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Last-minute talks in Lebanon amid fears of ground invasion
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Sunday Jul 16th, 2006 5:21 PM
Last-minute talks were under way in Beirut last night in a desperate attempt to head off a major escalation in the six-day conflict between Israel and Lebanese Hizbullah militants.

The UN secretary general's special envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, and the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, arrived in Beirut to meet the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, in the hope of securing an agreement to curb the violence.

Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, warned of "far-reaching consequences" after eight civilian railway workers were killed and six seriously injured in a morning rocket strike in the city of Haifa, the deadliest strike in Israel since the conflict began last week. Some analysts now say a major ground invasion of southern Lebanon is being considered.

Last night Hizbullah rockets hit a village outside Nazareth, home to Israel's largest Arab community, and the town of Afula. At 50km (33 miles) from the Lebanese border, they are the southernmost targets to have been struck so far.

Israeli jets were reported to have struck Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city, and Beirut airport was hit again by Israeli naval vessels, setting fuel tanks alight.

Earlier, at least 16 civilians were killed after a bomb flattened a building near the southern Lebanese town of Tyre. Five members of one family were killed in a strike in Aitaroun. All were visiting expatriate Lebanese who held Canadian citizenship. Around 140 Lebanese civilians have been killed so far. At least 12 Israeli civilians have died as well as 12 soldiers and sailors. Two Israeli soldiers are still being held captive by Hizbullah.

by ArabNews (reposted)
Sunday Jul 16th, 2006 5:28 PM
Lebanon's bind is deepening, forced as it is to choose between Israel and Hezbollah. If Beirut is to do what Israel wants — take charge of the entire country, which would include reining in Hezbollah, it stands to enter into a confrontation with the party that could turn into a conflagration not dissimilar to the15 -year civil war which tore the country apart. If Lebanon opts not to go after Hezbollah, it will be continue to get the extraordinary pounding Israel is inflicting upon it. Lebanon should choose neither — Israel for the deplorable killing of over 100 civilians, many of them children, thus far and for the destruction of so much of Lebanon, particularly Beirut, which was painstakingly rebuilt from the ashes of civil strife. Nor should Beirut choose Hezbollah, which, even though it helped liberate southern Lebanon from Israel’s more than20 -year-occupation, has today triggered a crisis when there was no particular reason to do so.

But Beirut must choose. Yet should it decide to start flexing its muscle over Hezbollah, the country could systematically disintegrate. However, it appears the Lebanese government might be heading in a path leading to Hezbollah. Indications that the Lebanese Army might be sent to take control of southern Lebanon, which Hezbollah effectively controls, are a clear signal the government wants to reassert its authority over all Lebanese territory. Should Lebanon take the steps necessary toward staking a claim on the country, it would have international law on its side, the dismantlement of Hezbollah coming under UN Security Council Resolution1559 , which in 2004 called for the “disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias”. But any effort by Fuad Siniora’s government to use force against Hezbollah could trigger another bloody civil war. To avoid such a future, Lebanon must not project a who-is-the-boss attitude. Disarming Hezbollah should be done gradually, through a process of national reconciliation.