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3 August 2006 Edition

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Worldwide anger at Israeli slaughter

BY Aran Foley

Despite the Quana air raid which killed at lease 50 civilians, 37 of them children, and the alleged international pressure this was supposed to have put the Israelis under, all the signs are that Israel intends to intensify and widen its war on Lebanon.

Amid a climate of mounting tension, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on 31 July called on the military to raise their state of readiness the same day the Israeli Security Cabinet authorised the calling up of 15,000 reservists. They had previously said they would not widen the conflict but authorised the call up of the reservists days after prominent Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) members had pressurised them to do so. Israel Radio has since reported that 15,00 reservists will be called up. At the time of writing there is no clarification on whether these are the same troops the Security Cabinet authorised.

Meanwhile the US government insist that there can be no cease-fire until the IDF have achieved their goals, using the warped logic that the conditions must be in place for an enduring ceasefire, in other words until Israel has annihilated Hizbollah and re-taken control of South Lebanon.

Talk of an international force to enforce a so called buffer zone on Lebanese territory seems to be just that as the UN Security Council, in session since Friday 29 July, announced that an international force could not be established until the fighting had ceased. Catch 22 eat your heart out.

The French and Iranian Foreign Ministers visited Beirut on 31 July after Condoleza Rice had been told she was not welcome; most of the western mainstream media reported this as her having postponed the visit. The French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy said "In the region there is of course a country such as Iran -- a great country, a great people and a great civilisation which is respected and which plays a stabilising role in the region." This line is completely contradictory to the American one and shows the international division America's increasingly aggressive Middle East policy has aroused, the instability creating a cauldron in which many vested, and diverse interests compete for influence.

Tony Blair has come under intense criticism from his back benches, and there are reports of serious divisions at cabinet level over his refusal to call for an immediate cease-fire. His stalling tactic, waiting for the UN to agree an international force, now appears in tatters and there has been increasing division in the party since his decision to tie himself to George Bush at all costs on the illegal invasion of Iraq. The British so-called special relationship with America has been exposed as a sham with his inability to influence events and the infamous "Yo Blair!" greeting from Bush which proved, if proff were needed, the dog-like subservince of Blair..

With the stage set for an intensification of the Israeli war on Lebanon and the increasing regional and international differences this has, and will, arouse the picture looks bleak for the Lebanese people. In addition to the death toll in Quana up until 31 July rescue workers had uncovered 40 more bodies from the rubble of various south Lebanese villages. With the death toll now at least 500 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and over 40 Israelis, most of them soldiers, Hizbollah's popularity is on the rise and all the signs are that this will be a protracted war. UN estimates of at least 800,000 people displaced in Lebanon raise the spectre of a humanitarian disaster as the Israelis still refuse to open relief routes for the safe transportation of aid, and their almost immediate violation of their self-declared ban on aerial bombardment following the Quana air strike.

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