Everyone leads with the fourth day of fighting in Lebanon yesterday, as Israel bombed roads, bridges, radar installations, and a lighthouse near the campus of the American University of Beirut. The militant group Hezbollah responded by firing more rockets into northern Israel—”at least 90,” according to the Los Angeles Times’ lead story, which cites the Israeli military. The day’s developments are best summed up in the Washington Post’s lead piece, which is by Pulitzer-winner Anthony Shadid, reporting from Beirut:
In a war that has witnessed an escalation each day, the asymmetrical nature of the conflict was laid bare Saturday: For each attack by Hezbollah since it captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, Israel has inflicted a far greater price. It has systematically dismantled the country’s infrastructure, displaced thousands of residents and instilled a new sense of foreboding and fear in the now-deserted streets of this brash, confident city still shadowed by the legacy of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.
And Sunday is looking even worse. Late wire reports carried news of the deadliest strike within Israel yet: a barrage of missiles hit the city of Haifa, killing at least nine and injuring many more. The AP catches word that Lebanon’s prime minister might send the national army to Hezbollah’s stronghold in the south of the country, “a move that might risk civil war.”
Saturday’s rocket attacks were fairly benign in comparison to the attack on Haifa. Two Hezbollah missile barrages hit the Israeli coastal resort of Tiberias, which is about 20 miles south of the border with Lebanon, wounding a handful. The lead story in the New York Times reports from one Israeli community where some unoccupied buildings were hit. The last time it was shelled was in the 1960s, before Israel captured the Golan Heights.
Israel, meanwhile, killed at least 16 civilians, many of them children, in an air strike on a convoy evacuating refugees from a southern Lebanese town. The military said the killing of innocents was a mistake, but blamed Hezbollah for operating in civilian areas. A striking picture of those killed in the attack, wrapped inside what appear to be blue tarpaulins, dominates the NYT’s front page.
The LAT’s lead story stresses the possibility that the war could widen even further, as Israel yesterday accused Iranian military personnel in southern Lebanon of assisting an attack on one of its warships. Contrary to initial reports, which said the ship was seriously damaged by a drone airplane that was packed with explosives, military officials now say it was hit by a C802 anti-ship missile, which was almost certainly supplied by Iran. In Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ever the conciliator, said: “The Zionist regime behaves like Hitler.” The WP has an extensive account of Hezbollah’s Iranian-provided rocket arsenal, which includes a few missiles with ranges of up to 130 miles, it says.
Everyone ponders Hezbollah’s apparent tactical about-face. Until very recently, it was thought that the organization had set aside armed struggle in order to concentrate on electoral politics within Lebanon, where it is one of the largest parties in parliament. So much for that, says the NYT’s front-page analysis, which suggests that the organization, facing growing political pressure within Lebanon to lay down its guns, may have decided it had to use them or lose them. Hezbollah’s financial benefactors in Syria and Iran also stand to benefit from increased insecurity. The WP has an inside piece that questions how closely Hezbollah is coordinating with Hamas, which is fighting Israel in Gaza. And in the Post’s “Outlook” section, there’s an insightful profile of Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah by veteran Middle East correspondent Robin Wright. “A cross between Ayatollah Khomeini and Che Guevera [sic],” she writes, Nasrallah’s career has nonetheless “straddled the complex line between Islamic extremist and secular politician.”
Residents of Beirut are rather unhappy about all this, the LAT says.
The NYT off-leads, and the WP fronts, the increasingly chilly relationship between Russia and the United States, as evidenced by developments, or the lack thereof, at this week’s G-8 summit. The U.S. isn’t letting Russia into the World Trade Organization, and a bilateral trade deal fell apart at the last minute. At a testy news conference yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin sounded unhelpful on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, saying, “We will not participate in any crusades, in any holy alliances,” and was distinctly less supportive of Israel’s military actions than President George Bush was. “Escalation of violence, in our opinion, will not yield positive results,” Putin said, much to the surprise of the citizens of Grozny.
The LAT fronts the latest in its series of investigative articles about government health officials who moonlight as consultants to pharmaceutical firms. In this installment: the story of a doctor at the National Institutes of Health who participated in designing a possibly-flawed drug study and helped push experimental treatments through the Food and Drug Administration approval process.
The WP has a 3,700-word David Broder-Dan Balz extravaganza on the political scene since 9/11. You know that sense of national unity that gripped the country in those first, heady days after the terrorist attacks? You might be surprised to know that it’s gone: “In a 50-50 America, the lust for political advantage overwhelmed calls for consensus and cooperation.”
The NYT, in an impassioned editorial headlined “The Real Agenda,” gives its own, less even-handed, assessment of the last half-decade. “It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration’s response to the terror attacks is becoming clear,” it begins. “Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power.”
And in a reminder of a simpler time, the LAT drops in on Silicon Valley and says another tech bubble seems to be inflating. It seems this may not be the best time to invest millions in MySpace and YouTube imitations—and woe betide the rube who throws money at bloggers.
Ralph Reed’s campaign to be lieutenant governor of Georgia is not going so well, the NYT says.
A couple of days after running a thick skewer through Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., the NYT’s Mark Leibovich takes an elegiac look at Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat who is facing a tough primary challenge because of his stance in favor of the Iraq war. “Mr. Lieberman’s allies discuss him these days with a tinge of sadness, as if mourning a kindly gentleman who has wandered into a bad neighborhood,” Leibovich writes. “Colleagues have approached him on the Senate floor to console him, asking how he is holding up, as if he is sick or experiencing some trauma.” Let’s see: a controversial Republican is “prickly,” “cantankerous” and “unpleasant”; an unpopular Democrat comes off like he just needs a hug. This sounds like a job for… Ombudsman!