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Liveblogging the War: Monday July 31st

In the wake of yesterday’s Qana tragedy, Israel agreed to a suspension of air strikes in Lebanon beginning early today, allowing for an investigation into the bombing, and will also coordinate with the UN to allow a 24-hour window for residents of southern Lebanon to leave the area if they wish. However, Israel has reserved the right during the suspension to attack any terrorist who poses an immediate threat. No doubt, Hizbullah will try to take advantage of this situation, and my prediction is that we will see an unprecedented number of rockets landing in Israel today.
Earlier, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a statement deploring Israel’s attack on Qana, but rejected Kofi Annan’s call for an immediate truce. The statement expressed “extreme shock and distress” at the IAF air strike, asked Annan to report within a week “on the circumstances of this tragic incident,” stressed “the urgency of securing a lasting, permanent and sustainable cease-fire” and affirmed the council’s determination to work “without any further delay” to adopt a resolution “for a lasting settlement of the crisis.” It did not mention anything about Hizbullah’s deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians, nor their deliberate use of Lebanese civilians as human shields.
Meanwhile, it has been cleared for publication that 6 IDF soldiers were injured yesterday in the village of al-Tayyiba in southern Lebanon. The good news is that the IDF managed to kill 3 terrorists during the fight, and 6 terrorists overall in the village.
On the southern front, the IAF struck a weapons storehouse in Gaza city, as well as the house of a Popular Resistance Committee terrorist in the northern Gaza area. In both cases, the IDF warned residents to leave the areas ahead of time.
And on the third front – the West Bank – IDF troops arrested 8 palestinian terrorists – 3 Islamic Jihad men in the Tulkarm area, 1 Hamas terrorist near Ramallah, 2 more Islamic Jihad men near Ramallah, and 1 Tanzim man in Bethlehem.
Elsewhere in the world, there has been more trouble in Australia, with a Sydney synagogue being attacked by about 10 men of Middle Eastern appearance.
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)
11:30PM: Ever noticed how the anti-Israel demonstrations contain scenes of hatred and violence, such as flag burning, show of weapons, nazi comparisons, and general nastiness, while the pro-Israel demonstrations don’t?

I’m thinking that perhaps that tells you something about the different agendas.

10:43PM: Unless I am mistaken, Hizbullah have fired 2 Katushas into Israel today. And if I am mistaken, it is not a lot more than that.

9:58PM: Introducing our latest weapon: Zionist Death Llamas.TM

It may have one of the world’s mightiest militaries, but Israel has turned to imported beasts of burden to help troops wage a 20-day-old offensive against Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Israeli newspapers carried pictures of South American llamas accompanying commandos out of southern Lebanon, their saddlebags full of fighting gear.

Yedioth Ahronoth daily quoted a senior Israeli military commander as saying the white-furred pack animals could carry up to 27 kg each over rough terrain, were quiet and required feeding only once every two days.

I have managed to track down this picture of IDF soldiers with some Llama-ish creatures, which I found on Dan’s site. Dan seems to think they are Alpacas, and I’ll be darned if I can tell the difference.

9:52PM: Some palestinians, obviously feeling a bit left out of Hizbullah’s game of Kill-a-Jew, have opened fire on an Israeli vehicle north of Ramallah.

9:42PM: Syrian Dorktator Bashar Assad:

“The aggression, killing and destruction committed by the Israelis in Lebanon are part of an operation that was planned and organized by the large forces dominating the international community.”

Hmmm…I wonder who those “large forces dominating the international community” are. I am guessing they are, to quote our friend Mel Gibson, the “F****** Jews.”

9:35PM: A sane voice from Europe: Charles Moore in the Telegraph:

Sir Peter Tapsell is, if the phrase is not a contradiction in terms nowadays, a distinguished backbencher. He first entered the House of Commons in 1959. Noted for his grand manner, he is the longest-serving Tory MP.

At foreign affairs questions in Parliament on Tuesday, Sir Peter rose. He wanted Margaret Beckett to tell him whether the Prime Minister had colluded with President Bush in allowing Israel to “wage unlimited war” in Lebanon, including attacks on civilian residential areas of Beirut. These attacks, he added, were “a war crime grimly reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter in Warsaw”.

Mrs Beckett firmly rejected the premise of the question – that Mr Bush had permitted “unlimited war” – and moved on, but I found myself winded by Sir Peter’s choice of words.

