The White House says U.S. humanitarian aid will start arriving in Lebanon Tuesday. The news came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled from Beirut to Jerusalem for talks on the crisis caused by fighting between Israeli forces and Lebanese-based Hezbollah militants.
White House Spokesman Tony Snow said a significant amount of U.S. aid is on its way to Lebanon. "At the order of the president, humanitarian supplies will start arriving in Lebanon tomorrow by helicopter and by ship. We are working with Israel and Lebanon to open up humanitarian corridors," he said.
During a briefing for reporters, Snow refused to provide specifics, saying Secretary Rice would announce them in the region. He was then asked if the assistance might be intended to blunt criticism of U.S. policy in the Middle East. "This is not a device designed to mute criticism," he said. "It is a move that is designed in recognition of the fact that innocent men, women and children are being hurt."
Arab countries - most notably Saudi Arabia and Egypt - have been pressing for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah. Snow said the United States wants an end to the violence as well. But he said once again that a ceasefire that fails to address the root causes of the crisis is doomed to fail. "There is a notion that somehow both sides are going to suspend and we remain deeply skeptical that Hezbollah is going to abide by any such agreement," he said.
He said a truce that does not disarm Hezbollah will be unenforceable, and will be seen as a victory by the militants. "I think the notion that you have a ceasefire that at this point is unenforceable does not really get us to the point we need to be at," he said.
Snow said the secretary of state is in the region to show support for the Lebanese government, find ways to get aid in quickly, and discuss prospects for a sustainable ceasefire that will ensure peace.