Tough guy politics
A fuel tank burns after being attacked by Israeli
missiles in Jiyeh, south Beirut July 14, 2006.
Israel hits Hezbollah stronghold
Israel has stepped up its attacks on Lebanon with air raids on southern suburbs in Beirut - known as a stronghold of Hezbollah militants.
Jets also targeted a power plant, the road to the airport and the highway from Beirut to the Syrian capital, Damascus, Lebanese officials said.
The offensive, which overall has left more than 50 dead, follows the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.
Israel had warned that southern Beirut could be targeted, dropping leaflets to warn residents not to go near Hezbollah locations - the group's leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has offices there.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had held a meeting of security chiefs late on Thursday, ordering a widening of the offensive in Lebanon.
A storage tank was struck at the Jiyyeh power plant south of Beirut, starting a large blaze, witnesses said.
Ground forces in Beirut responded to the Israeli jets with anti-aircraft fire.
Lebanon's road to Damascus - the main arterial route - was closed by Israeli jet attacks in the central mountains region, Lebanese officials said.
On Thursday, Israeli forces twice struck the international airport in Beirut.
And with Israeli ships blockading the coast, Lebanon was being virtually cut off.
Lebanese police also reported an Israeli air strike early on Friday on a pro-Syrian Palestinian group in eastern Lebanon.
The base of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command is less than two kilometres from the Syrian border.
Hezbollah rockets fired into Israel have killed at least two Israelis and injured dozens over the past two days.
Hezbollah had earlier warned attacks on Beirut would spark a response of more rockets - including at Haifa, Israel's third-largest city.
Rockets did land there on Thursday and although Hezbollah denied firing them, Israeli ambassador in Washington, Danny Ayalon, described the incident as a "major escalation" of the crisis.
'Playing with fire'
The Lebanese government has asked the UN Security Council to demand a ceasefire. The council has arranged an emergency meeting for Friday.
Amid international calls for calm, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "profoundly worried" by the violence and said he would send a high-level team to the Middle East.
But Mr Ayalon said the international community should make it clear to Iran and Syria - which Israel says form an "axis of terror" with Hezbollah and Palestinian militants Hamas - that they were "playing with fire".
Iranian President Ahmadinejad increased the tension, telling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a telephone call that there would be a "fierce response" to any Israeli attack on Syria.
"If the Zionist regime commits another stupid move and attacks Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world," he was quoted on Syrian television as saying.
However, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said that Israeli claims the captured soldiers were being taken to Iran were "simply nonsense".
And of course, Bush is more worried about eating wild boar.
Ehud Olmert, like many new leaders, seek to establish his bona fides by using force. The problem is that the use of force has been disproportionate to the issue at hand. Attacking Beirut Airport? Ginning up some claim Iran ordered this?
The Israelis could be setting the stage for the collapse of the Iraqi government with this, and that means Americans die. This is reckless beyond words. Olmert is playing tough guy politics, but this time, he's got a two front war going and the possiblility of the American Army paying the price.
Israel has gotten widespread support in the US because the cost has been minimal. If the Iraqis decide to up the stakes by going after the US, what does Olmert do then? If Israeli subs take out Iran's reactor, are they going to accept another oil boycott?
Israel has a right to defend itself. But this is reckless behavior with the US on the hook. The Israeli government has been allowed to treat Bush and Rice like equals, and they are not. We pay for their economy and Army, like we do Egypt. Their actions can directly hurt Americans in Iraq if they don't ratchet down their actions. A blockade? Bombing the airport? It wasn't the Lebanese Army attacking Northern Israel.
There is more than a little contempt for Arabs among Israelis and that was transmitted to the US to our detriment. Make no mistake, the Iraqis hate Israel. Israel attacks Syria or Iran and US troops could pay the price.
I know Olmert is trying to show he can't be bullied, but he's way out of control here and Bush is sitting on his hands.
The Israelis need to realize that if US troops catch it in the neck because of their actions, the American public will be quite unsympathetic
One of the things that also changed after 9/11 is that Arabs can't be bullied as they were in the past. Iraq shows that you can fight the west.
This needs to scale down into talks and quickly. Israel could be buying more trouble than they think they are and may well drag the US into it.
In the end, this is just another reflection of Bush's weakness as president. He won't confront the Israelis and they are placing our interests at risk and not furthering their own cause, the freedom of three soldiers.
posted by Steve @ 11:51:00 AM