began, forcing hundreds of thousands of Israelis to take cover in underground shelters.

Some 500,000 people have been displaced in Lebanon by the violence, according to the U.N.'s most recent estimate.

With the fighting unabated, foreign citizens fled Lebanon on Tuesday.

Military helicopters ferried 120 Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, and 200 more left on a ship chartered by Sweden to rush out nearly 1,000 Europeans. About 180 British also left on a warship.

But a plan to evacuate more of the 25,000 Americans in the country on a cruise liner, the Orient Queen, was delayed a day.

Lebanese-American Jonathan Chakhtoura said he was extremely disappointed with the Americans' response.

"Every time I call to see what's going on the lines are busy. When they answer, they say they don't know," the 19-year-old fashion design student said. "A lot of people don't know what is going on. There is so much confusion. If it's security they are worried about, then I think we will be more secure if we know what is going on."


AP correspondents Sam F. Ghattas and Zeina Karam in Beirut, Lebanon, contributed to this report.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Diplomats Seek Foreign Patrols for Mideast

Bush's Bull Session: Loud And Clear, Chief

Just another reason to love the guy!

Cheney argues against Iraq timetable

The Democrats just don't get it.

Gunmen kill 50 in Iraqi market attack

Toll Climbs In Mideast As Fighting Rages On

Iraq Reconstruction Report 7-14-06

Central Command releases a weekly Iraq Reconstruction Report. I am going to start linking to it here. Click the link above or click here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More Iraq Progress


July 13, 2006

BAGHDAD – Iraq witnessed a historic event today with the transfer of security responsibility in Muthanna Province from the Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) to the Provincial Governor and civilian-controlled Iraqi Security Forces. The handover represents a milestone in the successful development of Iraq’s capability to govern and protect itself as a sovereign and democratic nation. Muthanna is the first of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be designated for such a transition.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

N. Korea missile aimed at area off Hawaii - report

TOKYO (Reuters) - A North Korean missile launched on Wednesday was aimed at an area of the ocean close to Hawaii, a Japanese newspaper reported on Friday.
Experts estimated the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile to have a range of up to 6,000 km, putting Alaska within its reach. Wednesday's launch apparently failed shortly after take-off and the missile landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, a few hundred kilometres from the launch pad.

But data from U.S. and Japanese Aegis radar-equipped destroyers and surveillance aircraft on the missile's angle of take-off and altitude indicated that it was heading for waters near Hawaii, the Sankei Shimbun reported, citing multiple sources in the United States and Japan.

North Korea may have targeted Hawaii to show the United States that it was capable of landing a missile there, or because it is home to the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific fleet, the paper said.

An alternative explanation might be that a missile could accidentally hit land if fired towards Alaska, the report said.

A separate report in the Mainichi Shimbun daily cited U.S. and Japanese government officials as saying a piece of the Taepodong-2 missile fell off immediately after take-off, strengthening the view that the launch was a failure.