Saturday, July 29, 2006

makes you wonder where the money really went--Audit Finds U.S. Hid Actual Cost of Iraq Projects

New York Times
Audit Finds U.S. Hid Actual Cost of Iraq Projects

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 29 — The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.

The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.

Called the United States Agency for International Development, or A.I.D., the agency administers foreign aid projects around the world. It has been working in Iraq on reconstruction since shortly after the 2003 invasion.

The report by the inspector general’s office does not give a full accounting of all projects financed by the agency’s $1.4 billion budget, but cites several examples.

The findings appeared in an audit of a children’s hospital in Basra, but they referred to the wider reconstruction activities of the development agency in Iraq. American and Iraqi officials reported this week that the State Department planned to drop Bechtel, its contractor on that project, as signs of budget and scheduling problems began to surface.

The United States Embassy in Baghdad referred questions to the State Department in Washington, which declined to comment immediately.

In March 2005, A.I.D. asked the Iraq Reconstruction and Management Office at the United States Embassy in Baghdad for permission to downsize some projects to ease widespread financing problems. In its request, it said that it had to “to absorb greatly increased construction costs” at the Basra hospital, and that it would make a modest shift of priorities and reduce “contractor overhead” on the project.

The embassy office approved the request. But the audit found that the agency interpreted the document as permission to change reporting of costs across its program.

Referring to the embassy office’s approval, the inspector general wrote, “The memorandum was not intended to give U.S.A.I.D. blanket permission to change the reporting of all indirect costs.”

The hospital’s construction budget was $50 million. By April of this year, Bechtel had told the aid agency that because of escalating costs for security and other problems, the project would actually cost $98 million to complete. But in an official report to Congress that month, the agency “was reporting the hospital project cost as $50 million,” the inspector general wrote in his report.

The rest was reclassified as overhead, or “indirect costs.” According to a contracting officer at the agency who was cited in the report, the agency “did not report these costs so it could stay within the $50 million authorization.”

“We find the entire agreement unclear,” the inspector general wrote of the U.S.A.I.D. request approved by the embassy. “The document states that hospital project cost increases would be offset by reducing contractor overhead allocated to the project, but project reports for the period show no effort to reduce overhead.”

The report said it suspected that other unreported costs on the hospital could drive the tab even higher. In another case cited in the report, a power station project in Musayyib, the direct construction cost cited by the development agency was $6.6 million, while the overhead cost was $27.6 million.

The result is that the project’s overhead, a figure that normally runs to a maximum of 30 percent, was a stunning 418 percent.

The figures were even adjusted in the opposite direction when that helped the agency balance its books, the inspector general found. On an electricity project at the Baghdad South power station, direct construction costs were reported by the agency as $164.3 million and indirect or overhead costs as $1.4 million.

That is just 0.8 percent overhead in a country where security costs are often staggering. A contracting officer told the inspector general that the agency adjusted the figures “to stay within the authorization for each project.”

The overall effect, the report said, was a “serious misstatement of hospital project costs.” The true cost could rise as high as $169.5 million, even after accounting for at least $30 million pledged for medical equipment by a charitable organization.

The inspector general also found that the agency had not reported known schedule delays to Congress. On March 26, 2006, Bechtel informed the agency that the hospital project was 273 days behind, the inspector general wrote. But in its April report to Congress on the status of all projects, “U.S.A.I.D. reported no problems with the project schedule.”

In a letter responding to the inspector general’s findings, Joseph A. Saloom, the newly appointed director of the reconstruction office at the United States Embassy, said he would take steps to improve the reporting of the costs of reconstruction projects in Iraq. Mr. Saloom took little exception to the main findings.

In the letter, Mr. Saloom said that his office had been given new powers by the American ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, to request clear financing information on American reconstruction projects. Mr. Saloom wrote that he agreed with the inspector general’s conclusion that this shift would help “preclude surprises such as occurred on the Basra hospital project.”

“The U.S. Mission agrees that accurate monitoring of projects requires allocating indirect costs in a systematic way that reflects accurately the true indirect costs attributable to specific activities and projects, such as a Basra children’s hospital,” Mr. Saloom wrote.

Bush Bids for Sweeping Detention Power

The Associated Press
Bush Submits New Terror Detainee Bill
By Anne Plummer Flaherty
The Associated Press

Friday 28 July 2006

Washington -U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.

A 32-page draft measure is intended to authorize the Pentagon's tribunal system, established shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks to detain and prosecute detainees captured in the war on terror. The tribunal system was thrown out last month by the Supreme Court.

Administration officials, who declined to comment on the draft, said the proposal was still under discussion and no final decisions had been made.

Senior officials are expected to discuss a final proposal before the Senate Armed Services Committee next Wednesday.

According to the draft, the military would be allowed to detain all "enemy combatants" until hostilities cease. The bill defines enemy combatants as anyone "engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners who has committed an act that violates the law of war and this statute."

Legal experts said Friday that such language is dangerously broad and could authorize the military to detain indefinitely U.S. citizens who had only tenuous ties to terror networks like al Qaeda.

"That's the big question ... the definition of who can be detained,"
said Martin Lederman, a law professor at Georgetown University who posted a copy of the bill to a Web blog.

Scott L. Silliman, a retired Air Force Judge Advocate, said the broad definition of enemy combatants is alarming because a U.S. citizen loosely suspected of terror ties would lose access to a civilian court - and all the rights that come with it. Administration officials have said they want to establish a secret court to try enemy combatants that factor in realities of the battlefield and would protect classified information.

The administration's proposal, as considered at one point during discussions, would toss out several legal rights common in civilian and military courts, including barring hearsay evidence, guaranteeing "speedy trials" and granting a defendant access to evidence. The proposal also would allow defendants to be barred from their own trial and likely allow the submission of coerced testimony.

Senior Republican lawmakers have said they were briefed on the general discussions and have some concerns but are awaiting a final proposal before commenting on specifics.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England are expected to discuss the proposal in an open hearing next Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Military lawyers also are scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation is the administration's response to a June 29 Supreme Court decision, which concluded the Pentagon could not prosecute military detainees using secret tribunals established soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The court ruled the tribunals were not authorized by law and violated treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions, which established many international laws for warfare.

The landmark court decision countered long-held assertions by the Bush administration that the president did not need permission from Congress to prosecute "enemy combatants" captured in the war on terror and that al Qaeda members were not subject to Geneva Convention protections because of their unconventional status.

"In a time of ongoing armed conflict, it is neither practicable nor appropriate for enemy combatants like al Qaeda terrorists to be tried like American citizens in federal courts or courts-martial," the proposal states.

The draft proposal contends that an existing law - passed by the Senate last year after exhaustive negotiations between the White House and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. - that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment should "fully satisfy" the nation's obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Friday he expects to take up the detainee legislation in September.

another retreat--Israel will not demand Hizbollah disarm - Yahoo! News

Yahoo! News
Israel will not demand Hizbollah disarm

Israel will not demand the immediate disarming of Hizbollah as part of a deal to end the current fighting in Lebanon, a senior Israeli foreign ministry official said on Saturday.

Israel's stance could make it easier to reach an agreement with major powers and the Lebanese government on the deployment of a peacekeeping force in south Lebanon.

Hizbollah would almost certainly reject a peacekeeping force whose mandate calls for its disarmament.

The foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel would demand that the proposed peacekeeping force in south Lebanon keep Hizbollah away from the Israeli border and prevent the group from replenishing its stockpile of rockets from Syria and Iran.

The official told Reuters that Israel was seeking a commitment to "start the process of implementing" U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for disarming Hizbollah.

"But disarming Hizbollah now is not what Israel is demanding," the official said, adding that "disarming Hizbollah will not be part of the mandate for the (peacekeeping) mission."

Israel pulls out of Hezbollah stronghold

Yahoo! News
Israel pulls out of Hezbollah stronghold

By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer

Israeli troops pulled back from a key Lebanese border town Saturday where it battled Hezbollah for a week, claiming to have finished its mission after the bloodiest ground fight of the 18-day war.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah threatened in a TV broadcast to attack more cities in central Israel, as Israeli warplanes blasted bridges and demolished houses in southern Lebanon, killing seven people, including a woman and her five children.

The battle for Bint Jbail has symbolized Israel's difficulty in pushing guerrillas back from the border, whether by air bombardment or ground assault. Hezbollah on Friday escalated its cross-border attacks, firing longer-range missiles deeper into Israel than ever before.

Lebanese civilians have born the brunt of the Israeli onslaught.

The woman and her children were crushed in their home by a strike outside the market town of Nabatiyeh, which also killed a man in a nearby house, Lebanese security officials said. In another southern town, six bodies were dug from the rubble of a house destroyed by a strike Friday, they said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was returning to the Middle East to give Lebanese and Israeli leaders a refined U.S. package of proposals aimed at ending the violence and breaking Hezbollah's domination of the region along Israel's border.

