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Lebanon, Israel Trade Accusations Following Military Offensive


Lebanon has accused Israel of 'barbaric aggression' in its current military offensive, and called on the U.N. Security Council to declare a cease-fire., Israel rejected the criticism, and charged Lebanon with harboring terrorists.

Lebanon asked for Friday's emergency Security Council meeting, as Israeli warplanes staged a third day of bombing raids on suspected terrorist bases in Lebanese territory.

In an address to the Council, Lebanese special envoy Nouhad Mahmoud accused Israeli forces of aggression, including deliberate attacks on civilians.

"The Security Council meets today in the shadow of a widespread barbaric aggression, waged by Israel to this very moment against my nation," he said, " Lebanon, destroying Lebanon's infrastructure and causing the death of innocent civilians. What Israel is undertaking is an act of aggression and devastation, aimed at bringing Lebanon to its knees and subverting it by any means."

The Lebanese official urged the Security Council to act immediately to stop the offensive.

"The international community is called upon, as represented by the Security Council, to take an immediate, clear decision, calling for comprehensive immediate cease-fire, and lifting of the air and sea blockade imposed upon Lebanon, and calling for an end of Israeli aggression," he said.

Israel's U.N. ambassador, Dan Gillerman, vigorously rejected the Lebanese charges. He said Lebanon bears responsibility for allowing the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia to use Lebanese territory as a base for attacks on Israel.

"Many of the long-range missiles that have hit Israeli towns…were launched from private homes, with families residing inside," he noted, " where a special room was designated as a launching pad, with a family playing host to the missile. This is yet another example of the cynical and brutal way the Hezbollah organization uses civilians as human shields, with complete disregard for human life."

A day after the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli actions in Gaza, U.S. representative John Bolton placed the blame for escalating tensions squarely on Syria and Iran.

"Iran's extensive sponsorship and financial and other support of Hezbollah is well known, and has been ongoing for decades… We call on Syria and Iran to cease their sponsorship and support of terrorist groups, in particular Hezbollah and Hamas," he said.

The Security Council issued a brief statement after Friday's meeting, looking forward to a report from a high-level diplomatic mission sent to the region by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The mission includes three of Mr. Annan's most senior political advisers. Council diplomats say no other immediate action is planned.