Sunday, July 30, 2006

No Help From Syria, Iran: Nasrallah
No Help From Syria, Iran: Nasrallah

BEIRUT, 30 July 2006 — Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah yesterday emphasized that Syria and Iran were not providing any military support to his movement in its current standoff with Israel. In a televised speech, he also vowed that Hezbollah would strike cities “in the center” of Israel if the Jewish state continues to attack civilians in Lebanon.

“Afula is only the beginning,” he said in the speech, referring to Friday’s attacks on the northern Israeli city, the deepest yet inside Israeli territory. Nasrallah vowed three days ago to fire rockets “beyond Haifa.” “Many cities in the center will be the target of the ‘beyond Haifa’ phase, if the aggression continues against our (civilian) people,” he said.

He said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was returning to the Middle East to impose “conditions” on Lebanon as part of plans to create a new Middle East. “Rice is returning ... to impose conditions on Lebanon part of attempts to establish the new Middle East order,” he added.

“Syria and Iran have not encouraged anybody to attack Lebanon and its people. They did not contribute to striking the resistance and did not accept any bargain on that,” the Hezbollah chief said while praising Damascus for providing refuge to thousands of Lebanese people who fled the war zone.

He called for the unity of Lebanese people in the face of the Israeli onslaught.

Rice arrived in Israel yesterday in a new bid to push for an end to the conflict in Lebanon including proposals for the deployment of an international force, although she has ruled out calls for an immediate cease-fire.

Meanwhile, Israel continued its deadly bombardment of Lebanon for the 18th straight day yesterday. Rejecting a call by the United Nations relief chief for a three-day truce to allow in desperately needed humanitarian aid, Israel launched a new wave of airstrikes and refused to set a date for ending its war on Hezbollah that has killed hundreds of people and made hundreds of thousands homeless.

The latest victims were 14 civilians, including children, killed in separate air raids on southern Lebanon yesterday, taking the toll of the dead to 451 — most of them civilians.

UN humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland had appealed for a truce to allow casualties to be removed and food and medicine to be sent into the war zone, saying one third of the casualties in the conflict were children.

But Israeli Foreign Ministry official Gideon Meir said: “We cannot accept a cease-fire with Hezbollah because this terrorist organization would exploit it to gather civilians to use them as a human shield in the combat zone.” Meir said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had already agreed to set up humanitarian corridors, although aid groups have complained they have little access to south Lebanon which has borne the brunt of the Israeli onslaught.

En route to Jerusalem for the second time in less than a week, Rice said she was expecting a “fairly intense” round of talks with “give and take” on both sides, but that she was encouraged by some progress.

“We are not setting a deadline, but obviously as we want an early end to the violence it is important that we get agreement on the elements,” said Rice. “I think there are a lot of elements that are coming together.” Rice hailed as a “positive step” a Lebanese Cabinet agreement on a cease-fire plan outlined by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora which calls for a prisoner exchange and for the government to assert its sovereignty over the Hezbollah-controlled south.

Israel, which is facing tougher than expected resistance from Hezbollah, said it had pulled its forces back from the key Lebanese border town of Bint Jbeil, a Hezbollah stronghold that has been the scene of the deadliest combat.

Israel, which last week lost nine soldiers in fighting around Bint Jbeil and a neighboring village in its biggest single-day death toll of the conflict, said Friday it had killed 26 Hezbollah fighters. Tanks and armored vehicles pulled back from Bint Jbeil toward Maroun Al-Ras, a strategic hilltop village closer to the border that Israeli forces captured last weekend.

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