Saturday, July 15, 2006

As the conflict in the Middle East goes into its fourth day, Israel launched more air strikes against targets in Lebanon. Israel has also reportedly served Syria with a 72 hour ultimatum to stop the Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel and secure the release of two captured Israeli soldiers.

Israel said Saturday that Hezbollah fired two radar-guided, C802 missiles at an Israeli warship on Friday. Israel earlier said that the ship was hit by an explosives-laden drone. The ship, INS Hanit, was in Lebanese waters near Beirut Friday when it was hit. The first rocket was said to miss and the second hit the helicopter deck. Four Israeli sailors were reported missing, two later confirmed dead, as the ship caught fire. The ship has since been towed back to an Israeli sea port.

The Israeli military said that up to 100 elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards had assisted Hezbollah in providing and helping firing C-802 missiles. This was denied by Iran and Hezbollah. Iran called it an attempt “to escape reality with the aim of covering up (Israel’s) inability to confront the Lebanese nation and resistance”.

An Israeli missile incinerated the people inside a van near the southern port of Tyre, killing eight children and nine adults and also wounding six others. Police said the vehicle the Israelis destroyed was carrying refugees fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israel told them to flee via a loudspeaker announcement. Some Lebanese civilians sought shelter at a Ghanaian UN position, but were turned away and went back to the village; they were attacked as they fled for the second time.

Early on Saturday, more C-802 missiles were fired toward Israeli warships. According to the Israeli military, the missiles missed their intended target but hit and sank an Egyptian merchant ship.

Israel has given Syria a 72 hour ultimatum to stop Hezbollah’s activity, according to London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat and a senior source in the United States Pentagon or else Israel “would launch an offensive with disastrous consequences.”.[1] The ultimatum also included the release of kidnapped IDF troops. Israel stated that if such a situation did not come about, they may attack targets within Syria.

Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora declared Lebanon a “disaster zone” Saturday and called upon the international community for a cease-fire and help to stop the Israeli “war machine”. He added; “These are hours for unity, not for division”.

Russian PM Vladimir Putin commented early Saturday that he suspected Israel had more on its agenda than rescuing kidnapped soldiers. Putin said at a G-8 press conference in St Petersburg that “it is our impression that aside from seeking to return the abducted soldiers, Israel is pursuing wider goals”, without elaborating his statement.[2]