The American peace plan included new provisions aimed at addressing some demands in a proposal put forward late Thursday by the Lebanese government — and reluctantly agreed to by Hezbollah.

Rice made a fueling stop in Doha, Qatar and praised the Lebanese proposals, the first from Beirut, saying they showed the young democracy could function.

"The most important thing that this does for the process is that it shows a Lebanese government that is functioning as a Lebanese government," Rice told reporters traveling with her. "That is in and of itself extremely important."

Rice plans to meet first with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem for talks on Saturday night, said Mark Regev, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry. There was no immediate word for a stop in Beirut, but Rice's visit to Lebanon earlier in the week was announced at the last minute for security reasons.

The U.S. peace plan envisions the deployment of a U.N.-mandated multinational force that can provide stability in the region, according to a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

It also proposes: disarming Hezbollah and integrating the guerrilla force into the Lebanese army; Hezbollah's return of Israeli prisoners; and a buffer zone in southern Lebanon to put Hezbollah rockets out of range of Israel. And it seeks to address some demands from Lebanon: a commitment to resolve the status of a piece of land held by Israel and claimed by Lebanon; and the creation of an international reconstruction plan for Lebanon.

The United States is under increasing pressure to quickly find a way to end fighting sparked by Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a July 12 raid.

Israel's retaliation has spiraled into an all-out attempt to end the guerrillas' domination of south Lebanon. The fighting has killed hundreds, driven some 750,000 Lebanese from their homes, caused a humanitarian crisis — and brought some of the heaviest bombardment of Israel by rocket fire.

The Lebanese plan which Hezbollah signed on to calls for an international force in the south and the eventual disarming of the guerrillas. It falls short Israeli and U.S. demands, however, and there was skepticism Hezbollah would fully agree to an international force once the details are worked out.

Israeli Cabinet minister Avi Dichter said on Israel radio Saturday that it was unacceptable for Lebanon's government "to hide behind the claim that a terror organization is operating on their ground and they cannot stop it." He said Israel holds the government fully accountable for Hezbollah actions, and that "Lebanon is paying the full price these days."

Bombardment by Israeli forces and rocket fire from guerrillas was intense Saturday morning around Bint Jbail, Lebanese security officials said. In the afternoon, the Israeli military said its troops had withdrawn from the Hezbollah stronghold, saying that their mission was complete. The military did not say whether guerrillas remained holed up in the town.

Israeli troops launched their assault on Bint Jbail on July 23, entering some houses in heavy fighting.

Eighteen soldiers were killed in the battle — nine of them in Hezbollah ambushes Wednesday,
the Israeli military's worst one-day loss of the campaign. On Friday, the army said seven of soldiers were wounded, one seriously, when Hezbollah attacked a ridge overlooking Bint Jbail and the nearby village of Maroun al-Ras.

On Saturday, military officials said the operation never intended to fully capture the town, but just to wear down Hezbollah forces.

Israel radio cited an unnamed high-ranking officer as saying 50 guerrillas were killed in the week of fighting and hundreds wounded, most of them from a special Hezbollah unit. Hezbollah has acknowledge the deaths of only 35 fighters in the entire campaign.

The officer also said Israeli soldiers entered a Hezbollah headquarters in Bint Jbail on Friday and seized weapons, maps and communications equipment.

Whatever Israel's intention, its the pull back from Bint Jbail could provide a propaganda boost for Hezbollah, whose radio and television have lauded guerrillas for their prowess and depicted them as slowing down the Israeli war machine.

The mainly Shiite town is symbolic for Hezbollah, earning the nickname "the capital of the resistance" for its vehement support for the Shiite guerrillas during the 1982-2000 Israeli occupation of the south.

Meanwhile, Israeli air raids destroyed the bridge over the Orontes river in the eastern Bekaa Valley and were targeting bridges in the south.

At least 458 Lebanese have been killed in the fighting, that broke out July 12 after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed one in a cross-border raid. The figure is based on a count Friday from the Health Ministry, based on the number of bodies in hospitals, plus Saturday's deaths outside Natabiyeh and Ain Arab. Some estimates range as high as 600 dead.

Thirty-three Israeli soldiers have died in fighting, and Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel have killed 19 civilians, the Israeli army said. Israeli troops have killed about 200 Hezbollah guerrillas, the army said. Hezbollah has reported only 35 losses.

The United States, backed by Britain, has adopted a diplomatic stance not embraced by most allies, insisting that any cease-fire must come with conditions to address long-standing regional disputes. Many Europeans and Arab countries are increasing the pressure for an immediate cease-fire first.

There is general agreement an international force is needed in the south to end Hezbollah's decade-long free reign. Details about the force and its mandate are not resolved, but could be at the United Nations on Monday during a meeting called by President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Humanitarian aid continued to arrive by sea and by air, but was piling up in Beirut on Saturday. Because aid convoys fear Israeli bombardment, only a trickle has reached the war zone in south Lebanon, where tens of thousands of Lebanese are stranded with dwindling supplies of medicine, food, water and fuel.

Israeli strikes have come within hundreds of yards of the few truck convoys making their way south this week — though no trucks have been hit so far — said officials from the international Red Cross, U.N. and other agencies. Israel has promised safe passage for aid but on a convoy-by-convoy basis; often 72-hour notice is required, slowing the process, officials said.

Israel on Saturday rejected a U.N. request for a three-day cease-fire to get in supplies and allow civilians to leave the war zone.

Avi Pazner, an Israeli government spokesman, blamed Hezbollah for blocking aid convoys. But the top U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon, Mona Hammam, said convoys so far had encountered "no problems" from Hezbollah.

The Truth Will Set You Free--- They may be ‘Chosen’ - but they sure are dumb

The Truth Will Set You Free

They may be ‘Chosen’ - but they sure are dumb

Even their only allies are jumping ship.
[Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw] echoed the words of Middle East minister Kim Howells that the current tough Israeli action was "disproportionate".

Mr Straw said Mr Howells was right to tell the Israelis: "If you want to go for Hezbeollah, go for Hezbollah, don't go for the whole Lebanese nation."

* * *

At talks in Rome on Wednesday, the US, UK and regional powers urged peace be sought with the "utmost urgency", but stopped short of calling for an immediate truce. That prompted Mr Ramon to declare Israel had received "permission from the world... to continue the operation".

But questioned by reporters on the sidelines of a summit in Kuala Lumpur, [US State Department spokesman, Adam] Ereli said: "Any such statement is outrageous."
But, Israel keeps piling it on.
Israel has carried out dozens of fresh strikes on Lebanon. Estimates of the number of people killed range from three to 13.

Two mortar rounds have hit a convoy of vehicles carrying civilians escaping the violence in southern Lebanon.

The BBC's Jim Muir, who was with the convoy, said two people - a driver and a television cameraman in a German television car - were wounded when the rounds exploded next to their vehicle.

The convoy, organised by the Australian embassy, was returning to the port city of Tyre from the border village of Rmeish, where hundreds of people have been trapped by the Israeli offensive.

Our correspondent says the cars were clearly marked as a press and civilian convoy, and that individual journalists had been in contact with the Israelis who knew about the journey.

A BBC security adviser travelling in a car behind the German television car said he believed the mortar rounds had been fired from the Israeli side.
And as if all this bloody murder isn't enough, they keep beaming images of their war-crazed population signing bombs and dancing on our graves. How sick and twisted.

If they honestly think that the world is going to cheer them on as they kill women and children and turn nations into rubble over a few soldiers and some largely harmless rockets, then either they're as dumb as door knobs or they're terminally insane.

They don't need anyone to destroy them. They're destroying themselves.

FBI paid key terror informants $56,000

FBI paid key terror informants $56,000

Tactic will outrage jurors, defense says

By Madeline BarĂ³ Diaz
and Vanessa Blum Miami Bureau
Posted July 26 2006

The FBI paid almost $56,000 to two confidential informants who are key to the case against seven men accused of being involved in a terrorist plot to blow up the Sears Tower and other targets.

According to a document filed by federal prosecutors, the FBI paid one unnamed informant $10,500 and an additional $8,815 in expenses. They also paid a second informant $17,000 with another $19,570 for expenses.

U.S. officials also granted the second informant a "significant public benefit" -- immigration parole so he could remain in the country.

While using paid informants is not unusual in criminal cases, defense attorneys for the accused men said the compensation and benefits will help them show jurors the informants are not trustworthy.

"The fact that these are not just good citizens that are cooperating with the government, but that these are opportunists that are trying to earn not only money but other benefits by creating a case is extremely significant," said Gregory Prebish, attorney for Burson Augustin, one of the accused.

The seven men, part of a religious group headquartered in the Liberty City area of Miami-Dade County, are facing various charges in connection with attacks they allegedly planned.

Much of the case hinges on the two informants, one of whom knew the men and participated in the investigation after alerting authorities. The second man posed as an al-Qaida operative at the FBI's direction, according to prosecutors. Secret recordings made by the informants are also central to the case.

