The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Timesall lead with the deadliest day yetin the new Mideast war: About 70 Lebanese were killed in airstrikes, reportedly all civilians. Israel also sent “dozens of planes” against what it said was a Hezbollah bunker in Beirut. (Hezbollah said it wasn’t a bunker and that none of its leaders were killed.) Two Israeli-Arab children were killed when Hezbollah rockets hit Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab town. (The Post notes that unlike most towns in the north, Nazareth has “no public bomb shelters.”) USA Todaydecides the war is passé, stuffs it, and instead leads with a study out today that many hospitals don’t have enough translators.
Two Israeli soldiers and one Hezbollah fighter were killed in the first significant ground-fighting after what seems to have been a small Israeli unit crossed the border. The Wall Street Journal’s top story says Israel is “weighing” whether to launch a big ground offensive while the LAT mentions that plenty of Israeli tanks have been heading to the border.
About 150 Hezbollah rockets hit Israel, nearly 70 in one hour. A U.N. official in southern Lebanon told the LAT that guerrillas were setting up launchers near U.N. positions.
For its part, Israel seems to be trying to depopulate southern Lebanon. It has begun broadcasting messages warning civilians to leave the area. The NYT notices that homes in the south have been receiving “taped phone calls in Arabic” from the Israeli army telling them to get out. Yesterday TP asked whether Israel considers all trucks fair game, and today’s NYT says in southern Lebanon they do: According to the Times, the radio broadcast warned that “any trucks, including pickups” moving there would be considered hostile.
The NYT and WP have scary dispatches from the southern town of Tyre, where residents and refugees are stuck with dwindling supplies, no way to leave, and are hoping for ships that, alas, never seem to show up. The Post says a U.N. ship is indeed trying to make it in but “reported having difficulty securing Israeli authorization.”
In one village outside Tyre, “a neighborhood was wiped out—15 houses flattened.” The NYT says 21 people were killed. The WP says one rescue worker estimated “between 60 and 80 people were still buried there.” He couldn’t be sure since it wasn’t safe to stick around and pull out the bodies. The U.N.’s top human rights official said attacks by both sides amounted to war crimes.
A front-page LAT piece says the U.S. and Israel are getting behind the idea of the eventual deployment of a peacekeeping force. The Journal clarifies that what Israel and the U.S. seem to want, in contrast with others, is a force “charged with confronting and, if necessary, forcibly disarming the Hezbollah militia.”
A piece inside the Post says that whatever happens down the road, right now the U.S. is “increasingly out of sync with key allies” because it’s greenlighted the continued bombing campaign. “The one thing that is guaranteed to send the Arab world and the Persian world over the edge is for the U.S. to be seen ultimately to be doing what they always believed—to be fully in cahoots with Israel,” said one European diplomat.
Everybody notes that about a dozen Palestinians, mostly gunmen, were killed by Israeli soldiers who yesterday made a thrust into central Gaza.
The LAT and NYT front President Bush as promised vetoing a bill that would have removed restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research. A House attempt to override the veto—Bush’s first in office—failed.
About 50 people were reported killed in sectarian attacks across Iraq, though TP doesn’t see any headlines on that. Instead the papers focus on the kidnapping of 20 Iraqis who worked for the government’s agency that oversees Sunni mosques.
And the NYT goes Page One with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki condemning “Israeli aggression,” a far stronger statement than that put out by the Mideast’s Sunni-led autocracies. The Times also looks at how the Sunni-led government’s relative silence is ticking off many of their citizens. Maliki, by the way, is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress next week.
In other news … Islamic militias are moving on the transitional Somali government’s only stronghold, and now Ethiopia is threatening to invade.