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Saturday, August 19, 2006


Breaking the ceasefire

The news is filled with the story of Israel breaking the ceasefire in Lebanon; even the bold Kofi Annan said he was deeply concerned. Three points:
  1. Israel has already murdered numerous alleged Hizbollah fighters since the ceasefire went into place; not once have those attacks been labelled as "violations of the ceasefire." Yes, Israel says they were defensive acts against Hizbollah fighters pointing guns at them or whatever. Maybe they were. Is there any proof? And does Israel have the slightest credibility which would allow us to believe anything they say?
  2. News reports I have read and heard simply repeat the Israeli claim that this operation was a "defensive" operation intended to "stop arms smuggling." Not one has even asked the question of whether there is any proof for that assertion. Were there any captured or destroyed weapons, for example? As I said, not only haven't I heard the answer to that question, I haven't even heard the question.
  3. Finally, there is the question of how a "commando raid" could possibly be a serious way to stop arms smuggling. Hizbollah has thousands of rockets and was shooting them off a hundred or two a day. I'm no military expert, but that's more than will fit in a van or a truck or whatever it might be that a commando raid could intercept. If Hizbollah is going to be resupplied at a rate that would come anywhere close to replenishing what they used up, it's going to take a lot more than a "commando raid" to do the job. It would be kind of like thinking that Hizbollah could stop the U.S. from resupplying Israel with weapons with a commando raid. It's not going to happen.
Update: Score one for (some of) the print media. Although none of the American TV channels even hinted at it, the Los Angeles Times actually leads with (and headlines) the suggestion that this raid was not what it was claimed by the Israelis:
Israeli Incursion Strains Truce With Hezbollah

The military says it was trying to intercept arms, but observers suspect that it wanted to rescue soldiers or abduct a guerrilla for a swap.

The Israeli military said its special forces were trying to disrupt Hezbollah arms supply routes from Syria, contending that the Lebanese army was failing to prevent the militia from replenishing its weapons stockpiles.

But Israel produced no evidence of intercepted weapons. And the depth of the Israeli raid -- 60 miles inside Lebanon -- led to widespread speculation that the commandos might have been on a mission to rescue two Israeli soldiers seized by Hezbollah.

In addition to the speculation that the raid might have been a rescue operation, others contended that Israel might have been trying to seize a high-ranking Hezbollah guerrilla or cleric to be used in a prisoner swap. They noted that Boudai is the hometown of Sheik Mohammed Yazbek, a senior Hezbollah official in the Bekaa Valley.

"They were trying a kidnapping," said Hussein Hajj Hassan, a Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament from Baalbek. "People are very angry and upset."

At least one independent analyst expressed skepticism of Israel's claim that the raid was intended to intercept arms supplies. Arthur Hughes, former director-general of the Egypt-Israel Multinational Force and Observers, said the operation was so risky -- both for the Israeli soldiers and the country's international standing -- that he found the government's official explanation implausible.
The New York Times also broaches the subject, but only as an afterthought. Not until paragraph 17 (and hence likely to be cut in local papers reprinting the story) do we read:
The boldness of the raid during the truce suggested the Israelis might have had some major objective in mind, perhaps the rescue of their two captured comrades or the capture of a major Hezbollah figure. Boudai is the home village of Sheik Muhammad Yazbeck, a senior Hezbollah leader and member of the group’s Shura Council. The Israeli Army later said it had not captured him and denied his capture was the objective, The Associated Press reported.
Finally, the Washington Post beats the Times by one paragraph, with similar coverage in paragraph 16:
Local officials speculated that a senior Hezbollah leader, Sheik Mohammed Yazbek, may have been the commandos' target. Other Lebanese suggested that the raid may have been an attempt to recover two Israeli soldiers whose seizure by Hezbollah commandos on July 12 precipitated the war.
Much higher up in the article, however, the Post flagrantly rewrites history with this:
Until Saturday, Israel also had refrained from attacks of any size on Hezbollah fighters in the border area or on other Hezbollah installations farther north.
I'm sure the families of the half-dozen or so Hizbollah fighters killed since the ceasefire went into effect would be surprised to hear this.

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