According to court documents, alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste approached the first informant, an acquaintance who has worked with the FBI since around 2004 and who has previously been arrested for assault, possession of marijuana, and motor vehicle violations.

Batiste allegedly asked the informant whether he knew anyone in Yemen who would be willing to support his mission against the United States.

After he began working with the FBI on the case, the informant introduced Batiste to the second informant, who has been working with the FBI for about six years.

The amount of money paid to the informants does not tell the whole story, defense attorneys said.

The informants also received valuable noncash perks, they said, like the immigration parole.

"That's a priceless benefit," said Albert Levin, attorney for Patrick Abraham, one of the seven.

"You've got to question justice if you've got money being paid to create cases," said Nathan Clark, attorney for Rotschild Augustine. "I think it's clearly going to demonstrate the lack of credibility of the charges against my client."

Levin said jurors would likely be outraged to learn how much was spent investigating a "so-called terrorist organization."

According to prosecutors, the men did not pose an imminent threat.

"I would think that the taxpayers would be outraged that they're paying this kind of money for this kind of information," he said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment Tuesday, citing the pending case.

Lawyer Mark Schnapp of Greenberg Traurig, former head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's office, said compensating informants is routine in federal investigations.

"It's very rare you're going to find someone actively working undercover as an informant without being paid in some fashion," Schnapp said. "At the end of the day, what's on the tapes will govern."

The Lies Israel Tells Itself (and We Tell on Its Behalf) - by Jonathan Cook

July 29, 2006
The Lies Israel Tells Itself (and We Tell on Its Behalf)
by Jonathan Cook

When journalists use the word "apparently," or another favorite "reportedly," they are usually distancing themselves from an event or an interpretation in the supposed interests of balance. But I think we should read the "apparently" contained in a statement from the head of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, relating to the killing this week of four unarmed UN monitors by the Israeli army in its other sense.

When Annan says that those four deaths were "apparently deliberate," I take him to mean that the evidence shows that the killings were deliberate. And who can disagree with him? At least 10 phone calls were made to Israeli commanders over a period of six hours warning that artillery and aerial bombardments were either dangerously close to or hitting the monitors' building.

The UN post, in Khaim just inside south Lebanon, was clearly marked and well-known to the army, but nonetheless it was hit directly four times in the last hour before an Israeli helicopter fired a precision-guided missile that tore through the roof of an underground shelter, killing the monitors inside. A UN convoy that arrived too late to rescue the peacekeepers was also fired on. From the evidence, it does not get much more deliberate than that.

The problem, however, is that Western leaders, diplomats, and the media take the "apparently" in its first sense – as a way to avoid holding Israel to account for its actions. For "apparently deliberate," read "almost certainly accidental." That was why the best the UN Security Council could manage after a day and a half of deliberation was a weaselly statement of "shock and distress" at the killings, as though they were an act of God.

Our media are no less responsible for this evasiveness. They make sure "we" – the publics of the West – never countenance the thought that a society like our own, one we are always being reminded is a democracy, could sink to the depths of inhumanity required to murder unarmed peacekeepers. Who can be taken seriously challenging the Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni's assertion that "There will never be an [Israeli] army commander that will intentionally aim at civilians or UN soldiers [sic]"?

Even the minority in the West who have started to fear that Israel is "apparently" slaughtering civilians across Lebanon or that it is "apparently" intending to make refugees of a million Lebanese must presumably shrink from the idea that Israel is also capable of killing unarmed UN monitors.

After all, our media insinuate, the two cases are not comparable.

There may be good reasons why Lebanese civilians need to suffer. Let's not forget that they belong to a people (or is it a race or, maybe, a religion?) that gave birth to Hezbollah. "We" can cast aside our concerns for the moment and take it on trust that Israel has cause to kill the Lebanese or make them homeless. Doubtless the justifications will emerge later, when we have lost interest in the "Lebanon crisis." We may never hear what those reasons were, but who can doubt that they exist?

The "apparent" murder of four UN monitors, however, is a deeper challenge to our faith in our moral superiority, which is why that "apparently" is held on to as desperately as a talisman. No civilized country could kill peacekeepers, especially ones drawn from our own societies, from Canada, Finland, and Austria. That is the moral separation line that divides us from the terrorists. Were that line to be erased, we would be no different from those whom we must fight.

An iconic image of this war that our media have managed to expunge from the official record but which keeps popping up in e-mail inboxes like a guilty secret is of young Israeli girls, lipsticked and nail-polished as if on their way to a party, drawing messages of death and hatred on the sides of the missiles about to be loaded on to army trucks and tanks. In one, an out-of-focus soldier stands on a tank paternally watching over the girls as they address another death threat to Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

Is this the truer face of Israeli society, even if it is the one we are never shown and refuse to believe in? And are "we" in the West hurtling down the same path?

Driving through the Jewish city of Upper Nazareth this week, I realized how inured I am becoming to this triumphal militarism – and the racism that feeds it. Nothing surprising about the posters of "We will win" on every hoarding. But it takes me more than a few seconds to notice that the Magen David ambulance in front of me is flying a little national flag, the blue Star of David, from its window. I have heard that American fire engines flew U.S. flags after 9/11, but this somehow seems worse. How is it possible for an ambulance, the embodiment of our neutral, civilized, universal, "Western," humanitarian values, to fly a national flag, I think to myself? And does it make a difference that only a few months ago Magen David joined the International Committee of the Red Cross?

Only slowly do my thoughts grow more disturbed: how many hospital administrators, doctors, and nurses have seen that ambulance arrive at their emergency departments and thought nothing of it? And is that the only Israeli ambulance flying the flag, or are many others doing the same? Later, the BBC TV news answers my question. I see two ambulances with the same flags going to the front line to collect casualties. Will others soon cross over the border into southern Lebanon, after it is "secured," and will no one mention those little flags fluttering from the window?

A psychologist tells me how upset she is about a meeting she attended a few days ago of the northern coordinating committee of her profession. They were discussing how best to treat the shock and trauma suffered by Israeli children under the bombardment from Hezbollah. The meeting concluded with an agreement that the psychologists would reassure the children with the statement: "The army is there to protect us."

And so, the seeds of fascism are unthinkingly sown for another generation of children, children like our own.

No one agreed with my friend when she dissented, arguing that this was not the message to be telling impressionable minds, and that violence against the Other is not a panacea for our problems. Parents, not soldiers, are responsible for protecting their children, she pointed out. Tanks, planes, and guns bring only fear and more hatred, hatred that will one day return to haunt us.

The slow, gentle indoctrination continues day in, day out, reinforcing the idea among Israel's Jewish population that the army can do no wrong and that it needs no oversight, not even from politicians (most of whom are former generals anyway, or like Prime Minister Ehud Olmert too frightened to stand up to the chiefs of staff if they wanted to). "We will win." How do we know we will win? Because "the army is there to protect us." Add into the mix that faceless "Arab" enemy, those sub-beings, and you have a recipe for fascism – even if it is of the democratically elected variety.

The Israeli media, of course, are the key to providing the second half of that equation – or rather not providing it. You can sit watching the main Israeli channels all day, flicking between channels 1, 2, and 10, and not see a Lebanese face, apart from that of Hassan Nasrallah, the new Hitler. I don't mean the charred faces of corpses, or the bandaged babies, or the amputees lying in hospital beds. I mean any Lebanese faces. Just as you almost never see a Palestinian face on Israeli TV unless they are the mob, disfigured with hatred as they hold aloft another martyr on his way to burial.

Lebanon only swings in to view on Israeli television through the black and white footage of an aerial gun sight, or through the long shot of a distant urban landscape seconds before it is "pulverized" by a dropped bomb. The buildings crumble, flames shoot up, clouds of dust billow into the air. Another shot of arcade-game adrenaline.

The humanitarian stories exist, but they do not concern Lebanon. Animal welfare societies plead on behalf of the dogs and cats left alone to face the rocket fire on deserted Kiryat Shmona, just as they did before for foxes and deer when Israel began building its mammoth walls of concrete and steel across their migration routes in the West Bank, walls that are also imprisoning, unseen, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

The rest of the coverage is dedicated to Israeli army spokespeople, including the national heartthrob Miri Regev, and media "commentators" and "analysts." Who are these people? They are from the same pool of former military intelligence and security service officers who once did this job in the closed rooms of army HQ but now wallow in the limelight. One favored pundit is even subtitled "Expert on psychological warfare against Hassan Nasrallah."

And who are the presenters and anchors who interview them? The other day an aging expert on Apache helicopters interrupted his interviewer irritatedly to tell him his question was stupid. "We were in the army together and both know the answer. Don't play dumb." It was a rare reminder that these anchors too are just soldiers in suits. One of the most popular, Ehud Yaari of Channel 2, barely conceals his military credentials as he condones yet more violence against the Lebanese or, if he can be deflected for a moment, the people of Gaza.

