All the papers continue to lead with the violence in the Middle East. The Washington Postand the Los Angeles Timeslead with the latest in the fighting as Israeli ground troops move further into southern Lebanon and seize control over a strategic hilltop town. By air, Israel continued its bombing campaign around Lebanon, while, according to the Post, more than 130 of Hezbollah’s rockets reached Israel. The New York Timesleads with U.S. plans to persuade Saudi Arabia and Egypt to talk to Syria about ending its support of Hezbollah, as well as its alliance with Iran.
As Lebanese citizens continued to escape the southern regions of the country, Israeli airstrikes continued. Although Israeli ground troops continued with small operations into Lebanon, officials are emphasizing that a larger invasion may not be needed to achieve their goals. “I believe in air power,” an Israeli officer tells the NYT. “I believe in our ability to destroy Hezbollah without going into Lebanon again the way we did in 1982.” Israeli troops said they were met with stiff resistance in Lebanon, where Hezbollah not only has an extensive network of underground bunkers and tunnels but also what they described as high-quality weapons. “Hezzbolah has prepared for six years for this day,” a soldier tells the LAT.
Officials are adamant that the Bush administration will not talk to Syria directly, which, in their opinion, doesn’t really matter anyway since other Arab nations could be more persuasive. Some analysts disagree and say no progress will be made unless the two countries talk directly. On Sunday afternoon, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are scheduled to meet with the Saudi foreign minister in the first round of talks to convince them of their plan.
As Rice prepares to travel to Israel today, Haaretz reports that Israeli officials believe they have the U.S. government’s support to continue the fight against Hezbollah for at least one more week. The paper says Rice will first meet with Israeli leaders to discuss the crisis and then will return to the region next Sunday to try to work on a cease-fire.
The Post says many of the Lebanese displaced by the bombings feel as though Hezbollah is the only group protecting them, as they see themselves abandoned not only by their own government, but also by other Arab nations.
So far, approximately 360 Lebanese have been killed, while, on the Israeli side the casualty count totals 15 civilians and 20 soldiers. The United Nations continues to warn of a humanitarian crisis as it estimates that at least 700,000 people have been displaced. During a visit to Beirut, British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells criticized Israel’s tactics, saying they have been inflicting too much damage on the civilian population.
According to early morning wire reports, Israel’s defense minister said his country would accept a temporary international force, preferably NATO, to patrol the Israel-Lebanon border.
The LAT goes inside with an analysis of Rice’s trip to the Middle East, calling it “one of the sternest challenges of her diplomatic career.” The Middle East has always been a complicated region for secretaries of state but now with several open conflicts in the area, Rice’s challenge will be even greater than normal, as she cannot risk alienating any allies.
Everybody points out that approximately 1,000 people took part in an anti-war protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
For those confused about all the activity in Lebanon and Israel since the fighting broke out, the LAT has a good summary of the major events that have taken place since July 12.
The NYT fronts a look into what Iranian citizens think about the conflict in Lebanon and discovers that many are upset their country is spending so much money to help Hezbollah. Several Iranians consulted by the paper said their country should spend more money in helping its citizens rather than in supporting a war abroad.
The LAT mentions that while the world attention is now focused on Lebanon, those in Gaza feel as though their troubles are being ignored. Since June 25, when two Israeli soldiers were killed and one was captured, at least 110 Palestinians have died as a result of Israeli attacks. Gaza’s economy also continues to suffer from sanctions.
The NYT goes inside with complaints by senior military officials who say the millions of dollars in military aid to Africa that Congress and the Bush administration have cut in recent years is hurting the war on terror. The U.S. government has discontinued military aid to countries that have not signed agreements exempting U.S. troops from being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. According to some officials this is a shortsighted plan that is helping China gain influence in Africa and Latin America.
The LAT fronts a look into the July 9 massacre in Jihad, a Baghdad neighborhood, and says many see it as an illustration of the undeclared civil war that has broken out in Iraq between the Shiites and the Sunnis. During the space of a few hours, anywhere from 26 to 55 Sunni Arab men were systematically killed, in a revenge operation that seems to have had at least support, and maybe even coordination, from law-enforcement officials.
Everybody mentions that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is scheduled to meet with President Bush in Washington on Tuesday. The NYT emphasizes how the speaker of the Iraqi parliament criticized U.S. involvement in his country yesterday. “The U.S. occupation is butcher’s work under the slogan of democracy and human rights and justice”, he said. The LAT says Maliki is ignoring pressure from members of the main Shiite Muslim coalition, who said he should not make a trip to Washington in order to protest U.S. support of Israel.
According to early morning wire reports, more than 50 people were killed by car bombs in Iraq on Sunday.
The NYT reports the death toll from a tropical storm that hit China on July 14 has risen to 523. The central government has begun to investigate whether local officials deliberately underplayed the extent of the devastation from tropical storm Bilis.
The WP fronts the first of a two-part adaptation of military correspondent Thomas E. Ricks’ new book titled Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. In the article, Ricks writes about the way the U.S. military was not prepared to face the Iraqi insurgency. It is a good overview, with some interesting bits of information, but most of it could hardly be considered new since it mentions such things as the de-Baathification process and how the majority of Iraqis arrested by U.S. troops were of no intelligence value. With so much other news, is it really worth Page One, above-the-fold play?
To finish off what will no doubt be a busy week, President Bush will get a visit from someone who got millions of votes but is no politician. According to the Post’s Reliable Source, American Idol Taylor Hicks will have a photo-op with the president Friday afternoon. Here’s to hoping Condoleezza Rice (a self-proclaimed fan of Hicks) will be able to take time off from her schedule to hang out with her fellow Birmingham native.