What is happening in Lebanon? After the kidnapping of two of its soldiers and the firing of hundreds of rockets against its people from across the Lebanese border, Israel is trying to crush the Hizbollah fighters who have perpetrated these acts. In doing so, it has also killed civilians. Some 500 people have died in Lebanon as a result.

What was the “Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter in Warsaw”? There were many, of course. But Sir Peter was probably referring to the events of April-May 1943. The Nazis had earlier deported 300,000 Polish Jews to Treblinka. As news of their fate reached Jews in Warsaw, they decided to revolt against further round-ups. For about a month, they resisted. They were subdued: 7,000 of them were killed and 56,000 were sent to the camps.

Sir Peter surely knew this, yet he chose to speak as he did. Here is a man who has been in public life for more than 50 years (he was an assistant to Anthony Eden in the general election of 1955), and yet he compared Israel’s attack to the most famous genocide of the 20th century. What possessed him?

I ask the question, not because I am interested in Sir Peter – he is not an important figure in the current debate, though he may differ on this point. I ask, rather, because his remark seems to me a symptom of a wider unreality about the Middle East, one that now dominates. It tinged the recent Commons speech by William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary. It permeates every report by the BBC.

You could criticise Israel’s recent attack for many things. Some argue that it is disproportionate, or too indiscriminate. Others think that it is ill-planned militarily. Others hold that it will give more power to extremists in the Arab world, and will hamper a wider peace settlement. These are all reasonable, though not necessarily correct positions to hold. But European discourse on the subject seems to have been overwhelmed by something else – a narrative, told most powerfully by the way television pictures are selected, that makes Israel out as a senseless, imperialist, mass-murdering, racist bully.

Not only is this analysis wrong – if the Israelis are such imperialists, why did they withdraw from Lebanon for six years, only returning when threatened once again? How many genocidal regimes do you know that have a free press and free elections? – it is also morally imbecilic. It makes no distinction between the tough, sometimes nasty things all countries do when hard-pressed and the profoundly evil intent of some ideologies and regimes. It says nothing about the fanaticism and the immediacy of the threat to Israel. Sir Peter has somehow managed to live on this planet for 75 years without spotting the difference between what Israel is doing in Lebanon and “unlimited war”.

As well as being morally imbecilic, this narrative is the enemy of all efforts to understand what is actually going on in the Middle East. It is so lazy.

Thus, for example, you would hardly know from watching the television that most Arab nations in the region, with the notable exception of Syria, detest the power of Hizbollah. You would barely have noticed that Hizbollah is a Shia faction, actively supported by Iran, and therefore feared by most Sunnis and by all who resist Iranian hegemony.

Nor would you have seen investigations of how Hizbollah places its missile sites in civilian areas, or coverage of the report in a Kuwaiti newspaper that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, was expected in Damascus on Thursday for a meeting with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. You would also not have gathered that the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, which the television so recently invited you to admire, cannot possibly be carried through if Syria and Iran and Hizbollah are able to operate in that country.

Behind the dominant narrative of Israeli oppression is a patronising, almost racist assumption about the Arabs, and about Muslims, which is, essentially, that “they’re all the same”. Public discussion therefore does not stop to consider whether the immediate ceasefire called for by most European countries might hand a victory to Hizbollah, which, in turn, would ultimately lead to a much greater loss of life. It just postures.

Part of the same attitude-striking is the attack on Tony Blair for being the “poodle” of America, instead of pursuing an independent foreign policy.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the last Middle East crisis in which Britain acted without concerting with America. On July 26, 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, nationalised the Suez Canal. Britain accounted for a third of the ships passing through the canal at that time, and we feared that Nasser had put his foot on our windpipe. Eden, perhaps reeling from his good fortune in having employed the young P. Tapsell, concocted a secret plot with France and Israel to regain control of the canal by violence and bring about the fall of Nasser.

Ignoring the delicacies of a presidential election in America and a president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had publicly made it clear that his country opposed force, we went ahead and invaded Egypt on November 5. Furious at having been deceived, America immediately refused to support the pound in the markets, and we crumpled almost overnight.

The then chancellor, Harold Macmillan, who supported the attack from the first but ratted on it in November, wrote in his diary on August 18: “‚Ķif Nasser ‘gets away with it’, we are done for‚Ķ It may well be the end of British influence and strength for ever.” Well, Nasser did get away with it, and British power in the Middle East did collapse.