That is what comes of having a "citizen army," where teenagers learn to use a gun before they can drive and men do reserve duty until their late 40s. It means every male teacher, professor, psychologist, and journalist thinks as a soldier because that is what he has been for most of his life.

Israel is not unique, far from it, though it is in a darker place, and has been for some time, than "we" in the West can fully appreciate. It is a mirror of what our own societies are capable of, despite our democratic values. It shows how a cult of victimhood makes one heartless and cruel, and how racism can be repackaged as civilized values.

Maybe those UN monitors, with their lookout post above the battlefield where Israel wants to use any means it can to destroy Hezbollah and Lebanese civilians who get in the way, had to be removed simply because they are a nuisance, a restraint when Israel needs to get on with the job of asserting "our" values. Maybe Israel does not want the scrutiny of peacekeepers as it fights our war on terror for us. Maybe it feared that the monitors' reports might help to give back to the Lebanese, even to Hezbollah, their faces, their history, their suffering.

And, if we are honest, Israel is not alone. How many of us want the Arabs to remain faceless so we can keep believing we are the victims of a new ideology that wants only our evisceration, just as the "Red Indians" once supposedly wanted our scalps? How many many of us believe that our values demand that we fall in behind a new world order in which Arab deaths are not real deaths because "they" are not fully human?

And how many of us believe that deliberate barbarity, at least when we do it, is only "apparently" a crime against humanity?

Israel's secret war: the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Palestine

Independent Online Edition > Middle East
Israel's secret war: the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Palestine
By Anne Penketh in Gaza City
Published: 29 July 2006

A 12-year-old boy dead on a stretcher. A mother in shock and disbelief after her son was shot dead for standing on their roof. A phone rings and a voice in broken Arabic orders residents to abandon their home on pain of death.

Those are snapshots of a day in Gaza where Israel is waging a hidden war, as the world looks the other way, focusing on Lebanon.

It is a war of containment and control that has turned the besieged Strip into a prison with no way in or out, and no protection from an fearsome battery of drones, precision missiles, tank shells and artillery rounds.

As of last night, 29 people had been killed in the most concentrated 48 hours of violence since an Israeli soldier was abducted by Palestinian militants just more than a month ago.

The operation is codenamed "Samson's Pillars", a collective punishment of the 1.4 million Gazans, subjecting them to a Lebanese-style offensive that has targeted the civilian infrastructure by destroying water mains, the main power station and bridges.

The similarities with Israel's blitz on Lebanon are striking, raising suspicions that the Gaza offensive has been the testing ground for the military strategy now unfolding on the second front in the north.

In Gaza, following the victory of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas in January, Israel, with the help of the US, initiated an immediate boycott and ensured the rest of the world fell into line after months of hand-wringing. Israel has secured the same flashing green light from the Bush administration over Lebanon, while the rest of the world appeals in vain for an immediate ceasefire.

The Israelis, who launched their Lebanon offensive on 12 July after the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah fighters, intend to create a "sterile" zone devoid of militants in a mile-wide stretch inside Lebanon.

In Gaza, Palestinian land has already been bulldozed to form a 300-metre open area along the border with Israel proper. And in both cases, the crisis will doubtless end up being defused by a prisoner exchange. With Lebanon dominating the headlines, Israel has "rearranged the occupation" in Gaza, in the words of the Palestinian academic and MP, Hanan Ashrawi. But unlike the Lebanese, the desperate Gazans have nowhere to flee from their humanitarian crisis.

Before Israeli tanks moved into northern Gaza, yesterday, 12-year-old Anas Zumlut joined the ranks of dead Palestinians, numbering more than 100. His body was wrapped in a funeral shroud, just like those of the two sisters, a three-year-old and an eight-month-old baby, who were killed three days ago in the same area of Jablaya.

In the past three weeks, the foreign ministry and the interior ministry in Gaza city have been smashed, prompting speculation that Israel's offensive is not only aimed at securing the release of Cpl Gilad Shalit, or bringing an end to the Qassam rocket attacks that have wounded one person in the past month and jarred the nerves of the residents of the nearest Israeli town of Sderot.

"At first we thought they were bombing the Hamas leaders by targeting Haniyeh and Zahar," a Palestinian official said, referring to the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. "But when they targeted the economy ministry we decided they wanted to completely destroy the entire government."

The only functioning crossing, Erez, is closed to Palestinians who are almost hermetically sealed inside the Strip. As the local economy has been strangled by donor countries, Gaza City's 1,800 municipal employees have not been paid since the beginning of April. Families are borrowing to the hilt, selling their jewellery, ignoring electricity bills and tax demands and throwing themselves on the mercy of shopkeepers.

Western officials say they hope the pressure will coerce Hamas into recognising Israel but the Palestinians believe the real goal is the collapse of the Hamas government - six of whose cabinet members have been arrested, the rest are in hiding.

The signs on the ground are that Israel's military pressure is proving counter-productive. There is the risk of a total breakdown of the fabric of society at a time when the main political parties, Fatah and Hamas, are at each other's throats. "The popularity of Hamas is increasing," says the Palestinian deputy foreign minister, Ahmed Soboh, from the comparative safety of his West Bank office in Ramallah.

The situation has become unbearable for Gazans, says Nabil Shaath, a veteran Fatah official who is a former foreign and planning minister. Through the window, small fishing boats are anchored uselessly in the harbour, penned in by Israeli sea patrols.

All mechanisms for coping are being exhausted.

Mr Shaath, who had a daughter, Mimi, late in life, says that he tried "laughter therapy" with his five-year-old at home in northern Gaza. "Every time there was a shell, I would burst out laughing and she would laugh with me. But then the Israelis occupied everything around us, and there were tanks, and shrapnel in the garden, and she saw where the shells were coming from, and she was terrified. So Mimi now gets angry when I laugh."

Only a few miles away, on the other side of the border, the Israeli army says it is taking pains to minimise civilian casualties. Hila, a 21-year old paratrooper who is not allowed to give her last name, says the Hamas fighters in Gaza - like Hizbollah in Lebanon - deliberately mingle with the civilian population as a tactic. Weapons are stored in the upper storeys of houses where families live downstairs, she says. "The terrorists deliberately choose places where we can't retaliate."

But these places are being hit. And Mr Shaath is scornful of the disproportionate Israeli reaction to the Palestinian rockets. Five Israelis have been killed by the 10km range Qassams since 2000.

Mrs Ashrawi believes Samson's Pillars are no closer to falling. "Israelis think they are searing the consciousness of the Palestinians and the Lebanese with a branding iron. But if people have a cause they will never be defeated."

Day 17

* Israeli aircraft kill 12 in southern Lebanon, with hill villages near Tyre among the targets.

* Hizbollah fires a new long-range missile, the Khaibar-1, at Afula south of Haifa, the furthest a Hizbollah rocket has landed inside Israel.

* At least six people are wounded in rocket attacks on northern Israel. One rocket hits a hospital in Nahariya.

* US State Department describes Israel's remarks that the Rome conference gave it a ''green light'' to continue its attack on Lebanon as ''outrageous''.

* Emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland asks Israel and Hizbollah for a 72-hour ceasefire to allow evacuation of the elderly.

* Israeli aircraft attack homes owned by Palestinian militants and a metal workshop in the Gaza Strip, wounding seven, doctors say.

* Death toll:

At least 459 people, mostly civilians, in Lebanon

* 51 Israelis, including 18 civilians, according to Reuters' tally.

* Israeli military says 200 Hizbollah fighters killed, Hizbollah has said 31 of its fighters killed.

Mortars hit Lebanon evacuation convoy. 29/07/2006. ABC News Online

ABC News Online
Mortars hit Lebanon evacuation convoy

By Peter Cave and wires

A rescue convoy bringing civilians from a village near the Lebanon-Israel border has come under fire from Israeli forces.

A cameraman for a German network and his driver were lightly injured and their car destroyed when it was struck by two mortar rounds.

The privately-organised convoy consisted of two buses, an ambulance and up to 40 cars including a number of media vehicles.

The Seven Network's Adrian Brown, who was travelling with the group, says two mortars struck the German vehicle in the centre of the convoy.

He says the convoy had collected about 50 people from Ramesh but had been unable to get to about 20 Australians trapped beyond the village.

The Australian embassy in Beirut had liaised with the Israeli Defence Forces to make them aware of the humanitarian convoy and its position.

The incident comes as the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah enters its 17th day.

United Nations emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland has asked for a 72-hour pause in the fighting to enable relief workers to evacuate the elderly, the young and the wounded from southern Lebanon.

The pause also would enable aid agencies to bring in needed medical supplies as well as food and other emergency supplies for the hundreds of thousands driven from their homes by the fighting.

"There is something fundamentally wrong with a war where there are more dead children than armed men,"
Mr Egeland said after briefing the 15-nation UN Security Council on his to the area.

