Incessant bombing of blocks of apartments and mass migration of people following radio announcements and pamphlets thrown down from planes is best described by a visiting UN official as a “horrific” and “violation of humanitarian law.”
But Israel’s objectives seem to be clear. Vexed by incessant terror attacks by Hezbollah on its population from Lebanon with support of the Lebanese Government, Tel Aviv wants a buffer zone from its borders to the Litani River. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said his country will accept a “robust” International Peacekeeping Force along the Israel-Lebanon border such as a contingent of NATO forces. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier talked to officials in Jerusalem and said that Israeli military incursions would continue till Hezbollah terrorists are cleared off the area from its border to the Litani River but confirmed Tel Aviv’s support for an International Peacekeeping Force.
UN officials say that aid on its way but it has “no safe passage” as Israel will not give it “access” for such relief. Even if such access is provided, it is impossible to deliver aid because of the large-scale destruction of bridges.
The whole episode started with the unnecessary escalation of violence by Hezbollah operatives who captured 2 Israeli soldiers following a similar capture of a gunner by Hamas cadre. The incursions into Gaza and Lebanon are central to Israel’s operations which cannot appear weak or accepting of such transgressions. Sources say that if Israel did not react so strongly, it may encourage many such abduction campaigns on a nation perpetually under siege by many rabid terrorist groups. Ultimately, there must be a negotiated settlement and Israel needs to start building better relations with Lebanon and Iran just as it has with Egypt and Jordan. Syria and Iran must change and stop supporting terrorist groups and use diplomacy as means to reach settlement on Palestine, human rights, and territory.
Meanwhile, India started its 2nd phase of evacuation as INS Mumbai ferried 444 people to Cyprus from Beirut. It had earlier taken 600 people last week. The INS Brahmaputra carried 400 people also from Beirut but INS Betwa could dock into the port if necessary. INS Shakti, the accompanying tanker is fuelling these ships so availability of fuel would not be a problem. Air India also started ferrying passengers from Cyprus to Mumbai and Chennai and the 2nd round is expected to be easier as “teething problems” faced during the 1st phase have been sorted out.