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Liveblogging the War: Thursday August 3rd

The IAF struck approximately 70 targets in Lebanon during the night, including Hizbullah strongholds( in Beirut suburbs,

Lebanon’s northern border with Syria, and in the eastern Bekaa Valley), rocket launchers, Hizbullah buildings, command posts, and bridges located near the Syrian border.

On the ground, the IDF continued to organize its forces and prepare a security zone 5-6 kilometers long, comparable to the one that Israel maintained in south Lebanon from 1982-2000 (A Lebanese or multinational force is expected to later enter this zone). 2 more brigades joined the 6 already operating in south Lebanon

overnight, bringing the number of IDF ground troops operating in the region to 10,000, as the army made one last push to take up key

positions outside known Hizbullah strongholds. Large forces concentrated in the village of Aita al-Shaab, where there has been fierce fighting with Hizbullah terrorists. While the IDF killed 7 terrorists, and wounded 10 others, IDF soldier Adi Cohen, 18, was killed, and 19 others were lightly wounded.

Hizbullah fired rockets at Ma’alot before dawn, constituting the first nighttime Hizbullah rockets attack on Israel. 3 rockets scored direct hits on homes in the northern town, causing severe damage. The rocket attacks continued this morning, with at least 2 heavy rocket barrages fired at Kiryat Shmona.

On the southern front, the IDF began operating in the southern Gaza Strip. Conflicting reports put the number of dead terrorists at 7 (Ha’aretz), 8-10 (Ynet), or 6 (JPost). Palestinians reported that at least one child was killed (again, the reports quote different numbers and ages of the child/children). The IAF also fired at some gunmen, killing 4 of them. The palestinians fired some Kassams at Israel, with 1 landing in palestinian controlled territory, and 2 landing near Sderot.

Meanwhile, the IDF completed its investigation into the Qana strike, concluding that there was faulty intelligence indicating the building was not occupied by civilians, but that Hizbullah had used the civilians as human shields. The IDF also concluded that the bombing followed guidelines regarding attacking

“suspicious structures” in villages where civilians have been warned to

evacuate, but, as a result of the incident, the guidelines would be evaluated and updated.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

Friday updates here.

9:48PM: Who’s the man? Gillerman! Reader Zack writes:

Writing as an American Jew who works on Capitol Hill, I can say Dan Gillerman is far and away Israel’s best advocate in the West.  Just now on CNN, Kyra Phillips did an execrable job of setting up an interview of Gillerman, she showed footage of Lebanese civilian deaths and wailing mothers and sternly said something to the effect of, “how do you explain why there are 600 Lebanese civilian dead and only 20 Israeli dead?” 
 
Gillerman responded sarcastically (this is a paraphrase) “I want to first apologize that more innocent Israelis have not been murdered.”

9:40PM: Here’s another source for the spawn of Bin Laden story (see 8:45PM update).

9:32PM: Here’s more on Nasrallah’s speech.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to bomb Tel Aviv during a TV address Thursday night, should Israel attack in Beirut. “If you indeed do this, I say this clearly. I won’t use terms I used up to now, past Haifa, but I will say clearly and in a way that is not open to interpretation: If you bomb our capital we’ll bomb your capital. We’ll bomb Tel Aviv and we can do this.”

Tel Aviv’s not our capital, bugalugs. That would be Jerusalem.

During the speech, which was aired on al-Manar TV, Nasrallah discussed the ‘importance’ of ground battles by Hizbullah members against IDF units: “We are fighting against very heavy pressure and are fighting battles of heroism across the whole front.”

Nothing screams heroism like a human shield.

Nasrallah added, “We all remember the heroic battles. There are tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers in the field and many tanks with
them. They are facing soldiers standing with bravery and stopping the advance. The battle is still going on in front positions and it surprised the Zionists. The Israelis come to enter a village, so that Hizbullah fighters will run away, but up to now ‚Äì the fighters remained to battle in the villages until the last bullet. Israel was surprised by the human factor. They are fighting against men willing to sacrifice.”

Yep..men willing to sacrifice the lives of the civilians they are hiding behind.

9:15PM: Tom Gross has written in Canada’s National Post the best piece on the media’s biased coverage of the conflict that I have seen:

Large sections of the international media are not only misreporting the current conflict in Lebanon. They are actively fanning the flames.