"It has to stop. There has been too much suffering in southern Lebanon, in Israel and in Gaza, which is becoming the forgotten conflict in the Middle East."


At least 10 people have been killed in Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon overnight.

The deaths take the toll for the conflict to at least 430 Lebanese, including 359 civilians, since Israel's offensive began on July 12.

A total of 51 Israelis have died in the conflict, including 18 civilians.

The Israeli air force has today carried out more than 27 raids at dawn in areas to the east of the port city of Tyre, which have also been hit by some 300 shells fired by Israeli artillery.

Hezbollah has fired scores of rockets into Israel, including at least one that the Lebanese guerrilla group says is a new long-range missile, wounding at least six people.

The longer-range rocket landed in an open area near the town of Afula, about 50 kilometres the Lebanese border.

It matches the furthest distance that Hezbollah rockets have landed inside Israel since the conflict began.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has invited countries interested in participating in an international force for Lebanon to gather in New York on Monday to begin planning.

"The time has come for us to really be action-oriented and [seek] concrete steps that can be taken to help the protagonists and the civilians who are caught in the middle" of the fighting," Mr Annan said.

He says governments are also discussing a possible meeting of the UN Security Council at the ministerial level next week to begin work on a resolution addressing the fighting.

"There has been talk about it," Mr Annan said.

"But I don't think any date or time has been fixed yet."

While many potential troop-contributing countries have been invited, UN officials have declined to identify them.

Although the US has ruled out offering troops, it will be represented by Nicholas Burns, the number three State Department official, diplomatic sources say.

"We believe strongly that there is broad international interest in doing this and that certainly there will be sufficient numbers of contributions available to make that force be a viable, robust force," US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

Mr Casey says mission could be authorised by the Security Council but will not necessarily be a blue-hatted UN force.

"The decisions are yet to come as to whether it wears a blue helmet, whether it wears a NATO flag, whether it wears some other kind of multinational force emblem on it," he said.

"The thing that it is important is that we get the right troops in place as quickly as possible to do the job."

- ABC/Reuters

Israeli tanks move back into Gaza Strip

Israeli tanks move back into Gaza Strip


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israeli tanks pushed back into the Gaza Strip before dawn Saturday, a day after ending a bloody, three-day sweep that killed 30 Palestinians.

Seven tanks crossed just over Gaza's northern border, Palestinian security officials said. The army had said its withdrawal Friday was temporary and did not mean its monthlong offensive in the Gaza Strip was over.

Also Saturday, Israeli forces attacked a site on the Gaza-Egypt border where militants had been tunneling, the army said. Palestinian officials said electric cables were destroyed in the attack, knocking out power to the nearby town of Rafah.

The army said its aircraft also attacked a building housing a weapons cache in Gaza City. No injuries were reported in either incident.

After Israeli troops left Friday, Palestinians streamed out of their homes, inspecting their battered houses and vehicles while rescue workers searched for bodies underneath rubble. Militants picked up mines and explosives they had planted to hit Israeli tanks.

Israel's Gaza offensive started after a June 25 cross-border raid by Hamas-linked militants who captured an Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, and killed two others.

Palestinian officials said they had not received a response to their demand that Israel guarantee it will free women, children and long-serving Palestinian prisoners before Shalit, 19, is released. Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, said it had created a stalemate.

Shalit is believed to remain in the custody of Palestinian militant groups.

Israeli troops have killed 159 Palestinians since they started attacking the Gaza Strip to try to rescue Shalit and stop militants from firing rockets into Israel, according to an Associated Press count. Most of the dead were militants but a considerable number were civilians.

The world's attention, however, has been fixed on Lebanon, where Israel is battling Hezbollah guerrillas. Israel opened its second front on the Lebanese border after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid July 12.

Bardawil denied reports that Hamas and Hezbollah were cooperating in negotiations for the release of prisoners.

'I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel'

Saturday, July 29, 2006


On the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, a 31-year-old man claiming he was upset about "what was going on in Israel" opened fire at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building, killing one person and wounding five women, one of them pregnant.

Three of the women were in critical condition Friday night with gunshot wounds to the stomach.

The gunman, brandishing a large-caliber semi-automatic pistol, forced his way through the security door at the federation, on Third Avenue downtown, after an employee had punched in her security code.

"He said, 'I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel,' before opening fire on everyone," said Marla Meislin-Dietrich, a database coordinator for the center. "He was randomly shooting at everyone."

The man was booked into King County Jail at 10:38 p.m. as Naveed Afzal Haq on one count of investigation of homicide and five counts of investigation of attempted homicide, according to King County Jail records.

The man apparently was from the Tri-Cities area, and authorities there confirmed Friday night that they had visited two residences in the area and were preparing to go into a third with the assistance of the FBI. A bomb squad was standing by in Kennewick. Local media reported he had a misdemeanor lewd conduct charge pending in Benton County. He allegedly exposed himself in a public place.

The shootings come just weeks after Jewish leaders told Congress that there was a "critical threat" to their institutions nationwide because of escalating tensions in the Middle East.

The FBI has labeled the shootings a "hate crime" based on what the gunman told police in a 911 call.

"I feel sick to my stomach," said Becki Chandler, 35, who has been a volunteer for the Jewish Federation for seven years. She came to Harborview Medical Center as soon as she heard about the shootings. "It feels like a personal attack."

Police apprehended the lone gunman without incident at 4:15 p.m. after officers talked him out of the building.

The man was arrested at the corner of Third Avenue and Lenora Street, near the federation building.

"We believe ... it's a lone individual acting out his antagonism," said David Gomez, an FBI assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Seattle.

In Seattle, FBI agent Fred Gutt said the agency sent out two generalized warnings to Washington law enforcement, on July 21 and on Wednesday, listing general scenarios to be alert for. Places of religious significance were mentioned, including mosques, synagogues and churches, but the warning was not specific, he said.

Gutt said the FBI is helping Seattle police assess whether the gunman was a "lone wolf" or part of a wider plan. If evidence of a terrorist plot evolved, the FBI would become the lead agency, but as of Friday night the case remained Seattle's, Gutt said.

Authorities did not release any details about the suspect and would not discuss possible motives.

In a news conference, police Chief Kerlikowske said the man was a U.S. citizen, but not from Seattle. His relatives were being contacted and interviewed.

"There's nothing to indicate that it's terrorism-related," Gomez said. "But we're monitoring the entire situation."

"This is a sad day in the city of Seattle," Mayor Greg Nickels said. "This is a crime of hate, and there's no place for that in Seattle."

The mayor and Kerlikowske said the city will be providing outreach assistance to the local Jewish community, and added patrols will be on duty to protect synagogues and other Jewish facilities.

Seattle mosques will also be protected by police as a safeguard against possible retaliation from outraged citizens.

Harborview spokeswoman Pamela Steele said five victims were taken to the hospital. "I've never seen such a swarm of people," Steele said of the scene as the victims and medics arrived at the trauma center.

The women ranged in age from the 20s to the 40s. Each suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen, knee, groin or arm. Three were in surgery and in critical condition Friday night. Two were in satisfactory condition.

A hospital spokesman identified the pregnant woman as Dayna Klein. She was in satisfactory condition with a gunshot wound in her left forearm and was scheduled for surgery. Carol Goldman was in satisfactory condition with injuries to her knees.

Cheryl Stumbo, director of marketing and communications for the federation, also was identified as one of the victims and was in critical condition Friday night.

Kathryn Bush said Friday night that her daughter, Layla Bush, had been injured in the shooting.

"She's out of surgery, but that's all we know," she said in a call Friday night from her Florida home. "We're taking it moment by moment. I'm really in shock right now, but I'm trusting in the Lord to bring me through."

She said her daughter, 23, was "really bright" and always wanted to work for non-profits and foundations. She joined the federation as the office manager and receptionist about six months ago.

Police got the first 911 call of shots fired at the Jewish Federation at 4:03 p.m. Friday just as people were preparing to leave work for the weekend. About 10 people were left in the building. Witnesses said the shooter indicated he was acting because of Israel's actions in Lebanon.

The initial call authorities received reported the shots and a possible hostage situation, assistant Seattle police Chief Nick Metz said at an early evening news conference.

Witnesses to the shooting and people who work at the federation described a chaotic, terrifying scene.

Kami Knatt works at the federation's Holocaust center. As she exited the building, she saw a wounded co-worker fall down. Knatt took her sweater off and tried to stop the bleeding.

"I asked her, 'Are you OK?' She said, 'No, I've been shot.' I kept saying it's going to be OK."

The victim told Knatt: "I'm going to black out, I'm going to black out." Knatt replied: "You're going to be all right."

Several workers and victims ran toward a nearby Starbucks. There was a small pool of blood outside the coffee shop.

Nathaniel Mullins, 43, was turning onto Lenora Street with his 19-year-old daughter when he heard police say, "Get back! Get back!"

Mullins said he saw two shooting victims. "They were covered in blood," he said.

