"If you want to fight like an army, we will fight you army to army – but if you continue to hit our cities, killing innocents, we will strike back and hit your cities – though we would regret having to take this step", said Sheikh Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, in a televised statement on Al-Jazeera television Thursday night. He reiterated that from the beginning, Hezbollah has shown restraint, and been willing to negotiate with Israel for the return of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in Lebanon on July 12th.
"An end of [Israeli] aggression means three things: firstly a ceasefire, secondly the return of those evicted, and third of all the departure of Israel from any land it might have occupied."
"We aren’t an army – we are street fighters. When the Israeli army invades into Lebanon with ground troops, it is to our advantage. That is our terrain."
"The resistance can shell as far as we need to, whenever we need to. The current Israeli military invasion is incompetent, blind and ignorant. They target children and the elderly. What has happened so far is massacres. The U.S. is responsible. What happened in Qana is a disgrace for Bush and Condoleeza Rice – the U.S. administration is a criminal administration, and they are trying to give us orders."
The reference that Nasrallah made to ‘Qana’ refers to an Israeli airstrike over the weekend that hit a home sheltering nearly 60 civilians, 38 of them small children, killing all of the inhabitants.
Nasrallah continued, "When the war stops, you should remember that the American administration, which claims that it loves Lebanon, wants Lebanon to be safe, that it cares about the Lebanese people – the only thing the U.S. wants is for Lebanon to be a new base for the U.S. military in the Middle East. I want everyone to remember this: that Lebanon will not be a base for the U.S. military."
He also addressed Arab leaders, saying, "You abandoned all of your morals and responsibilities, because you are afraid of losing power – you care for your positions more than anything – but you have to realize that the American administration wants you to be under their control. For just one day, you should stand with Lebanon instead of with Bush’s plan for control of the Middle East.
The leader of Hezbollah warned that the group will launch rockets at Tel Aviv if Israel attacks central Beirut. Israeli forces dropped 23 tons of bombs on a neighborhood in Beirut on July 20th, claiming that it was attempting to kill Sheikh Nasrallah and his aides, but instead destroying nearly 20 city blocks of apartments and homes. Today the Israeli airforce dropped two bombs into the southern suburbs, an area that is especially crowded due to the influx of 750,000 evacuees fleeing from the south. The planes also dropped leaflets warning residents that there will be heavy bombing of their neighborhoods tomorrow, and that they should ‘get out’. With all borders closed, the airport in ruins after being repeatedly bombed by Israel, and the port blockaded by the Israeli navy, many of the Lebanese residents of Beirut are at a loss as to where they are expected to go.
So far, Lebanese civilian casualties have outnumbered Israeli civilian casualties at a rate of 50 to 1. 19 Israeli civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli government, while over 900 Lebanese civilians have been killed, according to the Lebanese government. Christian towns and neighborhoods have been hit by Israeli airstrikes, and even the farthest northern villages have not been immune to the bombs dropped by the Israeli warplanes.
Israeli military spokespeople have repeatedly claimed that they have destroyed all of Hezbollah’s long-range rocket launchers, but have been repeatedly been proven wrong, with Hezbollah fighters continuing to fire sporadic barrages of rockets into northern Israel, farther south than Hezbollah has ever struck before. 180 rockets were fired into Israel on Thursday alone – resulting in the deaths of eight Israeli civilians, including one teenager.
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz last week promised to "destroy ten buildings in Lebanon for every rocket fired by Hezbollah", and over the weekend dropped hundreds of missiles into Lebanon from F16 jets and Apache helicopters. Rescue crews attempted to extract bodies on Monday and Tuesday, and managed to pull out over one hundred bodies of civilians before having to give up the searches due to ongoing Israeli shelling of the rescue effort.
As the war between Israel and Lebanon enters its fourth week, the Lebanese resistance movement has repeatedly shown its resilience, standing up to the vastly better-armed Israeli army with guerrilla tactics and anti-tank mines that have thus far prevented the Israeli army from establishing any bases within Lebanon. Thirty-seven Israeli soldiers have been killed in southern Lebanon in clashes with Hezbollah fighters.
About 10,000 Israeli troops have been deployed on the Israel-Lebanon border, and have received orders to to take control of southern Lebanon from the border to the Litani river, 30 km inside Lebanon. Thus far the Israeli army has been unable to advance farther than 3-4 kilometers, but with the new orders, analysts point out that the new Israeli offensive could be a repeat of the Israeli ‘scorched earth policy’ carried out during their invasion of Lebanon in the early eighties, in which much of southern Lebanon was flattened to rubble, and Israeli forces advanced to Beirut, occupying Lebanon for the next twenty years.
The Hezbollah resistance movement was able to push the Israeli forces back to their own border in 2000, in a humiliating defeat for Israel. Hezbollah remains the only force that was able to claim victory over the Israeli army. The Israeli army is by far the best armed military force in the region, and is the only country in the Middle East with an airforce. The Israeli army is the fourth largest army (by per-capita spending) on earth, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has estimated that Israel has approximately 30 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, though Israel has never admitted that it is a nuclear power, and has never allowed inspections of its nuclear arsenal.