The BBC world service has a strong claim to be the number-one villain. It has come to sound like a virtual propaganda tool for Hezbollah. As it attempts to prove that Israel is guilty of committing “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity,” it has introduced a new charge — one which I have heard several times on-air in recent days.

The newscaster reads out carefully selected “audience comments.” Among these are invariably contained some version of the claim that “Israel’s attack on Lebanon” will serve as a “recruitment” drive for al-Qaeda.

But if anything is going to win new recruits for Osama bin Laden and his like, it will not be Israel’s defensive actions, which are far less damaging than Western TV stations would have us believe, but the inflammatory and one-sided way in which they are being reported by those very same news organizations.

While the slanted comments and interviews are bad enough, the degree of pictorial distortion is even worse. From the way many TV stations worldwide are portraying it, you would think Beirut has begun to resemble Dresden and Hamburg in the aftermath of Second World War air raids. International television channels have used the same footage of Beirut over and over, showing the destruction of a few individual buildings in a manner which suggests half the city has been razed.

A careful look at aerial satellite photos of the areas targeted by Israel in Beirut shows that certain specific buildings housing Hezbollah command centres in the city’s southern suburbs have been singled out. Most of the rest of Beirut, apart from strategic sites such as airport runways used to ferry Hezbollah weapons in and out of Lebanon, has been left pretty much untouched.

From the distorted imagery, selective witness accounts, and almost round-the-clock emphasis on casualties, you would be forgiven for thinking that the level of death and destruction in Lebanon is on par with that in Darfur, where Arab militias are slaughtering hundreds of thousands of non-Arabs, or with the 2004 tsunami that killed half a million in Southeast Asia.

In fact, Israel has taken great care to avoid killing civilians — even though this has proven extremely difficult and often tragically impossible, since members of Hezbollah, the self-styled “Party of God,” have deliberately ensconced themselves in civilian homes. Nevertheless the civilian death toll has been mercifully low compared to other international conflicts in recent years.

Last week, a senior journalist let slip how the news media allows its Mideast coverage to be distorted. CNN “senior international correspondent” Nic Robertson admitted that his anti-Israel report from Beirut on July 18 about civilian casualties in Lebanon was stage-managed from start to finish by Hezbollah. In particular, he revealed that his story was heavily influenced by the group’s “press officer,” and that Hezbollah have “very, very sophisticated and slick media operations.”

When pressed a few days later about his reporting on the CNN program Reliable Sources, Robertson acknowledged that Hezbollah militants had instructed the CNN camera team where and what to film. Hezbollah “had control of the situation,” Robertson said. “They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn’t have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.”

Robertson added that Hezbollah has “very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access to those areas. You don’t get in there without their permission. We didn’t have enough time to see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hezbollah fighter by night.”

Yet Reliable Sources, presented by Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz, is broadcast only on the American version of CNN. So CNN International viewers around the world will not have had the opportunity to learn that the pictures they saw from Beirut were carefully selected for them by Hezbollah.

Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week. Writing on his blog while reporting from southern Lebanon, Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton casually mentioned in the middle of a posting: “To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loath to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one.”

Robertson is not the only foreign journalist to have misled viewers with selected footage from Beirut. NBC’s Richard Engel, CBS’s Elizabeth Palmer, and a host of European and other networks, were also taken around the damaged areas by Hezbollah minders. Palmer commented on her report that “Hezbollah is also determined that outsiders will only see what it wants them to see.”

Palmer’s honesty is helpful. But it doesn’t prevent the damage being done by organizations such as the BBC, whose bias is obvious to those who know the facts. First, the BBC gave the impression that Israel had flattened the greater part of Beirut. Then to follow up its lopsided coverage, its Web site helpfully carried full details of the assembly points for an anti-Israel march due to take place in London, but did not give any details about a rally in support of Israel also held in London a short time later.

Indeed, the BBC’s coverage of the present war has been so extraordinary that even staunch BBC supporters in London seem rather embarrassed — in conversation, not on the air, unfortunately.

If the BBC were just a British problem, that would be one thing, but it is not. Thanks to British taxpayers, it is the world’s biggest and most lavishly funded news organization. No other station broadcasts so extensively in dozens of languages, on TV, radio and online.