Rachel Hynes works in the building. "I was in the back of the building when I heard gunshots. It sounded like balloons, but they were really loud," she said. "I picked up my purse and I walked out of the building."

Zach Carstensen, who is the director of government relations for the Jewish Federation, said he heard shots and screams.

"People started running, and I started running with them," Carstensen said.

Asked whether he thought his office had been targeted because of the conflict in the Mideast, Carstensen said he wasn't sure. "We're all a little shaken, he said.

Jesse Black, general manager of Nyberg Locksmiths on Third Avenue diagonally across from the building, heard the shots and went to the sidewalk.

The cops yelled at him, "Get off the street because there's a sniper on the roof." He looked up and saw a figure in a white shirt on the rooftop.

Immediately after the shooting, a SWAT team searched the federation building for any other victims, anyone hiding or any other possible shooters, said police spokesman Rich Pruitt.

Police blocked off several city blocks to investigate. The suspect's vehicle was recovered near the shooting scene, Metz said. Police spent some time checking it for bombs before having it towed.

The federation issued a statement:

"Our federation colleagues so unmercifully and viciously attacked were spending their day as they normally do, providing for social and humanitarian services that benefited all of metropolitan Seattle. The hatred and violence visited upon them today offends the values that drove their work and passion for improving their neighbors' lives."

Early in July, Jewish non-profit organizations received more than half the federal homeland security grants to "harden" such "at-risk" non-profit groups against terrorist threats. Jewish groups received about $14 million of $25 million earmarked by Congress in 2005.

The federation building is known for its security, with gates and buzzers. Jacobs said the federation has an electronic security system that allows it to control access to the office. The shooter could not have simply entered the building unseen, said Anti-Defamation League leader Robert Jacobs.

The Muslim community in the region watched in horror as news broke of the shooting.

"We categorically condemn this and any similar acts of violence," the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a joint statement with the Ithna-Ashari Muslim Association of the Northwest, the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, the Islamic Educational Center of Seattle, American Muslims of Puget Sound and the Arab American Community Coalition.

"We pray for the safety and health of those injured and offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of the victims of this attack. ... We refuse to see the violence in the Middle East spill over to our cities and neighborhoods. We reject and categorically condemn any attacks against the Jewish community and stand in solidarity with the Jewish Federation in this tragedy."

The Seattle City Council issued a statement Friday offering its condolences to the victims and their families.

"There is too much hate and violence in the world and we do not wish to bring it to Seattle," said council President Nick Licata in the statement.

Just hours before the shooting, Jacobs ate lunch with shooting victim Dayna Klein.

"She's just a wonderful, ebullient, energetic person," said Jacobs, ADL's Pacific Northwest regional director. "She heads up major gifts and development for the federation."

He called shooting victim Cheryl Stumbo, a non-Jewish Unitarian, "a warm, good human being. She really brought a tremendous understanding of marketing to the federation."

Iantha Sidell, past board chairman of the federation, went to Harborview after the shootings to lend her support.

"This is just a disaster," she said. "We value every life. I don't know what we're going to do about it. We believe in life."

P-I reporters Brad Wong, John Iwasaki, Mike Barber, Kathy Mulady, Dan Richman and photographer Mike Urban contributed to this report. This report also contains material from The Associated Press.

Hezbollah not on Russia's terrorist list

Friday, July 28, 2006 · Last updated 4:45 p.m. PT
Hezbollah not on Russia's terrorist list

MOSCOW -- Russia on Friday published a list of 17 groups it regards as terrorist organizations, but did not include the Palestinian militant movement Hamas or Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla group, both regarded as terrorists in Washington.

Separately, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Hezbollah must have a say in any agreements in the Middle East crisis, Russian news agencies reported - another sign of differences between Russia and the United States about the region.

"Any agreements must be coordinated with all the basic forces in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, as an organization that is represented in the parliament and government of Lebanon,"
RIA-Novosti reported quoted Lavrov as saying on a plane returning from an Asian security meeting in Malaysia. Hezbollah has 11 members in Lebanon's 128-seat parliament, and two Cabinet ministers.

The terrorist list, published in the official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta, included al-Qaida and the Taliban as well as the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a rebel group fighting for Kashmir's independence from India, and Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The Russian Federal Security Service's top official in charge of fighting international terrorism, Yuri Sapunov, said Hamas and Hezbollah were not a major threat to Russia and were not regarded as terrorist groups worldwide.

But he said Russian security agencies took account of international lists of terrorist groups when exchanging intelligence with foreign counterparts.

Sapunov told Rossiiskaya Gazeta the list of 17 "includes only those organizations which represent the greatest threat to the security of our country." Groups linked to separatist militants in Chechnya and Islamic radicals in Central Asia made the list.

Russia has come under criticism for its refusal to list Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.

Israel is now fighting a ground and air war in Lebanon against Hezbollah guerrillas, who are firing rockets into northern Israel. Israeli forces have also attacked the Gaza Strip to target Hamas militants. Russia has criticized the scale of the Israeli offensive, while the United States has blamed Hezbollah for the violence.

President Vladimir Putin earlier this year provoked U.S. and Israeli anger by inviting leaders of Hamas to Moscow shortly after their January election victory. The meeting made no progress in softening the group's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist or foreswear violence.

Lavrov's reported comment about Hezbollah echoed the arguments Russian officials made for inviting Hamas leaders, when they said that they were dealing with Hamas as an entity that had just come to power in elections.

Lavrov said that Russia's support for a Hezbollah role in decision-making in the Mideast crisis was shared by European countries and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, adding: "As for support from the Americans for this position, I have no such information," RIA-Novosti reported.

The European Union considers Hamas a terrorist organization and along with the United States slapped financial sanctions on the new Hamas-led government. But it does not list Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

United Press International - Intl. Intelligence - Israeli army divided, resistance tough

United Press International
Israeli army divided, resistance tough

TEL AVIV, Israel, July 28 (UPI) -- As Israeli troops sustained considerable casualties in the fighting in south Lebanon, the Israeli military appeared divided over the course of operations.

Disagreement broke out between the Mossad intelligence service and military intelligence at a meeting of the inner cabinet for security and political affairs Thursday over the evaluation of Hezbollah's force and capacity to resist a long offensive.

The two sides also could not agree on the extent of damage inflicted on Hezbollah's military infrastructure as a result of military operations which have been going on without respite for the past 17 days, Israeli daily Haaretz reported Friday.

In addition to differences between the intelligence apparatuses, sharp criticism was voiced within the military institution about the course of military operations in south Lebanon, reflecting confusion over the proceeding of the war conduct.

The military correspondent at Israel's Channel One television reported that high-ranking IDF officers are highly critical of the way military operations are being executed in south Lebanon and have accused military intelligence of underestimating Hezbollah's strength and failing to prevent the Shiite group from kidnapping Israeli soldiers despite previous unsuccessful attempts.

The officers charged that army command in north Israel failed to sound the alarm following Hezbollah's attack in the Ghajar area last November, which the army considered an attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

The ongoing war in Lebanon was sparked by Hezbollah's kidnapping of two soldiers on July 12, which it sought to swap for Lebanese and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails.

The officers were highly critical of the way the commander of the northern front, Gen. Udy Adam, was leading the operations in south Lebanon.

They went as far as requesting Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz "to act like other chiefs of staff had acted during previous wars by appointing support officers on the side of the officers who fail to prove themselves during the war in Lebanon."

U.S. plans $4.6 billion in Mideast arms sales
UPDATE 2-U.S. plans $4.6 billion in Mideast arms sales
Fri Jul 28, 2006 4:05 PM ET

(Recasts, adds details on other proposed sales)

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) - The Bush administration spelled out plans on Friday to sell $4.6 billion of arms to moderate Arab states, including battle tanks worth as much as $2.9 billion to protect critical Saudi infrastructure.

The announcement came two weeks after the administration said it would sell Israel its latest supply of JP-8 aviation fuel valued at up to $210 million to help Israeli warplanes "keep peace and security in the region."

The United States also rushed a delivery of precision-guided bombs requested by Israel after launching its airstrikes against Hizbollah fighters in Lebanon 17 days ago, The New York Times reported last week.

In the newly proposed sales to Arab states, UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter gunships worth up to $808 million would go to the United Arab Emirates, while AH-64 Apache helicopters worth as much as $400 million would go to Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain would also get Black Hawk helicopters, valued at up to $252 million. Jordan would get a potential $156 million in upgrades to 1,000 of its M113A1 armored personnel carriers.

Javelin anti-tank missiles valued at up to $48 million would go to Oman under the deals put forward by the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which administers U.S. government-to-government arms sales.

The $2.9 billion Saudi deal involves the sale of 58 older-generation U.S. M1A1 Abrams tanks that would be modernized. Also, 315 Saudi-owned, newer-model, Abrams tanks would be improved with such things as air-conditioning and infrared sights for the commanders as well as the gunners.

