Hundreds of bridges and virtually all road networks have been systematically destroyed, by Israeli military retaliation making relief efforts in Lebanon, the tiny Middle-Eastern nation, almost impossible
BBC and other journalists report many civilians trapped in the rubble of villages in the south of Lebanon, cut off from medical aid by air strikes. ReliefWeb comments: "As the conflict continues, food stocks in many parts of Lebanon are running low. Shortages of water are already a reality in parts of southern Lebanon due to a lack of electricity and fuel. The possibility of shortages of medical supplies in health facilities in the coming weeks is of growing concern. While medical and food stocks are available delivery is almost impossible in many parts of the country." ('Flash appeal on the Lebanon crisis launched today,' ReliefWeb, July 24, 2006; http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/SODA-6S23GF?OpenDocument)
More than a thousand Lebanese, most of them civilians, and a hundred mainly Israeli soldiers, have been killed in the conflict. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1828142,00.html)
Save The Children reports that 45 per cent of the Lebanese dead are children, as are 200,000 of the 500,000 refugees forced to flee the bombing. (Save The Children, 'Crisis in middle east - children hit hardest,' July 21, 2006; http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/scuk/jsp/resources/
Professor Richard Keeble, head of journalism at Lincoln University, said: 'The israeli slaughter of the innocents in this manufactured "war" to destroy Lebanon (and maybe soon Syria and Iran will be drawn into the cauldron) is incredibly worrying. In the face of such a military colossus (Israel backed by the US and UK) what can the global peace movement achieve?'
Keeble, a leading contributor to the MediaLens website, added: 'There is so much appalling suffering - which Fleet Street calls "collateral damage". The media present a "balanced view" that - on the one hand Hezbollah fired so many rockets into Isreal. And that, on the other hand, In response Israel has destroyed Lebanese homes in 'self-defence'. But there is no possible comparison: Israel is one of the mightiest countries in the world, out of control and slaughtering countless hundreds/thousands of people and committing war crimes in the process. Only Robert Fisk (of The Independent) is managing to capture the appropriate level of outrage at the Israeli bombardments.'
The Red Cross reported (July 23) that five of its volunteers and three patients were wounded when Israeli aircraft attacked two ambulances in successive missile strikes. The attacks took place near Qana, scene of the aerial massacre of 54 Lebanese civilians at the end of last month, when an ambulance arrived to evacuate three patients from the border town of Tibnin. The drivers said that two guided missiles were fired at each ambulance. Three injured patients - a woman, her son and grandson - were all injured, the son losing his leg to a direct hit from one of the anti-tank missiles. (Ed O'Loughlin, 'Ambulances fired on by Israel, says Red Cross,' Sydney Morning Herald, July 25, 2006)
According to Human Rights Watch, Israel has used artillery-fired cluster munitions in populated areas of Lebanon. Researchers on the ground confirmed that a cluster munitions attack on the village of Blida on July 19 killed one and wounded at least 12 civilians, including seven children. Eyewitnesses and survivors described how the artillery shells dropped hundreds of cluster submunitions on the village. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, commented:
"Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when used around civilians. They should never be used in populated areas." ('Israeli cluster munitions hit civilians in Lebanon Israel Must Not Use Indiscriminate Weapons,' HRW, July 24, 2006.
Islamic Hezbollah militants, based in Lebanon, have also violated international law by firing missiles into civilian areas of Israel, including the city of Haifa. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, whose calls for an immediate ceasefire have been resisted by the US and British governments, has said that there is a 'prima facie case' that both sides in the conflict are guilty of war crimes.
* This article is an updated version of one that appears on the MediaLens website.