NEWS DISPATCHES > The Middle East Crisis Takes A Dramatic Turn


30 Jul 2006

The war between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia took a dramatic turn Sunday July 30 with the bombing by Israel of a shelter in Qana (Lebanon) that caused the death of about 60 people, most of whom were children. There was outrage around the world as footage of bodies being pulled out of the collapsed building was beamed on TV screens.

A scheduled meeting in Beirut between U.S. secretary of state Condoleeza Rice and Lebanese Prime minister Fouad Siniora was abruptly cancelled. This was followed by fiery condemnation of Israel and in some cases-the U.S.

 

  Angry demonstrators in Beirut attacked the UN offices and police were called in to prevent others from reaching the U.S. embassy. What is clearly emerging is the fact that world public opinion is tilting in favor of the Lebanese people and indirectly Hezbollah. The United States and Israel are increasingly being isolated on their view that Hezbollah has to be destroyed or at least degraded before a ceasefire can hold. This position has been severely compromised by the rising civilian deaths from Israeli bombs and the killing of UN personnel a few days earlier.

 

An emergency U.N Security Council meeting was held Sunday to deliberate on the Qana tragedy. The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan opened the meeting by calling for “immediate cessation of hostilities”. “We must deliver the region from the seemingly endless cycle of violence”. He said while condemning the killing of innocent civilians.

 Dan Gillerman, Israel’s UN representative vigorously defended her country’s position during Sunday’s Security Council meeting. Referring to Hezbollah as the “most monstrous terror organization this world has known” Gillerman added, “If Lebanon had been free from the throes and strangle of this monster, this will not have happened”. On his part, the Lebanese representative Nohad Mahmoud talked of Israeli “massacres” and her infliction of “collective punishment”, “collective killing” on the Lebanese people. Referring to the victims as “martyrs”, Mahmoud called for an immediate ceasefire.

 

The turn of events has clearly put the Bush administration in a difficult position. A few days’ back, Britain’s Tony Blair was in the white house to concert with George Bush so that they could present a more palatable peace proposal to resolve the Middle East crisis. It was certainly this proposal that Condoleeza Rice took for discussion with the region’s leaders before the Qana events aborted the meeting with the Lebanese P.M. The White House issued a statement of Condolence to the victims’ families and the government of Lebanon and urged Israel to act with restrain.

 

Rice extended his meeting with Israeli officials Sunday ostensibly to urge them to be more flexible viz. a viz. their intended goal of destroying Hezbollah before any ceasefire. The Israelis were reportedly talking of needing between ten to fourteen days to wrap up their military operations against Hezbollah. This Israeli position, if maintained will cause a lot of headache for Washington. Statements issued by some of America’s friends on Sunday run contrary to Israel’s Lebanon agenda. “The EU is continuously working to reach an immediate ceasefire”. Said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. “It is time to end this madness” –Sweddish Foreign minister Jan Eliason. “This criminal aggression is an ugly crime that has been committed by Israeli forces.”–King Abdullah of Jordan. President Jacques Chirac of France amongst others, called for an immediate ceasefire.

 

America’s image has been negatively affected by an unpopular war she is waging in Iraq. That image will further take a bashing if this war were to last longer than necessary. That is the more reason why the Bush administration needs to redouble efforts to bring this fighting to an end.

Njei Moses Timah