We have now passed half a century in which the ultimate responsibility for these decisions has passed from us (and from France) to America. Unless we seriously propose to try to regain that responsibility, either alone or in concert, we do well to try to work closely with America rather than acting like a querulous octogenarian. Mr Blair’s efforts in Washington yesterday to search for a ceasefire that prefers durability over immediacy are perfectly sensible.

Yet Mr Blair is bayed at by all parties and most of the media. It is as if, having relinquished power, we Europeans now wish our own powerlessness upon the rest of the world. We make vaporous and offensive Nazi comparisons. We preach that unilateral action is always wrong. That position can be maintained only by people who do not have to make life-and-death decisions. It is cheap and immoral.

The ensuing comments below this piece are also overwhelmingly supportive of Israel.

9:22PM: Israeli-Australian soldier Assaf Namer was buried today with full military honors. 

This article pretends that the reason for Assaf joining the Israeli army is

some secret he will take with him to his grave. However, the article itself answers the question Why did he do it when it quotes a friend of Assaf, who is also an Australian in the IDF.

Another former Bondi resident, Jarryd Rubinstein, who remembered Namer from school, is also serving in the Israeli military.

“I knew where he was coming from when he joined the Israeli army; it was the same reason I joined,” Private Rubinstein said.

“I’m a Zionist, (a) patriot and I want to give back something to this country. I want to fight terrorism until it doesn’t exist anymore. I believe if we don’t stop them here and now we will all suffer the consequences for a long, long time.”

Private Rubinstein, 23, is part of the same battalion, although not the same infantry unit, to which Namer belonged.

He added: “His death has not frightened me, it has inspired me. I don’t worry about dying as he died; I am proud to be fighting for Israel and for freedom.”

Young heroes on the front lines, fighting on behalf of the western world.

This theme is dealt with in this great editorial by Piers Akerman of the Daily Telegraph:

Namer was fighting to keep world safe

Another young Australian has been killed fighting in the global war against Islamist terrorists but he will certainly not be the last.

Assaf Namer, 27, wasn’t killed in Afghanistan or Iraq, he wasn’t a passive victim of the Bali bombings or 9/11.

He was killed as he fought with the Israeli army during a fierce battle against the Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Born in Israel, he moved to Australia when he was 12 but returned to fight for the nation of his birth. He was a dual citizen.

No doubt there will be some who claim he must have had divided loyalties. Others might try to claim there is some moral equivalence between Namer and self-confessed terrorist recruit David Hicks.

However there is no basis for this absurd claim.

Australians are fighting jihadists like Hicks in Afghanistan and Iraq, Namer was fighting them in southern Lebanon.

Bint Jbeil, where he was killed was a terrorist stronghold.

It may have been the command post for the Hezbollah raid into Israel which Iran and Syria used to trigger the current conflict with the abduction of two Israeli soldiers just over a fortnight ago.

It doesn’t matter.

Hezbollah effectively controls Lebanon and Tehran and Damascus have decided to use the struggling nation as the staging ground for their proxy war against Israel and the civilised West, and the Israelis were entirely within in their rights to pursue the criminals who kidnapped their citizens.

Namer was engaged in the battle the jihadists vow to prosecute until the whole world is converted to its violent Islamist doctrine.

And as long as the jihadists continue to claim “We love death, you love life”, offering no future for their orphaned children but a world filled with hate, others who believe in an alternate world, a world of peace and harmony between people of all races and religions like Namer, like our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, will enlist to fight to keep the world safe from their evil.

They can promise no prospect of peace, no one can, but they do offer to stand between civilians and those who would kill them for refusing to accept their hateful ideology.

