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Scenes from the Lebanese Front: Insecurity and Crisis in the Middle East
I've been living in Lebanon for several months, and"until yesterday"greatly enjoying the experience. It's a wonderful county. The people are friendly. The cuisine is amazing. Beirut is bustling. The beaches in Tripoli are as beautiful as any in the world. The caves at Jeita make Carlsbad Caverns look like a trifle. And the mountains here are simply stunning.
Yesterday morning, the armed wing of Hezbollah"the Lebanese Islamic Resistance"killed seven Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two others in two, separate attacks along Lebanon's Southern border. The kidnapping of Israeli soldiers wasn't random, and it's hard to call it "terrorism." The Israeli military is directly engaged in acts of violence against Arab peoples. If Israel can assert a right to use violence to secure political gains, then so too can the Arabs. Hezbollah wants to use the kidnapped Israeli soldiers to negotiate the release of dozens of Lebanese nationals still being held in Israeli prisons today, over six years after Israel's 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon. Similarly, Hamas wants to use the kidnapping of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit in Gaza to negotiate the release of hundreds of Palestinian women and children (teenagers) also being held in Israeli prisons.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has refused to discuss the issue of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners, and has instead demanded the unconditional release of the captive Israeli soldiers. He's backed up that demand with the reinvasion and massive bombardment of Gaza over these past two weeks, and has now moved his war to Lebanon as well. Israel has reinvaded and reoccupied roughly twenty kilometers of Lebanese territory, imposed a complete air and naval blockade on Lebanon, and bombed Hezbollah positions in the South, a TV station affiliated with Hezbollah, several bridges throughout the country, and the runways at Beirut Airport.
Prime Minster Olmert has told us that "[t]he Lebanese government is responsible. Lebanon will pay the price."
Dan Halutz, Chief of Israel's Army, has reportedly threatened to massively expand the bombings of Lebanese infrastructure, warning that "[Israel] will take Lebanon 20 years back."
At least twenty-seven Lebanese have already been killed in just one day of Israeli bombings, including ten children.