The project's prime contractor would be General Dynamics Corp.'s Land Systems business unit of Sterling Heights, Michigan, the Pentagon said in a notice to Congress required by law.

Vehicle "teardown" and final reassembly would be carried out in Saudi Arabia, the notice said. The upgraded configuration is known as the M1A2S, in which the S stands for Saudi.

"The proposed sale and upgrade will allow Saudi Arabia to operate and exercise a more lethal and survivable M1A2S tank for the protection of critical infrastructure," it said.

It also would keep a substantial number of tanks in the region that have "a high degree of commonality" with the U.S. tank fleet, the Pentagon said, referring to interchangeable parts.

Notices of proposed U.S. arms sales are required by law once they top certain value thresholds. They do not mean a sale has been concluded. Congress may block a sale if both houses pass resolutions of disapproval within 30 calendar days of formal notification.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Israel nixes major U.N. role in Lebanon

Yahoo! News
Israel nixes major U.N. role in Lebanon

By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press WriterThu Jul 27, 10:50 PM ET

Israel's U.N. ambassador on Thursday ruled out major U.N. involvement in any potential international force in Lebanon, saying more professional and better-trained troops were needed for such a volatile situation.

**Isn't it for Lebanon to decide what troops will patrol Lebanon?**

Dan Gillerman also said Israel would not allow the United Nations to join in an investigation of an Israeli airstrike that demolished a post belonging to the current U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Four U.N. observers were killed in the Tuesday strike.

**It's the UN that should be investigating it, not the party that committed the crime**

"Israel has never agreed to a joint investigation, and I don't think that if anything happened in this country, or in Britain or in Italy or in France, the government of that country would agree to a joint investigation," Gillerman said.

**except that it didn't happen in Israel, it happened in Lebanon.**

Gillerman, who spoke at an event hosted by The Israel Project advocacy group and later inside the United Nations, gave a heated defense of Israel's two-week campaign against Hezbollah militants. He said some diplomats from the Middle East had told him that Israel was doing the right thing in going after Hezbollah.

His refusal to conduct a joint investigation will be a slap to U.N. officials, who have specifically sought to partner with Israel to investigate the bombing.

Gillerman was highly critical of the current U.N. peacekeeping force, deployed in a buffer Zone between Israel and Lebanon since 1978, saying its facilities had sometimes been used for cover by Hezbollah militants and that it had not done its job.

"It has never been able to prevent any shelling of Israel, any terrorist attack, any kidnappings," he said. "They either didn't see or didn't know or didn't want to see, but they have been hopeless."

Gillerman even mocked the name of the force — the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.

"Interim in U.N. jargon is 28 years," he said.

The flaws with the U.N. force make it imperative that any U.N. force come from somewhere else, though it could have a mandate from the United Nations, he said.

"So obviously it cannot be a United Nations force," Gillerman said. "It will have to be an international force, a professional one, with soldiers from countries who have the training and capabilities to be effective."

Any such force must have two main objectives. It must disarm Hezbollah completely and make sure that the group has lost all its capacity as a terror organization; and it should monitor the border between Syria and Lebanon "to make sure that no additional shipments of arms, rockets, illegal weapons, enter Lebanon," he said.

Despite his refusal for a U.N. force, he said Israel was not "excluding anybody," and that "the makeup, the composition and the countries which would supply the soldiers to that force still has to be decided."

Gillerman apologized for the strike that killed the four U.N. observers, but said the conflict was a war and that accidents happen.

"This is a war which is going on," he told reporters. "War is an ugly thing and during war, mistakes and tragedies do happen."

Gillerman said Israel would welcome any information from the U.N. as it conducts its investigation, and will consider any U.N. requests for information.

Israel steps up "psy-ops" in Lebanon

Israel steps up "psy-ops" in Lebanon
By Peter Feuilherade
BBC Monitoring

From mass targeting of mobile phones with voice and text messages to old-fashioned radio broadcasts warning of imminent attacks, Israel is deploying a range of old and new technologies in Lebanon as part of the psychological operations ("psyops") campaign supplementing its military attacks.

According to US and UK media outlets, Israel has reactivated a radio station to broadcast messages urging residents of southern Lebanon to evacuate the region.

Some reports have named the station as the Voice of the South.

The South Lebanon Army, a Christian militia backed by Israel, operated a radio station called Voice of the South from Kfar Killa in southern Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s.

The station closed down in May 2000 when Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon.

Cash for tip-offs

The Israeli newspaper Maariv on Sunday reported the appearance of a website called All 4 Lebanon which offered payment for tip-offs from Lebanese citizens "that could help Israel in the fight against Hezbollah".

Whoever is able and willing to help Lebanon eradicate Hezbollah's evil and get back its independence, freedom and prosperity is hereby invited to contact us
All 4 Lebanon website

According to Maariv, the site, with content in Arabic, English and French, had been set up by Israeli intelligence.

"We appeal to everyone who has the ability and the desire to uproot the sore called Hezbollah from your heart and from the heart of Lebanon," the paper quoted the website as saying in Arabic.

On its English-language page, the site says: "Whoever is able and willing to help Lebanon eradicate Hezbollah's evil and get back its independence, freedom and prosperity is hereby invited to contact us."

It adds: "For your own safety, please contact us from places where no-one knows you."

The Arabic wording is identical to that on leaflets which Israeli aircraft have been dropping over Beirut and the south of Lebanon.

The leaflets called on people to "remove the sore known as Hezbollah from the heart of Lebanon".

The rewards "could be a range of things, such as cash or a house", according to an Israel Defence Forces spokeswoman quoted by Reuters news agency.

It was not clear how such items would be delivered or exactly what information Israel wanted
, Reuters noted.

Mobile aggression

On Friday, residents of southern Lebanon reported receiving recorded messages on their mobile phones from an unknown caller.

The speaker identified himself as an Israeli and warned people in the area to leave their homes and head north.

Dubai-based news channel al-Arabiya TV reported that the recorded messages also said they "held the Lebanese government responsible for the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers, and called on Lebanon to set them free".

Inquiries by Lebanon's communications ministry revealed that the calls had come from exchanges in Italy and Canada, but had originated in Israel.

According to US magazine Time, Israel has been targeting SMS text messages at local officials in southern Lebanon, urging them to move north of the Litani river before Israeli military operations intensified.

The UK's Guardian newspaper said mobile phone users in Lebanon were regularly receiving messages to their phones which purported to be news updates, attempting to discredit Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah or his party.

Satellite warfare next?

As Israel broadens its psyops activities, it also continues to attack media targets using conventional military means.

Air raids on Saturday hit transmission stations used by Hezbollah's al-Manar TV, Future TV and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC). A technician working for LBC was reported to have been killed.

The next day, a convoy of journalists from Lebanese and pan-Arab TV channels was attacked by Israeli planes while on a tour of southern Lebanon; no injuries were reported.

According to an unconfirmed report by Egypt's Middle East News Agency, Israel managed on Sunday "to intercept the satellite transmissions of Hezbollah's al-Manar TV channel for the third successive day, replacing it with Israeli transmissions that reportedly showed Hezbollah command sites and rocket launching pads which Israel claimed it has raided".

Replacing a TV station's picture with output you want the audience to see is more difficult to achieve than jamming.

Al-Manar TV has three satellite signals, one on ArabSat 2B at 30.5 degrees east, one on Badr 3 at 26 degrees east and one on NileSat 102 at 7 degrees west.

On Badr 3 and NileSat, al-Manar is broadcast alongside other TV stations in a multiplexed or combined digital signal.

While it would be technically feasible to replace one station's output, all the other stations in the multiplex would be taken off the air too. The technical parameters of the original station would need to be exactly duplicated by the interloper.

Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah

The New York Times

Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah
By Neil MacFarquhar
The New York Times

Friday 28 July 2006

Damascus, Syria - At the onset of the Lebanese crisis, Arab governments, starting with Saudi Arabia, slammed Hezbollah for recklessly provoking a war, providing what the United States and Israel took as a wink and a nod to continue the fight.

Now, with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for 15 days, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements.

The Saudi royal family and King Abdullah II of Jordan, who were initially more worried about the rising power of Shiite Iran, Hezbollah's main sponsor, are scrambling to distance themselves from Washington.

An outpouring of newspaper columns, cartoons, blogs and public poetry readings have showered praise on Hezbollah while attacking the United States and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for trumpeting American plans for a "new Middle East" that they say has led only to violence and repression.

Even Al Qaeda, run by violent Sunni Muslim extremists normally hostile to all Shiites, has gotten into the act, with its deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, releasing a taped message saying that through its fighting in Iraq, his organization was also trying to liberate Palestine.

Mouin Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst in Amman, Jordan, with the International Crisis Group, said, "The Arab-Israeli conflict remains the most potent issue in this part of the world."

Distinctive changes in tone are audible throughout the Sunni world. This week, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt emphasized his attempts to arrange a cease-fire to protect all sects in Lebanon, while the Jordanian king announced that his country was dispatching medical teams "for the victims of Israeli aggression." Both countries have peace treaties with Israel.

