Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Price of Supporting Hezbollah

Fleeing Lebanon
Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel.
At the moment, there is a sustained campaign on the part of the Australian media to blame Israel for the current mid east crisis. It is acknowledged that Hezbollah has acted poorly, but much airtime is devoted to the ferocity and apparent indiscriminate nature of Israel's assault.

Assessing Israeli response highlights UN culpability in this crisis. Lebanese people are not terrorists, but victims of terror. Before Hezbollah was elected to government in Lebanon, Israel would not have taken the actions they now do. Now Israel are correct in claiming that Lebanese government must act to limit Hezbollah activity. The UN has overseen the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon through a policy of abrogation of responsibility. Hezbollah has popular support in Lebanon, but no terrorist organisation deserves political representation .. in this case, Lebanese are victims.

Side issues include the fact that conservative government has been removed in Israel to satisfy international media demands. My observation is liberals bomb their enemies, conservatives fight them.

Israel is in a difficult position, but behaving understandably. It cannot condone the murder, kidnapping or bombing of its peoples. The UN has offered no alternative.

Meanwhile, UN is counting civilian casualties in Iraq.


Anonymous said...

U.S. family: Get us out of Lebanon
Parents and children hear bomb explosions all night

The Esseily family was winding up a vacation in Lebanon when the airstrikes began. Nearly a week later, they're still looking for a way to get back to California.

Tony and Monika Esseily and their three children were asleep in their apartment, nearing the end of a month-long holiday, when Israel began bombing Beirut.

"It was an extreme shock when I woke up and -- actually, we heard it," Monika Esseily told CNN. "3:20 in the morning, we got up, and the whole sky was just alit. And I'm like, 'Oh no, oh no, oh no.' "

Beirut's airport was closed after Israel warplanes bombed its runways, and every night is punctuated by the sound of airstrikes.

"I have two kids [and] a baby, and they're scared. I'm scared," Esseily said. "First time I've ever encountered something like this."

The Esseilys are among tens of thousands of Westerners stranded in Lebanon Tuesday waiting for help to arrive. Monika Esseily said she's in contact with many other Americans in Lebanon and that all of them want to get out.

"They're pulling out their hair, they're crying, they're saying 'What's going on?' They're being rejected from the American Embassy," she said. "The American Embassy is still saying, 'We will call you.' That's all that they will say."

Wanted son baptized in Lebanon

Some Europeans and Americans have piled on to cruise ships to flee the country.

The United States expects to evacuate more than 2,400 Americans from Lebanon by Thursday, most of them aboard two chartered ships, State Department and Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

The Esseily family registered Thursday with the American Embassy to get on the list to evacuate but so far haven't heard anything, she said.

"I just would love them to contact the Americans and say ... 'Hey, we know you're here, and we'll protect you, and we'll get you out.' Even if we have to pay, I don't care... They need to contact us," she said.

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, defended the evacuation so far as "very well thought out."

"We have an open line to all American citizens. We're in touch with them by Web site. Those Americans who wish to leave will obviously go out," he told CNN Tuesday.

About 350 of the estimated 25,000 American citizens in Lebanon had been flown to Cyprus from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut by nightfall Tuesday, Maura Harty, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, told reporters.

Esseily said the apartment where the family is staying is in a relatively safe place, in the mountains about 15 miles from the main targets of the airstrikes. But Israeli jets fly right over the building on their bombing runs, she said, and the family hears bomb explosions all night.

"It's very loud, very scary," she said. "The glass shakes."

Tony Esseily is Lebanese, and Monika Esseily is American. They made the trip this summer so their 9-month-old son, T.J., could be baptized in Lebanon.

'I'm very saddened and I'm very, very scared'

Monika Esseily first saw Lebanon in 1990, three months after the country's 15-year civil war ended, as a new bride going to meet her husband's family.

"It was devastation. I cried driving out of the airport," she remembered. "I also was scared because coming out of the airport you had all the [Iranian Ayatollah] Khomeini and all of those Hezbollah signs even then."

The family lived in Lebanon from 1993 to 2001 and watched the country recover from years of war.

"I went everywhere," Monika Esseily said. "I enjoyed it; it was a beautiful country. The people are beautiful. They were madly trying to build up Lebanon."

The scene now, she said, is a "flashback to 1990."

"I'm very saddened, and I'm very, very scared for not just the Lebanese people, [but] for the foreigners who still have not got out," she said.

When the Esseilys heard last week that Hezbollah militants had abducted two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, they knew there might be trouble.

"Wednesday night, we went to downtown Beirut to visit a shopping mall," she recalled. "Normally in that place in downtown Beirut ... it would have been very packed. ... And we did hear that, uh-oh, probably Israel is going to retaliate.

"But we were not thinking Beirut. Maybe we were thinking, OK, they were going to retaliate in the south. ... We didn't know that this was going to be extreme like this."

She said the U.S. Embassy should have been better prepared for the crisis.

"It's a very insecure country, and other countries as well around this area. The American Embassy should always have a backup evacuation plan. They knew that this was going to happen at least 12 or 24 hours before it did," she said.

Esseily said she can't wait to get the family home to Dana Point, California, but she still has mixed feelings about leaving Lebanon.

