Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hezbollah is responsible for the carnage in Lebanon

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

That was an appalling tragedy in the town of Qana, southern Lebanon on Sunday, when more than 50 people, many of them women and children, were killed in Israeli airstrikes. Like many European leaders, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign minister, was quick to blame Israel, saying that “nothing can justify” the bombing of Qana.

Is that so? Over the past three weeks, Hezbollah terrorists have fired more than 1,900 rockets into Israel, most of them launched from within towns and villages like Qana, and almost all aimed at civilian populations in Israel. Moreover, these same terrorists began this conflict in Lebanon, by killing two Israeli soldiers and taking two others hostage during a raid into Israel on July 12.

What would Solana have Israel do – simply allow the Hezbollah bombardment of Israeli towns and cities to continue for fear that any attempt to suppress the rocket fire could kill Lebanese civilians? If men, women and children in Spain were being killed and injured by rockets fired from towns in Morocco, it’s hardly likely that Solana would counsel the Spanish armed forces to do nothing to stop the carnage for fear of killing Moroccan civilians.

Why the double standard for Israel? Why are so many people quick to blame the Israeli armed forces for the Qana tragedy instead of the Hezbollah terrorists who started this conflict and are bent on continuing it? On Sunday alone, Hezbollah fired more than 150 rockets into Israel.

In response to the Qana tragedy, Israel has curtailed its airstrikes for 48 hours and agreed to coordinate plans with the United Nations for the safe evacuation during this period of civilians still in the war zone of southern Lebanon. When was the last time that an army displayed such concern for non-combatants? Did the Allied Powers suspend their bombardments along the Rhine in 1945 to allow for the safe evacuation of German civilians from that battle area?

In another tragedy earlier last week, the Israeli air force bombed a UN observation post in Lebanon, killing four unarmed soldiers assigned to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, including Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, a brave officer of the Canadian armed forces.

Like Solana, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was quick to blame Israel, saying he was “shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces of a UN Observer post in southern Lebanon." This allegation is absurd and outrageous. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that the Israeli air force deliberately targets either innocent civilians or unarmed observers in a UN observation post.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sensibly refrained from blaming Israel for the death of Hess-Von Kruedener. In commenting on this tragic incident, he said: "We want to find out why this United Nations post was attacked and also why it remained manned during what is now, more or less, a war and during obvious danger to these individuals."

Interim Liberal leader Bill Graham has denounced Harper’s reasonable remark as “completely unacceptable.” Yet even Annan has belatedly admitted that there is no point to posting unarmed truce observers in the middle of a war zone. On Friday, the UN withdrew all 50 of its truce observers from the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Now, Harper is criticized for refusing to join with French President Jacques Chirac and other European leaders in calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Lebanon. Together with Canada’s closest allies – the United States and Britain – Harper points out that there can be no enduring ceasefire until Hezbollah stops firing rockets at Israel and returns the two Israeli hostages.

In a meeting at the White House on Friday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and United States President George Bush also summoned Hezbollah to admit an UN intervention force into southern Lebanon with a mandate to enforce Security Council Resolution 1559 adopted in 2004, which calls for “the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” and “the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory.”

Should the Hezbollah terrorists refuse to accept these fair and reasonable conditions, the war and all its carnage will continue. And sensible people will know whom to blame.

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