US till today through Rice insist that war against civilians and infrastructure in Lebanon must continue . US concept of democracy and human rights oblige. We appreciated EU efforts, mainly Italy that will act even alone to stop such degraded war by sending its troops to Lebanon.
Associated France Press (AFP) 22/7/2006
Israel masses troops on Lebanon border amid invasion fears
by Nayla Razzouk
BEIRUT (AFP) - Israel has massed thousands more reservists on the Lebanese border to mount incursions aimed at destroying Hezbollah positions, warning it would not rule out a full-scale invasion despite mounting calls for a ceasefire.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that an Israeli invasion of Lebanon would see a dramatic escalation of Hezbollah attacks and said Syria and Iran should be involved in resolving the crisis.
Residents of Lebanon’s south, terror-stricken and exhausted as Israel’s air campaign entered its 11th day, waved white scarves as they streamed to safer havens further north after another Israeli warning to flee the frontier zone.
Despite criticism of US support for the bombardment, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed her rejection of the "false promise" of a ceasefire but said she would travel to the region on Sunday in search of a long-term solution.
Lebanon said its army was ready to go into battle if Israel invaded, an action that would sharply raise the stakes in a conflict that in just 10 days has killed close to 340 people in Lebanon and forced more than half a million to flee their homes.
"The Lebanese army will resist and defend the country and prove that it is an army worthy of respect," said Defence Minister Elias Murr, whose forces have so far stood on the sidelines of the conflict.
Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz had warned that Israel would launch a full-scale ground invasion "without thinking twice" if necessary to crush Hezbollah, which has long been a thorn in the side of the Jewish state.
But British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who has drawn Arab criticism for failing to back UN calls for a ceasefire, warned Israel in an interview with the Financial Times of the dangers of a full-scale invasion.
She said the "very dangerous situation" could be at a turning point where "a miscalculation, a mistake could have dramatic effects and that I find deeply alarming".
The Israel military said its aircraft had hit 150 targets inside Lebanon in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, including a dozen roads linking Lebanon to neighbouring Syria as well as suspected Hezbollah positions.
But a military spokesman said ground operations too would be necessary to put a stop to Hezbollah rocket fire against Israel and added that a major ground attack had not been ruled out.
Ground operations were "indispensable because the air force can not always destroy underground bunkers dug by Hezbollah, which has put in place an entire fortified network," the spokesman, Captain Yaacov Dalal, said.
Some 3,000 reservists had already been called up to "clean up the border zone on the Lebanese side by limited operations aiming to destroy Hezbollah’s infrastructure," he added.
The Israeli military confirmed that ground forces had been holding positions in two villages in southern Lebanon for several days but a UN spokesman said it was "not a massive force."
The talk of a ground offensive came despite a call from Annan on Thursday for an immediate ceasefire after the worst cross-border fighting in a quarter century that has also killed 33 Israelis.
On Friday, Annan lobbied on behalf of an international security force in the border region that Israel so far has refused to back.
"I think it’s going to be a serious escalation" if Israel invades southern Lebanon, Annan told CNN television.
UN envoy Vijay Nambiar, just back from the region, gave a downbeat assessment to the UN Security Council of the chances for peace, saying there were "serious obstacles" to halting the fighting in Lebanon "in the immediate future".
Rice said she would meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on her trip to the region and would then head to Rome for international talks on the crisis.
Once more rejecting EU and Arab calls for an immediate ceasefire, Rice said: "I think we are beginning to see outlines of a political framework that might allow the cessation of violence in a more sustainable way."
UN relief coordinator Jan Egeland said he would be in Beirut Saturday and would try to visit southern Lebanon to assess the humanitarian needs as well as launch an international appeal.
Thousands of Lebanese, in cars, trucks and minibuses, are still fleeing southern Lebanon, where Israel’s massive bombardment has left a trail of destruction and raised fears of a shortage of food and medicines.
Israel has imposed an air and sea blockade on Lebanon, put its only international airport out of action, bombed houses, roads, bridges, factories, warehouses and trucks, creating scenes reminiscent of the 1975-1990 civil war.
"The most basic human rights of the population are at risk or are being violated, including their rights to life, health and food," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said.
The Israeli premier said he was willing to open up a humanitarian corridor to ease the crisis.
With no sign the international community is closer to brokering a ceasefire, foreign governments stepped up efforts to evacuate nationals by sea to Cyprus or overland through neighbouring Syria.
Britain urged all remaining nationals who wished to leave to gather at a Beirut assembly point Saturday for its last evacuation ships out.
US marines were out in force in the Lebanese capital for the first time in 22 years to help take American citizens to the safey of nearby Cyprus which is being used as the main staging point for the massive evacuation operation.
The tiny Mediterranean island is reeling from the influx, battling to find temporary accommodation and flights for the estimated 70,000 people expected to arrive from Lebanon at the height of the holiday season.
Israel is also pushing on with its air, sea and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip, where at least 106 people have been killed in two weeks, and warned civilians that homes storing weaponry were now targets.
The operation was launched with the aim of retrieving a soldier snatched by Palestinian militants and stopping rocket fire.