Category Archives: Middle East Conflict

Hope

What makes hope for peace in one region reasonable while hope for peace in another region seems naive? With elections completed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and fighting continues without end between Lebanon and Israel, it seems that a small step in the right direction is all one needs to maintain reasonable hope.

After 40 years without a democratic election the DR Congo faces the precarious task of accepting election results with 32 candidates. This is a feat that Mexico recently proved to be difficult among four candidates, and the United States has had problems with only three. Yet the election itself was remarkably uneventful. Candidates have stated they would follow ‘democratic means’ if they were unhappy with results and spokespersons for the country are ‘cautiously optimistic’. There is hope for peaceful democracy in the DR Congo.

On the other hand, Israel cannot follow through with a 48 hour promise. Weeks of continued fighting is expected. How many people think peace is unattainable? How many more children must die while others lose hope? If Israel can make one step in the right direction we might have reason for hope.

Hope builds upon hope. One move towards peace creates an expectation for peace. Nobody knows how the elections will end in the DR Congo, but perhaps their efforts to maintain peace will inspire much need hope around the world.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

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The Picture of the Week

A northern Israeli cemetery shattered by a rocket fired from Lebanon is investigated by Israeli soldiers in Kiryat Shmona, July 26. Israel has found itself more entrenched in battle with Hezbollah, with one top commander predicting “several more weeks” of fighting. (Eli Dasa, AP)

UN Observers Killed in Southern Lebanon

I find it hard to believe that Israel is taking great care not to harm non-combatants when UN observers are in danger, regardless of whether this was of “collateral damage” or a deliberate strike. I also find it hard to believe that the families of those killed feel any less grief when their loved ones are killed accidentally instead of intentionally.

U.N.: Israeli airstrike hits U.N. observer post
Sources: Condoleezza Rice floats plan to end conflict

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) — An Israeli airstrike hit a United Nations post in the southern Lebanon late Tuesday, killing four of the agency’s observers, according to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.

UNIFIL sent a rescue-and-medical team to the city of Khiyam, and the team was trying to clear rubble early Wednesday. UNIFIL said there were at least 14 incidents of firing close to the post since Tuesday afternoon.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was looking into the report, which came as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proposed an ambitious plan in which international military forces would help the Lebanese government stabilize southern Lebanon, Lebanese political sources said.

Rice pitched the plan Tuesday to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, then traveled to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Rice’s diplomatic moves came on the 14th day of the conflict sparked by Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers.

Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes continued to pound Lebanese cities, while Hezbollah rockets rained down on northern Israel. (Watch cockpit view of bombing in Lebanon — :45)

The Israel Defense Forces also said it killed senior Hezbollah commander Abu Jaafar, who Israel says was in charge of the central area of Lebanon’s border with Israel. CNN was not able to confirm the report and there has been no confirmation from Hezbollah.

Since July 12, at least 392 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and as many as 1,383 wounded in Lebanon, Lebanese security officials said Tuesday.

At least 41 Israelis have died, including 19 civilians, and at least 388 have been wounded, Israeli officials said.

The plan proposed by Rice initially would involve putting an international force of up to 10,000 Turkish and Egyptian troops under a NATO or U.N. commander into southern Lebanon following a cease-fire, the Lebanese political sources said.

Another international force of up to 30,000 troops then would help the Lebanese government regain control over the region, the sources said. (Full story)

Rice presented the plan Monday to Lebanese officials, the sources said, and will show it to European foreign ministers Wednesday in Rome, Italy.

U.S. and diplomatic sources said Lebanese officials are leaking details of the proposal because they are opposed to many of them.

The sources describe the plan as an outline or working proposal and said no one has agreed to it. They also said there are many hurdles to overcome before it could be implemented.
No letup in the fighting

An overnight Israeli airstrike hit a house in the village of Nabatiye, killing seven people, Lebanese security sources said.

The IDF said its military operations have hit dozens of militants during ongoing fighting in Bint Jbeil, a town it dubbed Hezbollah’s “terror capital.”

Israel gained complete control of Bint Jbeil, according to IDF Gen. Gal Hirsch. The IDF said it had killed between 20 and 30 Hezbollah fighters in the area in the past 24 hours.