"I will have a heartache leaving," she said, "because I will leave all of these wonderful Lebanese people behind in sorrow and heartache."

Anonymous said...

GRIDLOCK in Beirut's port could delay an escape by sea for hundreds of desperate Australians today, while fears are growing for up to 400 families trapped in the southern Lebanon as violence there continues.

Thirty-one people were killed in the latest Israeli air strikes against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, taking the overall death toll from the campaign to 235, according to reports from the scene. Hezbollah fired more rockets into northern Israel, killing one, taking the number of Israelis killed to 25.

A ferry chartered by the Australian Government is due to arrive in Lebanon later today to evacuate 300 Australians to Turkey, while another 100 are set to be shipped out on a Canadian vessel. More ferry trips are planned for Friday and possibly Saturday.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said an increasing number of foreign vessels in the port at Beirut was creating new problems.

“The port is now starting to get quite congested in Beirut, so the logistics of managing that for everybody are not going to be very easy,” he said to the ABC.

A small number of Australians have made it out of the country on a British warship and more are expected to leave with the British navy when more of its vessels arrive in Lebanon.

Meanwhile there are fears for the safety of hundreds of Australian families in southern Lebanon, which is bearing the brunt of Israeli attacks.

Authorities say they have no way of getting in to help these Australians without a ceasefire, which Israel has refused.

Australia's ambassador to Lebanon, Lyndall Sachs, said the bombardment was putting the Australians at huge risk.

“We've been in contact with quite a few of them, of course many of them haven't been able to get through, they are facing shortages of food and water,” she said on ABC radio.

“Worst case scenario is that we will have Australians killed or injured.

"We've had reports of people's homes being blown up, they've lost all communication, there's no electricity. If they have mobile phones ... they can't charge up their mobile phones.

"We don't know where some of them are. They flee from one area to another. We then find out where they are and we try to track their movements as best we can."

Nearly 200 Australians have made their way out of Lebanon by bus in the past two days, escaping to Syria and then Jordan.

However, thousands more are waiting to escape, and some claim Australia is not doing enough to keep its citizens informed.

More than 7000 Australians are registered with the embassy in Lebanon. There are also an estimated 25,000 dual nationals in the country, some of whom are registered with the embassy.

While people are desperate to escape, the Government is warning them against trying to find their way out in private cars or taxis.

Foreign affairs parliamentary secretary Teresa Gambaro said there was no way to guarantee their safety of those who left on their own.

“They are taking their lives into their own hands by doing that and we would urge them strongly not to take that course of action,” Ms Gambaro said on Sky TV.

'Tell us more'

But Rebecca Akar, who had been holidaying in Beirut, said Australian consular officials in Lebanon had given only scant details of the evacuation plan.

“The sky's covered in black smoke and we're just waiting, really, to find out when we can evacuate,” she said on ABC radio.

Father Joe Takchi, a Melbourne Catholic priest visiting Lebanon, said countries including Britain, France and Russia had begun advertising on local television in a bid to comfort citizens trapped by the conflict. He urged the Australian Government to do the same.

Mr Downer said he would look into the matter.

“At the end of the day, governments, including ours, are doing everything they humanly can to try to get people out.”

An email sent to trapped Australians said: "Priority will be given to the sick, elderly and families with small children."

It urged them to have their travel documents in hand "and be prepared to move at short notice".

The US, Canada, Norway, Sweden, France, Italy and Greece have sent rescue ships to Beirut after the Israeli military interrupted its blockade of Lebanon with promises of safe passage.

But the danger of the rescue runs was shown yesterday when a passenger ship sent by France was forced to leave in the middle of loading because of renewed Israeli threats, leaving several busloads of civilians behind.

Australians may be able to leave on ships organised by allies as well as on the ferries the Government is organising.

"The embassy will contact Australians through email, phone or text message," the consular message to citizens said.

It urged nationals to stay indoors and follow news broadcasts for evacuation plans.

"Please do not assemble at departure points in Lebanon until you have been called. It could be dangerous to gather in large numbers at these places."

With AAP, AFP, Reuters and The Australian

Ben said...

what do you think about the theory that Syria encourage Hezbollah to conduct the raid in order to regain control of Lebanese politics. They would have expected an Israeli response similar to Gaza - using Israel's predictable strong response to their advantage?

Weasel said...

Ben, I think Syria are involved in the affairs and possibly in the way you describe, but also possibly not in that way also.

I don't think the leaders who are operating in this theater are thinking in those terms. I think the terrorists are opportunists. I also think that Hezbollah is being fed by Syria. However, wether any Syrian polly has ever made a decision in regards to this situation is a moot point. Syria is not governed like a liberal democracy .. there is no transparency. So a Colonel of Syria in a supply depot could make the decision that sees over 250 Lebanese civilians killed.

Had Syria leadership, either from the UN or at its highest political level, it would recognise that it will do badly from this operation. While I don't think all the battles have been fought, I think that Muslim extremism has been defeated, the soldiers don't know it yet. And Kofi, on holiday during the tsunami crisis Christmas '04, is nowhere to be seen, making noises that are irrelivant and unhelpful..