The BBC’s radio service alone attracts over 163 million listeners. It pours forth its world view in almost every language of the Middle East: Pashto, Persian, Arabic and Turkish. (Needless to say, it declines to broadcast in Hebrew, even though it does broadcast in the languages of other small nations: Macedonian and Albanian, Azeri and Uzbek, Kinyarwanda and Kyrgyz, and so on.)

It is not just that the supposed crimes of Israel are completely overplayed, but the fact that this is a two-sided war (started, of course, by Hezbollah) is all but obscured. As a result, in spite of hundreds of hours of broadcast by dozens of BBC reporters and studio anchors, you wouldn’t really know that hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been living in bomb shelters for weeks now, tired, afraid, but resilient; that a grandmother and her seven-year old grandson were killed by a Katyusha rocket during a Friday night Sabbath dinner; that several other Israeli children have died.

You wouldn’t have any real understanding of what it is like to have over 2,000 Iranian and Syrian rockets rain down indiscriminately on towns, villages and farms across one third of your country, aimed at killing civilians.

You wouldn’t really appreciate that Hezbollah, far from being some ragtag militia, is in effect a division of the Iranian revolutionary guards, with relatively advanced weapons (unmanned aerial vehicles that have flown over northern Israel, extended-range artillery rockets, anti-ship cruise missiles), and that it has a global terror reach, having already killed 114 people in Argentina during the 1990s.

The BBC and other media have carried report after report on the damaged Lebanese tourist industry, but none on its damaged Israeli counterpart, even though at least one hotel in Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, was hit by a Hezbollah rocket. There are reports on Lebanese children who don’t know where they will be going to school, but none on Israeli children.

Many have grown accustomed to left-wing papers such as Britain’s Guardian allowing their Mideast coverage to spill over into something akin to anti-Semitism. For example, last month a cartoon by the Guardian’s Martin Rowson depicted Stars of David being used as knuckle dusters on a bloody fist.

Now the Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph, Britain’s best-selling quality daily, and previously one of the only papers in Europe to give Israel a fair hearing, has got in on the act. The cartoon at the top of the Telegraph comment page last Saturday showed two identical scenes of devastation, exactly the same in every detail. One was labelled: “Warsaw 1943”; the other: “Tyre, 2006.” The suggestion, of course, is that modern Israel is no different from Nazi Germany.

A politician had already given the cue for this horrendous libel. Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell told the House of Commons that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was “colluding” with U.S. President George W. Bush in giving Israel the okay to wage a war crime “gravely reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter of Warsaw.”

Of course, there was no “Jewish quarter” of Warsaw. In case anyone needs reminding (Sir Peter obviously does) the ghetto in the Polish capital, established in October 1940, constituted less than three square miles. Over 400,000 Jews were then crammed into it, about 30% of the population of Warsaw. 254,000 were sent to Treblinka where they were exterminated. Most of the rest were murdered in other ways. The ghetto was completely cleared of Jews by the end of May 1943.

The picture isn’t entirely bleak. Some British and European politicians, on both the left and right, have been supportive of Israel. So have some magazines, such as Britain’s Spectator. So have a number of individual newspaper commentators.

But meanwhile, anti-Semitic coverage and cartoons are spreading across the globe. Norway’s third largest paper, the Oslo daily Dagbladet, ran a cartoon comparing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the infamous Nazi commander SS Major Amon Goeth, who indiscriminately murdered Jews by firing at them from his balcony — as depicted by Ralph Fiennes in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. (A month earlier, Dagbladet published an article, The Third Tower, which questioned whether Muslims were really responsible for the September 11 attacks.)

Antonio Neri Licon of Mexico’s El Economista drew what appeared to be a Nazi soldier with stars of David on his uniform. The “soldier” was surrounded by eyes that he had apparently gouged out.

A cartoon in the South African Sunday Times depicted Ehud Olmert with a butchers knife covered in blood. In the leading Australian daily The Age, a cartoon showed a wine glass full of blood being drunk in a scene reminiscent of a medieval blood libel. In New Zealand, veteran cartoonist Tom Stott came up with a drawing which equated Israel with al-Qaeda.

At least one leading European politician has also vented his prejudice through visual symbolism. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero wore an Arab scarf during an event at which he condemned Israel, but not Hezbollah, who he presumably thinks should not be stopped from killing Israelis.

