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After Lebanon, Israel is looking for more wars

Late last month, a fortnight into Israel’s war against Lebanon, the Hebrew media published a story that passed observers by. Scientists in Haifa, according to the report, have developed a “missile-trappingo” steel net that can shield buildings from rocket attacks. The Israeli government, it noted, would be able to use the net to protect vital infrastructure — oil refineries, hospitals, military installations, and public offices — while private citizens could buy a net to protect their own homes. 

Anti-war activists block UK Foreign Office in London

Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis, and Afghanis continue to be killed as a direct result of UK foreign policy. We will not stand as passive spectators to such crimes. We must do more than state-sanctioned marches. These sentiments were the common thread that tied over 50 anti-war activists together as they stood arm in arm in a solid and strong blockade of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office for two hours on Monday morning. The Foreign Office was targeted as a department that is entirely complicit in the ongoing wars, occupations and injustice abroad. 

Beatings and Abuse in the Shadow of War

According to B’Tselem’s research, since the beginning of Operation Summer Rains in the Gaza Strip, on 28 June 2006, there has been a substantial increase in cases in which Israeli soldiers and Border Police in the West Bank beat, abuse, and humiliate Palestinians. The increase in incidents has been particularly evident since the outbreak of the war in Lebanon, on 12 July. Most of the violence and abuse documented by B’Tselem during this eight-week period did not cause severe bodily harm: a few slaps or kicks, curses and threats, and prolonged delays as punishment, for example. However, B’Tselem investigation also includes six particularly serious cases. 

Peacekeeping force needs more commitment

The international community should show more commitment to calls by the United Nations to strengthen the international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, said experts in Beirut. “For the ceasefire to hold, the international community needs to show more preparedness and commitment to joining the international peacekeeping force as soon as possible,” said Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of The Daily Star newspaper, on Monday. There has already been a breach of the 14 August ceasefire as Israel carried out an attack on the eastern Beqaa Valley on 19 August. 

UN environment agency set to begin aerial surveillance of Lebanese oil spill

Following assurances from Israeli authorities of safe passage for its flights, the UN’s Environmental Programme (UNEP) is swiftly moving to begin aerial surveys of the massive oil spill that affected some 150 kilometres of Lebanese and Syrian coastline. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 tons of oil spewed into the sea after Israeli missiles struck a power utility south of Beirut between 13 and 15 July but because of the recent conflict between Israel and Hizbollah, comprehensive aerial surveillance has not been possible until now. Computer models estimate that some of the oil has evaporated and significant amounts are on shore, but experts are uncertain how much remains at sea. 

A war against art and culture

This past month, Lebanese artist Youssef Ghazzawi’s studio was destroyed by Israeli military bombardment for the third time in his life. The first time was in 1977 when his home in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam was severely bombed. And the second time was in 1983 during the Israeli occupation of Beirut; the apartment building he was living and working in collapsed due to continuous shelling. Under each barrage, his entire studio and most of its contents were destroyed. He had salvaged a few things from the previous two demolitions and was saving them. In the most recent destruction of Youssef’s studio his entire life’s output was lost. 

Annan: Israel's ceasefire violation endangers fragile calm

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been in touch with top Israeli and Lebanese officials today following an Israeli raid in eastern Lebanon which he warned endangers the fragile calm that has generally held in the region since Monday. “The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities as laid out in Security Council resolution 1701,” a UN spokesman said in a statement. Adopted on 11 August, that text mandated a halt to the fighting which took effect three days later. 

Israeli raid condemned as plans made to clear landmines

The IDF has engaged elements of Hezbollah in the Beka’a Valley close to the village of Bodai in an overnight raid. The mission reportedly killed three Hezbollah militants; one Israeli soldier was killed in the attack. The IDF insists that the raid was aimed at disrupting an arms transfer, and was clearly a “defensive” operation. The UN Special Envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, termed the incident an “unwelcome development” a day after the Secretary-General warned of a ‘fragile’ situation on the ground. In addition, UXO contamination continues to be reported across the South. Cluster bombs have been observed in large numbers in population areas and where intense fighting took place. 

On an aid convoy to war-torn Bint Jbeil

The first consignment of UN aid arrived yesterday in the shattered town of Bint Jbeil, close to the Lebanese border with Israel and scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the recent conflict. UNICEF Communication Officer Simon Ingram travelled with the convoy and filed this report: It’s 8 a.m. and our convoy of 16 battered trucks is lined up on the Tyre seafront. I am in the rear escort vehicle, an armoured Land Cruiser, in line with the tight security rules that apply to a zone of recent conflict. We set off on the road heading east, joining a line of Lebanese army troop carriers and armoured personnel carriers deploying to the same area. 

Mine-clearing begins in Southern Lebanon

The UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) is sending reconnaissance teams through damaged areas in southern Lebanon to locate cluster bomb strikes. Fifty-one individual strike locations have been confirmed with the teams having covered approximately 40% of damaged areas thus far. The total number of strikes is expected to rise to over 200. In addition, at least 20 air-dropped bombs, ranging in size from 500lbs to 2,000lbs, have been located. The UNMACC has estimated that it could take 12 months to clear UXOs from southern Lebanon.