Day 7 of the Hezbollah-Israel conflict

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One week has passed since Israel responded to a Hezbollah attack along the Lebanon-Israel border. There is no immediate end of the conflict in sight as Israeli airborne, naval and ground units have pounded a wide array of targets in Lebanon. Hezbollah in turn has launched rocket and missile attacks on northern Israel.

The Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora condemned Israel saying their attacks have been "opening the gates of hell and madness". He reiterated the Lebanese government position, urging Hezbollah to release Israeli soldiers, and calling on Israel to cease its attacks, terming them "disproportionate". However, an Israeli general said that the offensive could go on for weeks to come.

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert claimed that last week's kidnappings were a timed attempt to divert attention from Iran's nuclear programme. The Rapporteur of Iran's Majlis' National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Kazem Jalali dismissed the allegation, denying any such role.

The civilian population in Lebanon has taken the largest toll in the conflict; 200 Lebanese civilians have been reported to be killed in the past seven days, 30 of them today. As a result of Hezbollah fire, at least 24 Israelis have been reported killed, including 9 civilians at the Haifa train station. In addition, 30 Lebanese soldiers have died without engaging Israeli units. Eleven of them were killed today in an Israeli air strike on a Lebanese army base east of Beirut. A Lebanese barracks was also hit yesterday, killing several soldiers.

The United Nations want an international peace contingent to be stationed in southern Lebanon to stop Hezbollah from firing missiles into Israel. The force would act as a stabilisation force against attacks from both sides in the conflict.

500,000 people have been displaced in Lebanon by the violence which could end in a humanitarian disaster, UN said.

A UN team was in Israel today, holding talks with the Israeli FM about a possible ceasefire agreement. However, the minister reiterated Israel's ultimatum that its two soldiers should be released and the Lebanese government posts troops in southern Lebanon before agreeing on a ceasefire. Lebanon say they fear posting soldiers in it's southern region could spark a civil war in the country.

Hezbollah militants have also today fired rockets on towns in northern Israel. Haifa, Acre, Kiryat Shemona and the region of Gush Halav have been hit. One Israeli was killed. Hezbollah have made comparisons between the Israeli "enemy combatants" they are holding without trial, and the inmates of Guantanamo Bay who they say have a similar status.

Today, transport trucks were again targeted by warplanes. Israel says it believed that the trucks were transporting missiles for Hezbollah. The Israeli military say 750 Hezbollah rockets, missiles and mortars have so far been fired since the start of the crisis.

Hundreds of foreigners have been evacuated from Lebanon by any available transportation. Ships, helicopters and buses have been used by several European countries and the United States to ferry their citizens out of the country.