The IDF hopes to create a “security zone” in southern Lebanon until an international force arrives, said Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

“If there is not a multinational force that will get in to control the fences, we will continue to control with our fire towards anyone that gets close to the defined security zone and they will know that they can be hurt,” he said.

In Israel, a Katyusha rocket killed a 15-year-old girl Tuesday in the village of Meghar, Israeli, police and medical service officials said.

At least 18 people were injured in the port city of Haifa and one man died of a heart attack after a rocket struck near his home, officials said.

About 100 Hezbollah rockets were fired into Israel on Tuesday, striking the cities of Haifa, Carmiel, Kyrat Shmona and Nahiriya, according to the IDF.

Huge explosions reverberated Tuesday afternoon through the southern suburbs of Beirut — a Hezbollah stronghold — sending smoke billowing through high-rise buildings. (Watch airstrikes pound Beirut — 2:53)

Several Israeli strikes hit the Lebanese coastal city of Tyre. There was no official word yet on casualties.
Israel opens aid corridors

Israeli officials agreed during talks with Rice to make it easier to get humanitarian aid into Lebanon, a U.S. State Department official said.

Lebanese officials have pleaded with the United States to pressure Israel for an immediate cease-fire, but U.S. officials said conditions are not yet ripe for such a move, and they expect Israeli military operations to continue for another week or even longer.

U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman delivered $30 million in humanitarian aid to Lebanon, which will meet the basic medical needs of 20,000 people, according to an embassy statement. The shipment was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on Tuesday afternoon.

The U.S. announcement followed a U.N. appeal for nearly $150 million in humanitarian aid earlier this week. (Full story)

CNN’s John King, Karl Penhaul, John Roberts, Brent Sadler and Fionnuala Sweeney contributed to this report.

Evacuations Revealed Cosmopolitan Nature of the Old “New Lebanon”

Since the latest round of fighting in the Middle East began two weeks ago, tens of thousands of foreigners have been evacuated. Another few hundred thousand others, mostly guest workers and refugees from other war ravaged countries, have made Lebanon their home. Simply, Lebanon is a strange location for the newest front of the war on terror.

When one thinks of countries likely to be attacked to root out terrorism, one often thinks of places where Islamic extremists control the country, where mullahs approve all elected officials, if elections take place at all, and where law and order is carried out on the streets in the form of hangings and other executions without trial for crimes such as watching unapproved movies, showing too much skin while walking down the street, or cheering too loudly in a soccer stadium. Lebanon was everything that Islamic extremistshate.

Condoleeza Rice called this conflict the “birth pangs of the new Middle East”. She is a few years too late. Beirut was the capital of the new Middle East. It was a westernized tourist Mecca known as the “Paris of the Middle East”. After years of civil war, the various ethnic and religious groups were living in relative harmony, all part of the government. Compared to the other democratic experiments in the Middle East, it was an overwhelming success. Now it would be a minor miracle if the elected government remained relevant.

Lebanon was not perfect. Hezbollah obviously held too much power and refused to renounce violence. It was in the process of morphing into a legitimate political party and focusing more of its efforts on social services. Change was slow, but it was happening. As Lebanon continued to modernize, and as the Lebanese government gained power and resources, Hezbollah would have lost support. The capture of Israeli soldiers should have been seen as a growing pain of modernization, a desperate attempt by a group losing relevance to get back in the news. Instead, it may prove to be the death knell of the most successful Arab democracy.

The Middle East Cheat Sheet

Are you confused about the Middle East Conflict? If you have been paying attention, you should be. While I may not agree with everything here, and would tend to place more relationships in the “It’s complicated” category, this should at least keep your head from spinning for a few minutes.

Life Under Hezbollah

Like all things in the Middle East, Hezbollah is much more complicated than one would think. It is equal parts religious movement, terrorist group, social welfare organization, political party, and revolutionary movement. The question is how to reconcile these many identities, remove those that are harmful, encourage those that are beneficial, and somehow encourage Hezbollah, which is not going anywhere, to operate in a way that is acceptable to both Hezbollah and its neighbors.

Slate’s “Today’s Pictures”

Life Under Hezbollah

The Picture of the Week


An internally-displaced Lebanese girl looks out of the window of the car in which she has fled from the south, in the mountain village of Qabr Chmoun, south of Beirut in Lebanon Sunday, July 23, 2006.