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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ehud Olmert déclare une "guerre sans limite"

by Pierre Barbancey

Israël-Lebanon: Ehud Olmert Declares "Unlimited War"

Translated Saturday 22 July 2006, by Henry Crapo

Lebanon: No day to recover, no day of truce. Israël does not let up pressure on the Land of Cedars. UNICEF and the Red Cross sound the alarm. The center of Beirut is hit.

The Israëli prime minister announces an intensification of military operations. Lebanon counts more than 300 dead and 1000 wounded. Half a million Lebanese have fled their homes.

Beirut, special envoy

A rain of missiles falls on Achrafiyeh

Salah, the Egyptian caretaker of a terrain under construction in the very center of Achrafiyeh, the Christian quarter of Beirut, does not recover from his shock, and trembles in all his limbs. Ten minutes earlier, three salvoes of missiles landed 20 meters from his shack, touching the forage truck. "I was very scared", he admits. The two parked vehicles do resemble missile launchers. But, at the same time, they are construction vehicles. "There is nothing here, Achrafiyeh is a safe place. I don’t understand why the Zionists do this", says Salah in astonishment. One of the two trucks is seriously damaged. The police of the army, dispatched to the site, do their best to establish a security perimeter of ten or so meters around the vehicles. Suddenly, a missile strikes the trucks with full force. The shock is incomparable, tetanizing. There is a panic. With five meters difference, there would have been a carnage. Everyone takes refuge in a garage.

"The Israëli know we are against this war", says Jacqueline, an old lady holding the arm of her husband, deeply disturbed. "But they take anything for a pretext. We don’t know how this war started. Fortunately my grand children are French, and were able to leave. At my age I can’t survive another war. it’s awful. I’m angry with the Hezbollah. it’s a state within a state. But one doesn’t start a war because two soldiers are captured. The Israëli took that as an excuse to attack. The Israëli response was disproportionate. It’s the population of the south of Lebanon that is suffering the most. We are sorry for the twenty or so Israëli killed, but here more than 300 persons were killed. Why doesn’t Israël attack Syria, which furnished the armament and the money."

When spirits calm, the Israëli attack again. Jacqueline starts to cry out "Let them attack elsewhere, in Syria or on the Golan, not here in our town. We’re no longer safe anywhere in Lebanon." She sobs quietly and draws herself closer to her husband. He is nervous and tense. "We are in fear and expectation. We are angry with the Lebanese government, and with our own political leaders who were unable to predict what has come to pass. But Israël attacked us. Once the war is over, we will settle our problems", he predicts.

Yesterday, all day long, a drone flew over Beirut, where smoke still rises from the eastern neighborhoods, heavily hit all this week. The beginning of the afternoon, the Israëli F-16s reappear in the sky over Beirut. The airport zone was the target of this attack. In 15 minutes, nine missiles destroy the surrounding installations, as well as a part of the eastern airstrip. Twenty persons have been arrested by the Lebanese security forces, suspected of riding around on scooters and providing information to the Israëli. They were caught "with their hand in the candy jar", in the process of filming not far from the Hezbollah headquarters, which was destroyed last week by intensive bombardment.

Half a million people have fled their homes

No day to recover, no day of truce. Israël does not let up pressure on Lebanon. Yesterday, more than 54 civilians were killed within the Lebanese borders. In all, 309 persons, totaling 279 civilians and 23 Lebanese soldiers, have perished since the start of the Israëli offensive. In addition to aerial and naval bombardments, the Israëli army again launched land operations across their common border with Lebanon, where the Hezbollah combatants are deployed. The latter destroyed two Israëli tanks, while Israël attacked a base for United Nations forces, deployed in southern lebanon since 1978. The Islamic movement, which acknowledged the death of one of its members "in combat" at the frontier, claims to have warded off two "attempted Israëli incursions" into southern Lebanon, and fired a new salvo of rockets at Haifa, with no victims.

Given the solid support of the United States, which refuses to call for a stop to the Israëli offensive against Lebanon, there is no hope for an immediate cease-fire in this conflict. More than half a million persons have fled their homes and villages, to take refuge with their relatives, friends, in schools, parking garages, and public gardens. "The situation is both alarming and catastrophic", according to Roberto Laurenti, the representative in Lebanon of the worldwide fund for children, UNICEF. He confirms the aggravation of the situation, with interruptions of electric service, lack of water, food, and pharmaceutical products, and bad sanitary conditions. The international committee of the Red Cross (CICR) has also said they are very worried about what is happening to civilians caught up in the conflict.

appeared in l’Humanité on Thursday 20 July, pages 1-2

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