Mideast conflict needs international action
The civilian death toll has escalated in the conflict in Israel and Lebanon.
AFTER three weeks of armed conflict along the Israeli-Lebanese border, international intervention is needed to prevent a major war in the Middle East. The breadth of Israel's response to the cross-border killing of three Israeli soldiers and kidnapping of two others indicates objectives that could lead to war against Syria and Iran.
President Bush said as much this week when he endorsed Israel's bombardment of southern Lebanon and referred to the Hezbollah terrorist organization as "the Mediterranean branch of Tehran." The objective of Israel's strategy is to "find a way that, coming out of the crisis, we have a situation recomposed, so Hezbollah's influence is more limited -- ideally you could say destroyed."
Bush's depiction of Hezbollah is well grounded. The organization was created and is financed, trained and armed by Iran and is supported by Syria, which was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon last year, essentially leaving Hezbollah as a state within a state. The Shiite Hezbollah, like the Palestinian Sunni Hamas, is a militant organization that has pledged to destroy Israel.
France and the European Union have accused Israel of using a "disproportionate use of force" and punishing civilian populations in Lebanon. Most of its bombs have been aimed at civilian infrastructures and resulted in a large civilian death toll.
Israelis point out that the terrorists live among civilians, who either give shelter to them or are terrorists themselves. The explanation might do little to quell the international uproar.
Israel has made it clear that it is using the border conflict as an opportunity to severely weaken the Hezbollah presence in southern Lebanon, but that cannot be done solely by air strikes without inflicting widespread human suffering. An international peacekeeping ground force is needed to bring long-lasting stability to the region.
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