It’s entirely predictable that all this violent media distortion should lead to Jews being attacked and even murdered, as happened at a Seattle Jewish centre last week.

When live Jews can’t be found, dead ones are targeted. In Belgium last week, the urn that contained ashes from Auschwitz was desecrated at the Brussels memorial to the 25,411 Belgian Jews deported to Nazi death camps. It was smashed and excrement smeared over it. The silence from Belgian leaders following this desecration was deafening.

Other Jews continue to be killed in Israel itself without it being mentioned in the media abroad. Last Thursday, for example, 60-year-old Dr. Daniel Ya’akovi was murdered by the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist group within Fatah that Yasser Arafat set up five years ago using European Union aid money.

But this is far from being an exclusively Jewish issue. Some international journalists seem to find it amusing or exciting to bait the Jews. They don’t understand yet that Hezbollah is part of a worldwide radical Islamist movement that has plans, and not pleasant ones, for all those — Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jew — who don’t abide by its wishes.

9:00PM: I just saw Nasrallah on television about 20 minutes ago. He spewed the usual propaganda, including something about how it was a miracle that his resistance fighters were holding back the IDF.

Sounds more like a lie than a miracle.

8:45PM:
I received this via an Israel mailing list to which I belong:

Bin Laden’s Son Sent to Operate Against Israel

According to a report in the reputable German nespaper, Die Welt, yesterday, Iran has freed a son of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from house arrest on July 28 and sent him to the Syrian- Lebanese border to assist in the war against Israel.

“From the Lebanese border, Saad Bin Laden has the task of building Islamist terror cells and preparing them to fight together with Hizbullah,” Die Welt said, quoting intelligence information. “Apparently Tehran is counting on recruiting Lebanese refugees in Syria for the fight against Israel, using bin Laden’s help,” it added in a preview of a report to appear in its Thursday edition.

Western intelligence sources have long suspected that Iran is holding a number of al-Qaeda figures, possibly including Saad Bin Laden and Saif al-Adel, the network’s security chief.

7:52PM: Here is some must-see TV for you:

  • Footage of Hizbullah deploying Katyushas near Lebanese homes
  • Footage of Hizbullah firing rockets from behind buildings 
  • Footage of Hizbullah’s use of human shields.
  • Footage of Hizbullah missile fire from within the village of Kafr Qana
  • Footage of Hizbullah missile fire from inside home

    6:50PM:
    A third soldier has been killed in today’s fighting in south Lebanon.

    6:42PM: The Hebrew press is reporting that Syria continues to move rockets into Lebanon.

    6:40PM: Today’s Katusha rocket tally so far stands at 160, bringing the overall tally since the onset of fighting to 2,300.

    6:38PM: Sirens are sounding in the Ma’alot and Kfar Vradim areas.

    6:35PM:
    French Foreign Minister Douche-Bag has danced around his “stabilizing role” comments after Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s latest outburst.

    The crisis had presented an opportunity for Iran to “show that it can play a positive and stabilizing role in the region,” Douste-Blazy said, adding that Ahmadinejad’s statement “confirmed that this is not the case.”

    Gorilla Boy’s latest comments are no more troubling than all of his comments until now – including his “Wipe Israel off the map” comments of last year. So I am still puzzled as to how Douche-Bag ever thought it possible that Iran could play a stabilizing role.

  • 6:20PM: The Katusha death toll has risen to 8.

    6:15PM:
    It has been cleared for publication that Israel Police and Shin Bet forces arrested a Palestinian woman from Nablus, who intended to drug a Jewish Israeli, kidnap him, and transfer him to Tanzeem operatives in Nablus. She was arrested 10 days ago, on her way to the attempted kidnap.

    6:10PM:
    Jordan’s King “Beaver” Abdullah has warned that destroying Hizbullah is not the answer.

    “Regarding the situation in Lebanon ‚Äì we must stop the aggression on Lebanon. They want to destroy Hizbullah with Israeli tanks and the Israeli Air Force, but peace will be obtained by returning occupied territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state; that is the only solution.

    Even if Hizbullah is destroyed and no solution is found to the Palestinian, Lebanese, or Syrian problem, after a year or two a new Hizbullah will be set up in different countries, maybe in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, or Iraq. Israel must understand this. There’s no solution in south Lebanon without an agreement with the Lebanese government. There’s no solution in Palestine without returning the Palestinian rights,” the king said.

