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Analysts Say Lebanese Crisis Is Getting Worse

The Israeli military has been bombing southern Lebanon since two Israeli soldiers were captured by the Lebanese-based militant group, Hezbollah, a week ago. The bombing has killed more than 300 civilians, displaced half-a-million people, and destroyed much of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure. Meanwhile, Hezbollah rockets have struck Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, and other northern Israeli towns repeatedly since Monday, and 30 Israelis have died.

Nathan Guttman, Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, says Israelis are generally supportive of their government’s military action in Lebanon. Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Mr. Guttman says that Israelis were shocked when Hezbollah rockets reached Haifa. He adds that, once the military operation started, Israel’s targets were “much larger than the specific aim of bringing the captured soldiers back to Israel.” And Israel wants to push Hezbollah from the border to ensure that it will not be able to attack Israel in the future.

Iranian journalist Ali-Reza Nourizadeh, who directs the Center for Arab-Iranian Studies in London, says he was surprised that several Arab governments – including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan - chastised Hezbollah earlier this week. And while the Saudis “stood by the Lebanese government and condemned Israeli activities,” he says, they also blamed Hezbollah for bringing an “unwanted war” upon the Lebanese people.

But that’s not the way most Lebanese view the war in their country, says Rami Khouri, editor of the Beirut Daily Star. Lebanon’s major cities have sustained severe damage, and the reaction of residents is a mixture of anger and dismay.

According to Mr. Khouri, the majority of people in Lebanon and throughout the region “blame Israel for an excessive, disproportionate over-reaction, and many people also blame Hezbollah for triggering this process.” But, he adds, the “real anger” is directed more against Israel, and there is also a lot of anger against the Americans and the Europeans who are “either supportive of what Israel is doing or totally acquiescent… and just letting events run their course.”

Israel’s deputy military chief of staff has said that Israel will complete its military objectives in Lebanon in a “matter of weeks.” Nathan Guttman of the Jerusalem Post says that Israelis, who are pleased with the support of the President Bush, expect that the United States will have a diplomatic role to play in “resolving the situation at that point.” Mr. Guttman says it is “clear” that both sides – Israel and Hezbollah – will need “some kind of international intervention to end this war.”

Rami Khouri of the Beirut Daily Star agrees that the United States needs to get involved, but not in the way that Mr. Guttman suggests. He says that Washington has to decide whether it is working to “secure the safety of the people of Israel or to secure the safety of the people of Israel and the people of the Arab world.” Mr. Khouri suggests that the United States and Europe should push for the implementation of “all the U.N. resolutions that apply to the Israelis and the Arabs and everybody else in the region,” an exchange of prisoners, an end to the bombing, an immediate ceasefire, and an international force to “separate the warring parties.” He also suggests that disarming Hezbollah needs to be handled in the “context of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

U.N. diplomat Terje Roed-Larson has said that a “political framework” is necessary to end hostilities. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have called for sending a U.N. “stabilization force” to Lebanon. And the United States says that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning a trip to the region in an effort to quell the violence, but no date has yet been announced.

To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.