The Saudi royal court has issued a dire warning that its 2002 peace plan - offering Israel full recognition by all Arab states in exchange for returning to the borders that predated the 1967 Arab-Israeli war - could well perish.

"If the peace option is rejected due to the Israeli arrogance," it said, "then only the war option remains, and no one knows the repercussions befalling the region, including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire."

The Saudis were putting the West on notice that they would not exert pressure on anyone in the Arab world until Washington did something to halt the destruction of Lebanon, Saudi commentators said.

American officials say that while the Arab leaders need to take a harder line publicly for domestic political reasons, what matters more is what they tell the United States in private, which the Americans still see as a wink and a nod.

There are evident concerns among Arab governments that a victory for Hezbollah - and it has already achieved something of a victory by holding out this long - would further nourish the Islamist tide engulfing the region and challenge their authority. Hence their first priority is to cool simmering public opinion.

But perhaps not since President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt made his emotional outpourings about Arab unity in the 1960's, before the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, has the public been so electrified by a confrontation with Israel, played out repeatedly on satellite television stations with horrific images from Lebanon of wounded children and distraught women fleeing their homes.

Egypt's opposition press has had a field day comparing Sheik Nasrallah to Nasser, while demonstrators waved pictures of both.

An editorial in the weekly Al Dustur by Ibrahim Issa, who faces a lengthy jail sentence for his previous criticism of President Mubarak, compared current Arab leaders to the medieval princes who let the Crusaders chip away at Muslim lands until they controlled them all.

After attending an intellectual rally in Cairo for Lebanon, the Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm wrote a column describing how he had watched a companion buy 20 posters of Sheik Nasrallah.

"People are praying for him as they walk in the street, because we were made to feel oppressed, weak and handicapped," Mr. Negm said in an interview. "I asked the man who sweeps the street under my building what he thought, and he said: 'Uncle Ahmed, he has awakened the dead man inside me! May God make him triumphant!' "

In Lebanon, Rasha Salti, a freelance writer, summarized the sense that Sheik Nasrallah differed from other Arab leaders.

"Since the war broke out, Hassan Nasrallah has displayed a persona, and public behavior also, to the exact opposite of Arab heads of states," she wrote in an e-mail message posted on many blogs.

In comparison, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's brief visit to the region sparked widespread criticism of her cold demeanor and her choice of words, particularly a statement that the bloodshed represented the birth pangs of a "new Middle East." That catchphrase was much used by Shimon Peres, the veteran Israeli leader who was a principal negotiator of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which ultimately failed to lead to the Palestinian state they envisaged.

A cartoon by Emad Hajjaj in Jordan labeled "The New Middle East" showed an Israeli tank sitting on a broken apartment house in the shape of the Arab world.

Fawaz al-Trabalsi, a columnist in the Lebanese daily As Safir, suggested that the real new thing in the Middle East was the ability of one group to challenge Israeli militarily.

Perhaps nothing underscored Hezbollah's rising stock more than the sudden appearance of a tape from the Qaeda leadership attempting to grab some of the limelight.

Al Jazeera satellite television broadcast a tape from Mr. Zawahri (za-WAH-ri). Large panels behind him showed a picture of the exploding World Trade Center as well as portraits of two Egyptian Qaeda members, Muhammad Atef, a Qaeda commander who was killed by an American airstrike in Afghanistan, and Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker on Sept. 11, 2001. He described the two as fighters for the Palestinians.

Mr. Zawahri tried to argue that the fight against American forces in Iraq paralleled what Hezbollah was doing, though he did not mention the organization by name.

"It is an advantage that Iraq is near Palestine," he said. "Muslims should support its holy warriors until an Islamic emirate dedicated to jihad is established there, which could then transfer the jihad to the borders of Palestine."

Mr. Zawahri also adopted some of the language of Hezbollah and Shiite Muslims in general. That was rather ironic, since previously in Iraq, Al Qaeda has labeled Shiites Muslim as infidels and claimed responsibility for some of the bloodier assaults on Shiite neighborhoods there.

But by taking on Israel, Hezbollah had instantly eclipsed Al Qaeda, analysts said. "Everyone will be asking, 'Where is Al Qaeda now?'" said Adel al-Toraifi, a Saudi columnist and expert on Sunni extremists.

Mr. Rabbani of the International Crisis Group said Hezbollah's ability to withstand the Israeli assault and to continue to lob missiles well into Israel exposed the weaknesses of Arab governments with far greater resources than Hezbollah.

"Public opinion says that if they are getting more on the battlefield than you are at the negotiating table, and you have so many more means at your disposal, then what the hell are you doing?" Mr. Rabbani said. "In comparison with the small embattled guerrilla movement, the Arab states seem to be standing idly by twiddling their thumbs."

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo for this article, and Suha Maayeh from Amman, Jordan.

More innocent blood is shed as Israel steps up offensive - Newspaper Edition - Times Online

Times Online
From Stephen Farrell in Safed

DEFYING the international clamour for a ceasefire, Israel declared yesterday that it would press ahead with the war in Lebanon and called up at least 15,000 more reservists.

“It was decided to continue the offensive with the same strategy, using pinpointed ground incursions and airstrikes,” a source said after a meeting of Ehud Olmert’s security Cabinet. “At the moment the army is not bound by time. It can act as long as needed.”

Haim Ramon, the Justice Minister, said the world had given Israel a green light to continue
its war against Hezbollah because a meeting of 15 foreign ministers in Rome on Wednesday had failed to demand an immediate ceasefire. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, called that a “gross misunderstanding”.

Lebanon claimed last night that its hospitals had received about 400 bodies of people killed by Israeli strikes, with as many as 200 still buried under rubble. Israel has had 19 civilians killed, with hundreds more injured by Hezbollah rockets.

But, despite the rising toll and international anger, the Israeli media and public appeared increasingly bellicose in the face of Hezbollah’s unexpectedly fierce resistance. “Greater Determination, Less Sensitivity,” proclaimed the front page of the mass-circulation tabloid Ma’ariv.

Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Alex Fishman declared: “A village from which rockets are fired will simply be destroyed by fire. From the air and from the ground. The decision should have been made and executed with the first Katyusha. But better late than never.”

**collective punishment = war crime**

One opinion poll showed 82per cent of Israelis favoured continuing the fight — only slightly down from 90 per cent a week ago — and 95 per cent considered Israel’s campaign “justified and correct”.

Behind Israel’s determination is a realisation that failure to crush Hezbollah would also destroy Israel’s image of military invulnerability in Arab minds. Ze’ev Schiff, a military analysts in the left-of-centre Ha’aretz paper, wrote that Hezbollah, “must be destroyed at any price . . . If Hezbollah does not experience defeat in this war, this will spell the end of Israeli deterrence against its enemies.”

The immediate cause of Israel’s unease has been the protracted battle to capture Bint Jbeil, a Hezbollah stronghold. Eight Israeli soldiers were killed there on Wednesday, the heaviest toll of the 17-day offensive.

In an interview with The Times from his hospital bed, a young Israeli paratrooper injured in Bint Jbeil acknowledged that Hezbollah fighters were proving unexpectedly tough adversaries. “They are much better than they used to be. They are good fighters. They are like an army,” conceded Tzfanya Meshulam, who saw one of his commanders killed.

He described how Israeli troops advance from house to house after Israeli artillery and aircraft have first pounded the targets. The old Arab casbah with its narrow lanes was the toughest area to take. There was no running battle. Hezbollah “don’t try to take over areas. They just come out of their underground shelters, shoot and disappear,” he said.

“We don’t really see them until we see the fire coming from somewhere. We were on one rooftop on the outskirts of town and they were shooting from everywhere — you don’t know where it is coming from. When we shoot at them they open up from another direction, like creating a diversion.”

He said that he and colleagues were protecting a heavy machinegun sniper position during a quiet period — “laughing with each other and looking at the town through binoculars” — when a missile hit them. “Suddenly I saw everything black and orange and I couldn’t hear what my colleagues were saying to me.

“I remember everything until this second then everything became slow motion and went black. I thought I was blind. Slowly I got my sight back and I heard my friends shouting.”

He was rushed downstairs for treatment, then taken across the border into Israel under heavy fire.

“Eventually we will win,” he said. “We are more experienced than them. Our weapons are better, and we have a lot more soldiers. They have had a long time to prepare. That is their advantage.”


Up to 600 killed

1,788 seriously injured

5,000 homes damaged

More than 2,500 aerial attacks by Israel

500,000 people displaced within Lebanon

200,000 have left the country

3 airports bombed,

62 bridges destroyed


19 civilians dead

26 seriously injured

374 less badly injured

632 treated for shock

33 Israeli soldiers killed

50 injured

1,514 rockets and missiles fired at Israel

200,000 Israelis have left their homes in North Israel