    Hizbullah want to wipe Israel off the map, as do Hamas and the other palestinian terrorist organizations. Rewarding terrorism is not the solution to the problem, but a prime cause of it.

    5:52PM: A 4th person has died in the Acre strikes, bringing the Katusha death toll for today to 7.

    If I am not mistaken, this is the most Israeli civilians killed in one day since the fighting began. Then again, this is Tisha B’eav, historically the saddest day in the Jewish calendar.

    5:48PM:
    Arutz Sheva reports that all 6 fatalities in the massive Hizbullah rocket attack this afternoon were on their way to or from bomb shelters.

    5:45PM:
    AP reports that French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy condemned Iran’s call to destroy Israel. Not such a stabilizing element after all, eh Douche-Bag?

    5:39PM:
    The IDF have killed 13 Hizbullah terrorists and captured 6 others, during IDF reserves operations in Shikhin and Rajameen, in south-west Lebanon. Troops also identified a number of Hizbullah warehouses containing maps and weapons, including mortars and missiles.

    5:35PM:
    Hizbullah have announced they will stop attacking Israel if Israel withdraws its troops from Lebanon. This makes sense, given the recent statement by the President of Iran.

    “Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate ceasefire must be implemented,” Ahmadinejad said, according to state-run television in a report posted on its Web site.

    So Hizbullah are just following orders by offering a ceasefire.

    5:20PM: More sirens have been heard in Haifa.

    5:00PM:
    Ha’aretz report that 6 people were killed in the rocket attacks.

    4:56PM:
    More bad news: 2 IDF soldiers were killed and 2 more severely wounded after Hizbullah terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at their Merkava tank.

    4:55PM: Now it is being reported that 5 people have been killed from the rocket attacks.

    4:45PM: At least 2 people have been seriously injured in the latest rocket attacks.

    4:35PM:
    The rockets are falling again in the north.

    4:22PM:
    Here’s more on Adi Cohen, the 19-year-old IDF soldier who fell in battle yesterday.

    Yoram Cohen, whose son Adi, 19, died Wednesday in a fierce firefight  in southern Lebanon  says that had his son been granted a last wish he would probably be telling his comrades to “be strong and of good courage.”

    A week ago, Adi Cohen survived a close call when he stayed at the lower floor of a building targeting by Hizbullah fighters. The structure, near the village of Maroun al-Ras, was used by paratroopers at the time and the attack left one soldier on the top floor dead.

    —-

    “He was a beach boy, an instructor at the YMCA, and had a very big soul,” his father said. “He wanted to give to the country and he did it.”

    Yoram Cohen says that despite his own hesitation, his son chose to join a combat unit.

    “I was scared, I didn’t want anything to happen to him, but he insisted. He wanted to contribute to the country and also boost his own personality,” the father said.

    Adi joined Paratroop Unit 1001 nine months ago and finished the demanding track about a month ago, earning the coveted red beret. His father says that Adi did not say much about what was going on in Lebanon.
     
    “He told us that he needs to regain his composure quickly and realize he’s on a genuine playing field and not in a training session,” Yoram said.
     
    The father added that family members were deeply concerned ever since Adi was sent to Lebanon.

    “You keep repressing all the time and lie to yourself,” Yoram said. “You look up to God and ask that he watch over him. We couldn’t sleep at night with the kid there‚ĶI ask his friends to be strong. Despite the sorrow and pain that befell us, we’ll continue to be strong.”

    3:55PM: Compare and contrast:

    Minister Boim: Europe should play leading role in enforcing peace in region

    ADL urges EU to add Hizbullah to terror list

    As far as I’m concerned, whoever plays a leading role in enforcing peace in this region has to at least recognize terrorists as terrorists.

    3:45PM: Today’s Katusha rocket tally so far stands at at least 30.

    3:35PM:
    The Jerusalem Post has published the full text of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s address on Tuesday before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, calling it “nothing less than groundbreaking.” Here’s an excerpt:

    And most contemporaneously, and in some ways most perniciously, a very large and, I fear, growing part of our opinion looks at Israel, and thinks we pay too great a price for supporting it and sympathises with Muslim opinion that condemns it. Absent from so much of the coverage, is any understanding of the Israeli predicament.

