Joe Hendren

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Lebanon works to maintain the ceasefire, while Israel does all it can to break it

A little more than a week after agreeing to a ceasefire in the Lebanese conflict, Israel directly violates the UN-backed truce with two raids into southern Lebanon. With Israel's long history of blatantly ignoring the authority of the UN, the voice the international community, the latest Israeli outrage ought be to no surprise.

On Saturday Israel sanctioned a commando raid on Baalbek, in the east of the country. Israeli special forces units launched an attack from two vehicles unloaded from helicopters. One Israeli soldier and three Hezbollah fighters were killed in the resulting firefight. In a second separate violation of the ceasefire, Israel launched an air raid against a target in eastern Lebanon.

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a statement: "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."

Israel claims it carried out the raid in the early hours of Saturday morning to disrupt weapons supplies from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah. Israel is yet to provide any hard evidence to justify the specific actions it took in violation of the ceasefire.

Israel could have expressed its concerns about the possibility of Hezbollah rearming itself through diplomatic channels - instead it just launched another unprovoked attack on Lebanon. Of course, one could ask similar questions about the wisdom of alowing Israel to rearm itself.

Mark Regev, the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said "If the Syrians and Iran continue to arm Hezbollah in violation of the [UN ceasefire] resolution, Israel is entitled to act to defend the principle of the arms embargo."

Aljazeera points out this is a rubbish excuse, as the ceasefire resolution talks about an end to weapons shipments to Hezbollah as part of a long-term end to the conflict - but does not require it under the immediate truce. Secondly, there is no way Israel can claim it took "defensive" actions to protect its troops, as the raids took place far from the positions occupied by Israeli troops in Southern Lebanon. Why is it that every army in the world attempts to justify its actions as "defensive" even when they are being plainly offensive, in both senses of the word.

If Bush is going to label a group of countries he does not like as the Axis of Evil, perhaps Israel, the US and the UK could fittingly be called the Axis of Excuses.

In response to the raids, Elias Murr, the Lebanese defence minister warned he may have to halt the deployment of troops to the south of Lebanon if the violation was not recognised. Murr also suggested Israel might have been trying to provoke a response so it had an excuse to attack the Lebanese army. "We will not send the army to be prey in an Israeli trap."

Later Murr took the unprecedented step of warning the Hezbollah that any persons found engaging in attacks against Israel in violation of the ceasefire will face arrest and trial by a military tribunal.

Facing a military tribunal in Lebanon might well turn out to be a rough justice, but it makes it very clear the Lebanese are doing their best to maintain peace and the rule of law in the region, at the very same time Israel is doing everything it can to bust it up.

Tags: Politics, Israel, Middle East, Anti-war, Lebanon

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