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After Israel and Hezbollah agreed to a UN ceasefire resolution, the end of fighting has held. Israeli troops have begun to leave southern Lebanon, while a UN international peacekeeping force is expected to fill the gap until Lebanese troops arrive.
Thousands of the more than 850,000 displaced Lebanese are now returning to completely destroyed homes. The destruction in southern Lebanon is widespread.
Meanwhile, in northern Israel, many of the one million Israeli residents who took safety in bomb shelters are finally breathing fresh air, after weeks underground.
Although the UN resolution called for the disarmament of Hezbollah, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared they would never disarm. “Some people say that disarming the resistance is an essential condition to building a strong government, and I say the opposite,” he said. He also announced victory for Hezbollah, declaring in a speech, “On this day, we find ourselves looking at a historic and strategic victory for Lebanon, the resistance and the nation.” Fireworks exploded in the sky over Lebanon as residents cheered and began a victory parade.
At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel’s recent offensive ended the “state within a state” presence of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Mr. Olmert also said that if Hezbollah failed to disarm, Israel will renew the “long, hard, arduous, complex fight.” He added, “We will…pursue the leaders of Hezbollah everywhere and at all times…This is our moral duty to ourselves, and we have no intention of apologizing or asking anyone’s permission.”
The Middle East is not the only region of the world spiraling out of control. Other areas of unrest — North Korea — Sudan — Iran — Somalia — Iraq — Afghanistan — are simmering to a boil.
Why? What lies ahead? Is there a solution to mankind’s escalating conflicts?
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected the ceasefire to eventually give way to more fighting. “Right now, we are in an interim period between wars…Unfortunately, there will be another round because the Government’s just demands weren’t met.”
U.S. President George W. Bush backed Israel in a press conference, saying, “Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis…There’s going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon.”
According to Russian Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, “Even though Israel held the military operation in a successful and organized manner…it failed to secure a final victory over Hezbollah.” Mr. Ivashov said this was because Israel was not prepared for Hezbollah’s guerilla tactics. He also said, “Hezbollah has been forced to retreat, but not defeated,” and that the effects on the Arab world would be significant, now that they “realize that the Israeli army can be successfully beaten.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in his first speech given since the fighting began, praised Hezbollah for the “glorious battle” it fought. He added that a new Middle East had risen out of the current situation, stating that the U.S.’s vision for the region was now an illusion. Mr. Assad said the only path to Middle East peace was with the current U.S. administration out of power. “This is an administration that adopts the principle of pre-emptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace.”
According to a BBC correspondent in Damascus, Mr. Assad’s speech is the “clearest sign of how US opponents in the Middle East have been emboldened” by the ceasefire declaration.
Despite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declaring Hezbollah’s victory over Israel, two reports sent to the Iranian government revealed Iran is not pleased with the recent outcome of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah.
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In an interview, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, “Arabs should understand that it would be fatal to challenge a powerful enemy and lead their nations into a dreadful adventure such as Nasrallah [Hezbollah’s leader] has, only to plead with the rest of the Arab and Islamic worlds to come to its rescue.”
Iran received two separate evaluations regarding the situation in Lebanon, one from its foreign ministry and another from its supreme national security council. Both reports said Hezbollah’s recent actions had stripped Iran of a key tool to prevent possible confrontations with the U.S. and Israel. The reports said Hezbollah’s strategic position in south Lebanon was now lost due to the UN resolution.
Besides losing control of the region, the foreign ministry evaluation criticized Hezbollah for wasting thousands of rockets. Israeli police estimated that nearly 4,000 rockets were fired into northern Israel. It reportedly took Iran twenty years to build up Hezbollah’s supply of the roughly 13,000 rockets it had before fighting began. Among Hezbollah’s rocket inventory were Iranian-supplied Zelzal-1 and Zelzal-2 long-range rockets for use in attacks against the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. These rockets were only granted to be used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and were out of Hezbollah’s reach. It is now reported that Israel destroyed the majority of these.
It has been estimated that the recent Middle East violence depleted almost all of the $4 to $6 billion of Iranian funds invested in building up Hezbollah.
Source: The Age; Haaretz; CNN; AP; Washington Post; Debka; BBC; Russia & CIS Military Newswire
In one of the largest evacuations since World War II, nations around the world scramble to evacuate tens of thousands of foreigners trapped in war-torn Lebanon. Helicopters, military ships, ferries and buses are being mobilized into action.
The USS Nashville waits off the coast of Lebanon, ready to evacuate more than 1,000 American citizens to neighboring Cyprus. Five warships and 2,200 Marines are being sent to retrieve an estimated 25,000 U.S. citizens. The British government is preparing to move up to 12,000 of its citizens and 10,000 dual nationals. Nearly 50,000 Canadian citizens are expected to arrive in Cyprus. Many of the more than 20,000 French citizens in Lebanon have escaped to France aboard chartered jumbo jets.
While many are being rescued or have already escaped, some remain trapped. Meanwhile, stranded Lebanese civilians are left to watch their country being torn apart. The number of displaced Lebanese is said to be around 500,000, and hundreds have been killed since the fighting began.