    I, and any halfway sentient human being, regards the loss of civilian life in Lebanon as unacceptable, grieves for that nation, is sickened by its plight and wants the war to stop now. But just for a moment, put yourself in Israel’s place. It has a crisis in Gaza, sparked by the kidnap of a solider by Hamas. Suddenly, without warning, Hizbollah who have been continuing to operate in Southern Lebanon for two years in defiance of UN Resolution 1559, cross the UN blue line, kill eight Israeli soldiers and kidnap two more. They then fire rockets indiscriminately at the civilian population in Northern Israel.

    Hizbollah gets their weapons from Iran. Iran are now also financing militant elements in Hamas. Iran’s President has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”. And he’s trying to acquire a nuclear weapon. Just to complete the picture, Israel’s main neighbour along its eastern flank is Syria who support Hizbollah and house the hardline leaders of Hamas.

    It’s not exactly a situation conducive to a feeling of security is it?

    But the central point is this. In the end, even the issue of Israel is just part of the same, wider struggle for the soul of the region. If we recognised this struggle for what it truly is, we would be at least along the first steps of the path to winning it. But a vast part of the Western opinion is not remotely near this yet.

    Whatever the outward manifestation at any one time – in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Iraq and add to that in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in a host of other nations including now some in Africa – it is a global fight about global values; it is about modernisation, within Islam and outside of it; it is about whether our value system can be shown to be sufficiently robust, true, principled and appealing that it beats theirs. Islamist extremism’s whole strategy is based on a presumed sense of grievance that can motivate people to divide against each other. Our answer has to be a set of values strong enough to unite people with each other.

    This is not just about security or military tactics. It is about hearts and minds about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for.

    Just to state it in these terms, is to underline how much we have to do. Convincing our own opinion of the nature of the battle is hard enough.

    Meanwhile, this is what Tony had to say about Ahmadinejad’s latest venomous remarks.

    “If someone else were to call for Iran or Syria to be wiped off the map, people would be tearing the house down!”

    Tony’s really making a lot of sense these days.

    3:00PM: The IDF and Hizbullah are currently engaged in fierce battles in south Lebanon. According to Ha’aretz, IDF troops had an hour ago established positions overlooking 11 south Lebanese towns and villages up to 6 kilometers north of the Israeli border, while Ynetnews reports that troops are operating in around 20 villages along the border.

    2:30PM:
    Iranian President Mahmoud “Gorilla Boy” Ahmadinejad again shows the level-headedness that makes Iran quite the “stabilizing element in the Middle East”.

    “The primary medicine for the problems of the region and the world is the annihilation of the Zionist regime.”

    1:14PM: Perhaps Human Rights Watch should do some more research like this (hat tip: Joseph):

    Then, from the corner of the closet, next to some shirts on hangers, he pulls out an American-made M-16 assault rifle and places it on the mattress in the room next to the ammo belt. He goes back to the closet and from the same corner reaches for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and two canvas shoulder bags. He places these on the bed as well.

    I ask if nearly every house in the neighborhood has a stash of small arms like this.

    “Some have more,” he says, pulling an AK-47 from one of the canvas bags and locking on a 30 round banana clip, named for its banana-like curve. “But the larger weaponry is kept somewhere else.”

    Not in the houses, he says later, but in secret places.

    “Where does the M-16 come from?” I ask.

    He says that Hezbollah buys all the weapons, sometimes even from the Lebanese Army.

    He then pulls a grenade from the closet, screws on a cylinder of propellant behind it and then loads it into the grenade launcher. He shows me what has to be done before the trigger can be pulled to shoot it.

    “Have you ever fired one of those?” I ask.

    He smiles as if it were an obvious question. Yes, of course, he replies.

    He then puts all the weapons back on the bed for a moment so I can photograph them. Although it’s not uncommon for households in the Middle East to have at least an AK-47 around the house, it’s incongruous to see the three rifles and grenade launcher beside a baby’s bassinet.

    1:00PM: Human Rights Watch has slammed Israel for appearing to deliberately target civilians.

    Israeli forces have systematically failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians in their military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Human Rights Watch said in report released today. The pattern of attacks in more than 20 cases investigated by Human Rights Watch researchers in Lebanon indicates that the failures cannot be dismissed as mere accidents and cannot be blamed on wrongful Hezbollah practices. In some cases, these attacks constitute war crimes.

