Much is happening very quickly in southern Lebanon. Israel fired artillery and rockets across the border and the attack killed over fifteen civilians as they attempted to flee the fighting. Many despicable headlines ensued, but the truth is this: Israel warned residents of the village to leave, and many tried to flee. They first went to a U.N. post, where they were turned away. The refugees returned top the village to regroup and were in the process of leaving again at the time of the Israeli attack. The responsibilty lay first with Hezbollah, and then the U.N.
Many are fleeing Lebanon. From the Washington Post:
Thousands fled Lebanon across one of the few routes left -- a circuitous trek along mountainous back roads to the Syrian border. The capital itself was eerily quiet, the silence punctuated only by the fireworks and gunfire that greeted Nasrallah's speech.
That bloodthirsty joy at Hezbollah's war is apparent once again. Though many Lebanese are angry at Hezbollah, it is still the case that anger and capability are two different things. It is easier to talk about disarming Hezbollah than it is for the weak Lebanese state to unite behind the goal of actually disarming them. And there is much anger at Israel for expecting so much from a country that only freed itself from foreign oppression a year ago. Via Michael Totten and Kesher Talk are some posts by Lebanon.Profile at the Lebanon Political Journal. He is fleeing to Syria, resentfully -- in his mind Israel has driven him to his enemy. He also reports that Israel has dropped leaflets around his neighborhood in Beirut; he fears a full bombing campaign will hit that city. Of course that bombing may not be necessary: via Kesher Talk, the Jerusalem Post reports that Hezbollah's leaders are trying to escape Beirut.
Thus far, Israel has struck targets directly related to Hezbollah's supporters or to their ability to resupply. There is much talk about attacks on Beirut, but these attacks are really against the southern suburbs of beirut, home to Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. The suffering Lebanon has so far felt is due to the isolation imposed by Israel's air and sea blockade, and the panic that has isolation has caused.
Michael Totten discusses the state of the conflict at length:
Israel has a right - nay, a moral obligation - to defend itself and rescue the kidnapped. But what kind of down-the-rabbit-hole war is this, where the guilty parties - the Baath regime in Syria and the Jihad regime in Iran - sleep warm in their beds while Beirut, a libertine city they hate, takes the punishment for them?
The dictators in the region have always been happy to fight the Israelis to the last Palestinian. Now it looks like they're happy to fight the Israelis to the last Lebanese, too. And why not? Lebanon is a relatively liberal and almost half Christian sort-of democracy. Can't have any of that in the region if you're a totalitarian mullah. It suits Tehran just fine if the Jews slug it out with such people.
Callimachus at michaeltotten.com links to several discussions of the war. One is an interview in the American Prospect. with Mark Perry, a former U.S. mediator to Hezbollah. He has no patience with the notion that the attack was planned by Syria or Tehran:
There are a lot of people in Washington trying to walk that story back right now, because it's not true.
The Israeli captain in charge of that unit knew he had really screwed up, so he sent an armored personnel carrier to go get them in hot pursuit, and Hezbollah led them right through a minefield.
Now if you’re sitting in Tehran or Damascus or Beirut, and you are part of the terrorist Politburo so to speak, you have a choice. With your head sunk in your hands, thinking "Oh my God," you can either give [the kidnapped soldiers] back and say "Oops, sorry, wrong time" or you can say, "Hey, this is war."
It is absolutely ridiculous to believe that the Hezbollah commander on the ground said Tuesday morning, "Go get two Israeli soldiers, would you please?"
He's describing the "puppies of war".
Perry makes a reasonable supposition, but another supposition is equally consistent with the facts he provides. The "blind spot" for Israeli observation posts did not come into existence suddenly -- it must have existed well prior to the attack. The Hezbollah attackers could have been watching that and similar weak points for weeks or longer, waiting for a chance to spark this fight. Michael Totten had written (here and here) on the unusually high tensions he found at the Israel/Lebanon border in April. I think Perry is too trusting of Iran's realism, and of the realism of those in Syria who ostensibly serve Bashar Assad, but who may in fact be bypassing him (as surmised by Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters).
He adds, at the interviewer's prompting, his prediction for how these events unfold:
Olmert responded, "You get Haifa, we'll take down Beirut," and he went after Beirut. So far as I can tell, since then, Haifa has been off limits.
Now so far as I can tell, there are rules here. And the rules are, you take down our major cities and we'll make life very uncomfortable for you. And Olmert put Damascus back on the table as a clear warning. And I think [Syrian president Bashar al-] Assaad probably called Hezbollah -- over which he doesn't have too much influence -- and said, "Did you hear that signal or not?" And they got it.
So now we're in a game.... I expect we'll see an escalation here over the next two days, but what I would expect to find after that is that both sides climb down off the ladder.
Michael Ledeen is one of those who is pushing the idea that Iran is the central figure in this war:
No one should have any lingering doubts about what's going on in the Middle East. It's war, and it now runs from Gaza into Israel, through Lebanon and thence to Iraq via Syria. There are different instruments, ranging from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon and on to the multifaceted "insurgency" in Iraq. But there is a common prime mover, and that is the Iranian mullahcracy, the revolutionary Islamic fascist state that declared war on us 27 years ago and has yet to be held accountable.
Notice also that over the weekend there was a "security summit" in Tehran, involving all of Iraq's neighbors, at which Iran's moonbat President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made one of his trademark understatements about Israel. "The existence of this regime will bring nothing but suffering and misery for people in the region," he mildly commented, and then said that the anger of the people might soon "lead to a vast explosion that will know no boundaries."
Sounds to me like he knew something before the rest of us. As well he should, because Iran has been quite busy in Lebanon of late. The Lebanese Tourism Ministry’s Research Center announced an amazing statistic in early July: in the first six months of the year, 60,888 Iranian tourists visited Lebanon.
The only way we are going to win this war is to bring down those regimes in Tehran and Damascus, and they are not going to fall as a result of fighting between their terrorist proxies in Gaza and Lebanon on the one hand, and Israel on the other. Only the United States can accomplish it.
I tend to trust Ledeen's analysis over Perry's.
The direction this war heads will be known in the next few days. There has been talk that Syria might be attacked in the next 72 hours (via Israpundit), though there are also efforts by the Israeli government to play down those rumors. More ominously, I think, the border between Gaza and Egypt has collapsed, and among those streaming into the Palestinian pseudo-state were Hamas "miltants". It may well be that the war in southern Israel will escalate before the war in the north.
- Israel Masses Tanks, Rockets, Artillery On Northern Border
- "...we are ready for an open war."
- Michael Young: Syria Behind Hezbollah Attacks
- U.S. Backs Israel, Iran Backs Israel's Enemies
- Israel / Gaza / Lebanon Omnibus Update
- Iran May Be Pulling The Strings
- It All Starts With Hamas
- "...a disturbing feel of July 1914..."