Not a spontaneous response

Destruction in the Bir el-Abed area of the southern Beirut suburbs after bearing the brunt of an Israeli air strike. Photo taken 16 July 2006. (IRIN/Leila Hatoum)

Yesterday was focused on killing civilians in South Lebanon, Baalbek and the southern suburbs of Beirut. Israel continuously bombed homes and buildings. One set of bombings killed over 20 people when Israel targeted a twelve story building in Tyre (Sour) and leveled its top four stories. Another near Jibsheet village targeted people’s homes. Reports of bombs with ugly gas smell were confirmed by the Lebanese army, indicating that the IDF may be using phosphorous and other types of bombs outlawed internationally.

At the Jieh power plant that Israel bombed on July 16, fuel tanks are on fire. We could see the smoke from our home. It kept burning from five in the morning until late through the night - we could see it up to the moment we went to sleep close to midnight. Our balcony was filled with black dust from the fire and this morning there was a huge black cloud above the city as though it was going to rain; we can smell the smoke.

In the evening, Israel targeted Tripoli and Beirut ports once again. It also raided Beirut’s airport five times in ten minutes each with two bombs. It appears that Israel is fishing for weapons storage areas as well as destroying any kind of infrastructure and economy. Last night it bombed with airplanes the cardboard plant east of Sidon (Saida) in a town called Kfar Jara; we could see the glow of fire most of the night. My brother and I saw the bombs falling from our balcony.

They also targeted an army post on a hill above Saida called the Mar Ellias hill - there is a church, a few houses, and Saida’s water tanks on the hill as well as a small Lebanese army post - via battleships. My aunt who lives by the sea could hear the bomb fly overhead and then the explosion, which had us all jumping from our seats.

It is clear now to everyone that Israel has been planning this for a while. The US hoped that the Lebanese will disarm the Lebanese resistance in Lebanon and worked via various entities including fomenting a sectarian crisis, the withdrawal of Syria, etc., to achieve those results. The crisis that has been ongoing in Lebanon now for a while, along with all the assassinations, were supposed to lead to the execution of UN Security Council Resolution No. 1559.

Now that the national dialogue declared the right of the resistance to exist - considering that we have Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails, we have the Shebaa’ Farms area (many villages and key strategic locations in the Jabal al-Sheikh mountain) were still occupied by Israel, and we have Israeli intelligence operating in Lebanon - the US and Israel decided to take matters into their own hands. By all experts’ opinions, and by what we are witnessing daily, this is not an improvised response to the capturing of the two soldiers but a planned attempt to destroy Lebanon as a political entity by destroying Lebanon’s resistance.

Two years ago, there was a similar operation where two dead Israeli soldiers were captured. Non-direct negotiations resulted in an exchange of some prisoners for their bodies. However, the Israeli Knesset voted on keeping some of the Lebanese prisoners. There have been ongoing struggles in the south in the area that is still occupied. As such, Israel has been ready to use any excuse it saw could be of most use to its usual international PR machine to give a cover for its operations in Lebanon. It is inconceivable that Israel was able to prepare plans and maps of all these targets (bridges, roads, details of homes of Hizbullah leaders, offices of Hizbullah, Al-Manar TV station offices as well as three or four of its radars, Al-Nur Radio station, radars of other cell phone companies, etc …) in just two or three hours. This has definitely been a plan in the works, to be mobilized if other US interventions in the region seemed to have failed. Israel also, within less than a day, declared via PM Olmert that its concern is for the disarming of the resistance and for the killing of Hizbullah leader Nasrallah. The attacks are no longer - if they ever were - aimed at the return of the two captured soldiers.

I am sure that the news reporting in the US is talking about poor Israel having the right to defend itself; but the reality on the ground is utterly different. The resistance has been very targeted in its response. From the first day, Nassrallah declared that if Israel wants the soldiers back it would have to negotiate (non-directly) and exchange them for our prisoners. He stated clearly that the resistance has no intention of escalating violence and that the focus is on the exchange of prisoners.

However, Israel immediately started bombing bridges and killing civilians. Then the resistance responded by bombing military posts during the first day, trying to stop Israeli advances into south Lebanon as well as preventing IDF tanks from shelling villages.

Israel immediately escalated the bombing of civilian populations all over Lebanon and causing disproportionate damage to Lebanon’s key infrastructure. Its regular PR statement is that Hizbullah places its rockets and offices among and in between homes and houses and as such it has no choice but to put civilians in harm’s way, which is utterly ridiculous. Yesterday, Israel dropped leaflets in Saida asking people to stay away from Hizbullah offices and rocket storage areas. Hizbullah does not have any presence whotsoever in Saida. But Israel uses the same tactics in Palestine and in Lebanon to kill civilians from planes, Apache attack helicopters, and gunboats. They avoid ground battles (which may be the only time when they would actually be in a fight with trained resistance fighters) and prefer to fire from high in the skies to kill whoever stands in their way.

All international positions have been really sickening and utterly ridiculous. It is inconceivable that the UN could not come out with a statement against this aggression. Basically, as long as the US has given Israel the green light to do its work by eliminating the only resistance (next to the Palestinian resistance) against its interests in the region, there will be no condemnation and no end in sight to the war.

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Dr. Zeina Zaatari is an anthropologist writing from her hometown of Saida