7:38PM: According to Israeli television, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that there will be no cease-fire in the coming days.
7:17PM: Hizbullah are now claiming that they fired a rocket and hit an IDF warship off the coast of Tyre. Israel is denying it.
7:12PM: A senior government official has claimed that the IDF have destroyed an estimated two thirds of Hizbullah’s long-range missile capabilities (the Iranian-supplied Zelzal-2 missiles, which have a range of 200 km, and are believed to be capable of carrying biological or chemical warheads).
While this is great news if true, it is the remaining one third we have to be concerned about.
7:10PM: More moral clarity from Canada: Here is a common sense editorial from The National Post (hat tip: John):
The Qana tragedy  
On Sunday, the Israeli Air Force launched missiles at the Lebanese town of Qana, killing at least 54 civilians, most of them children. It was a horrible tragedy, one that unleashed understandable fury among the people of Lebanon, and sincere expressions of regret among Israeli political and military officials.
Some are calling this a war crime, and they’re right. But the culpable party is Hezbollah, not Israel.
While it was Israeli planes that launched the missiles, these attacks did not materialize out of thin air. Since this conflict began on July 12, about 150 rockets have been fired from the vicinity of Qana, with the launchers hidden among civilian targets in the town itself. Speaking to reporters on Sunday evening, Israeli Air Force Chief of Staff Brig.-Gen. Amir Eshel produced video footage showing the launchers being driven into Qana following fusillades.
For Hezbollah, this is a clever tactic. If Israel doesn’t attack Hezbollah’s human shields, the group keeps its weapons. If Israel does attack, Hezbollah scores a propaganda victory. From a terrorist’s point of view, it’s win-win: Hezbollah’s leaders don’t care about the lives of innocent Lebanese civilians any more than they care about the lives of Jews.
The global community shouldn’t let Hezbollah get away with this cynical, deadly game. In its primer on the current conflict, Human Rights Watch (hardly a pro-Israeli outfit) makes it clear which side is guilty of war crimes in Qana: “Hezbollah must take all necessary precautions to protect civilians against the dangers resulting from armed hostilities, and must never use the presence of civilians to shield themselves from attack. That requires positioning its military assets, troops and commanders as much as possible outside of populated areas. The use of human shields is a war crime.”
It also bears mention that Israel has done its best to separate Hezbollah from those human shields. On Thursday, three days before the deadly Qana attack, Israeli military radio broadcast repeated warnings into southern Lebanon telling residents their villages would be “totally destroyed” if missiles were fired from them. On Saturday, a day before the attack, Israeli planes dropped leaflets containing the same message.
In many cases, civilians had difficulty acting on these warnings, because Israeli air-strikes on roads made the journey north too difficult and risky. But most people have gotten out. And no reasonable observer can accuse the Israelis of deliberately targeting civilians (as Hezbollah has been doing for three weeks now). If Israel really were seeking to exterminate Lebanese civilians, the body count would be well into five figures.
Nothing that we or anyone else write will ease the agony wrought in Qana and the many other places — on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border — where innocents have perished. But mercifully, we in Canada are not in that situation. Our removal from the conflict gives us the ability to look beyond the immediate carnage, and examine the deeper intentions of the parties to this war. And according to both civilized morality and international law, it is not Israel that has the blood of innocents on its hands, but Hezbollah.
5:32PM: Hizbullah reportedly fired mortars at northern Israel today, not rockets as initially believed.
5:02PM: From the Karma’s a B*tch Department: One of the Hizbullah terrorists killed in fighting with the IDF was Jihad Atiya, who was involved in the kidnapping of 3 IDF soldiers from the Har Dov area in 2000.
4:05PM: The IDF has apologized for an attack, in which a Lebanese soldier was killed. The IAF had struck a vehicle in which it was suspected that a senior Hizbullah terrorist was travelling, but it turned out to contain Lebanese soldiers.
3:30PM: Despite the curb in IAF strikes, Hizbullah fired Katushas into Israel earlier this afternoon.
So far, my prediction of a record number of Katushas being fired into Israel today looks like a poor one (and I couldn’t be happier about that!)
1:48PM: No rest for Haifa: 2 people have been arrested in Haifa and charged with planning a terror attack in the port city.
1:38PM: Is it April 1st today?
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy held a press conference in Beirut, in which he said that Iran was “a stabilizing element in the Middle East.”
According to the French minister, “Iran is an outstanding country with great people and a honorable civilization. It has a crucial role in the region.”
I guess wiping Israel off the map constitutes a crucial role in the region, according to the French.
Douche-Bag should not be welcome in Israel after this.
11:50AM: EU Referendum has a detailed analysis of some photographs from Qana, which indicate that the photographs were staged for maximum impact.
9:21AM: The IDF is firing at the areas in northern Gaza from which the Kassams were launched earlier.
9:08AM: Terrorists in Gaza have fired a Kassam rocket at a kibbutz in the western Negev, with the rocket slamming into the roof of the kibbutz dining hall. I am sure the terrorists will be sad to know that there were no casualties.
8:50AM: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes that a ceasefire and a long-term agreement will be achievable in another week.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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