    —-

    “The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli military’s disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Our research shows that Israel’s claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israel’s indiscriminate warfare.”

    —-

    Human Rights Watch researchers found numerous cases in which the IDF launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military objectives but excessive civilian cost. In many cases, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some instances, Israeli forces appear to have deliberately targeted civilians.

    And what is this “research” upon which HRW bases its opinion?

    The report is based on extensive interviews with victims and witnesses of attacks, visits to some blast sites, and information obtained from hospitals, humanitarian groups, security forces and government agencies. Human Rights Watch also conducted research in Israel, assessing the weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

    I posit that HRW would not be getting sufficiently accurate information based on such research. Given that the attacks have mainly been confined to Hizbullah strongholds, the “victims and witnesses” more often than not have pro-Hizbullah proclivities. And if they don’t, they are likely too scared to say anything that might indicate Hizbullah culpability (see 6:58PM update from yesterday’s post). As for visits to blast sites, we have seen how Hizbullah can stage a scene for maximum impact. Regarding “security forces and government agencies”, if you are talking of the Lebanese, you are again going to run into Hizbullah lies. And I have to admit to some scepticism regarding HRW’s ability to assess IDF weapons, let alone the amount of information on them which the IDF would reveal to an outside party.

    What makes me trust HRW’s findings even less is their history of whitewashing Hizbullah’s crimes of aggression, while amplifying Israel’s supposed wrongdoing. For more on this, I recommend that you read this, making sure to follow all of the links. And if you are still not convinced, consider this recent HRW report on Hizbullah’s rockets attacks against Israel.

    Hezbollah’s attacks in Israel on Sunday and Monday were at best indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, at worst the deliberate targeting of civilians. Either way, they were serious violations of international humanitarian law and probable war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today.

    In addition, the warheads used suggest a desire to maximize harm to civilians. Some of the rockets launched against Haifa over the past two days contained hundreds of metal ball bearings that are of limited use against military targets but cause great harm to civilians and civilian property. The ball bearings lodge in the body and cause serious harm. 
     
    Hezbollah has reportedly fired more than 800 rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon over the past five days, killing 12 civilians and wounding many more. The vast majority of these rockets, as in past conflicts, have been Katyushas, which are small, have a range limited to the border area, and cannot be aimed with precision. Hezbollah has also fired some rockets in the current fighting that have landed up to 40 kilometers inside Israel. 
     
    ‚ÄúAttacking civilian areas indiscriminately is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and can constitute a war crime,‚Äù said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. ‚ÄúHezbollah‚Äôs use of warheads that have limited military use and cause grievous suffering to the victims only makes the crime worse.‚Äù 

    In other words, even though HRW must surely be aware of Hizbullah’s statements that make it clear that Israel’s civilians are being deliberarely targeted (not much “research” needed in this regard), and are aware of the presence of ballbearings designed to inflict maximum damage on people, they still leave open the possibility that the rockets attacks are not deliberate, but are rather “indiscriminate.” As if Hizbullah are carelessly killing civilians due to the lack of precision of the rockets.

    Not only that, but in this same report, HRW equate Hizbullah and Israeli actions.

    Human Rights Watch has called on both Hezbollah and the Israeli military to respect the absolute prohibition against targeting civilians or conducting indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas.

    Now let’s return to the latest HRW report criticizing Israel’s actions.

    ‚ÄúThe pattern of attacks shows the Israeli military‚Äôs disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians,‚Äù said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. ‚ÄúOur research shows that Israel‚Äôs claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israel‚Äôs indiscriminate warfare.”

    The language is clearly more harsh, and the conclusions more certain, than in the report criticizing Hizbullah. There doesn’t seem to be any affording of the benefit of the doubt, as was the case in the other report (despite the fact that mistakes do happen all the time during war). And while this is not evidence in itself of any problematic approach at HRW, it is certainly put into context after you have read the NGO Monitor report to which I linked to above.

    11:56AM: Jameel has a powerful post prompted by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s comments yesterday (“”Israel’s victory in Lebanon will give a new momentum to complete the disengagement from the Palestinians by evacuating most settlements in Judea and Samaria”).

    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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