Beirut faces new spiral of violence

ONE DAY it was peace, the next war. Ehud Barak, the new Israeli prime minister, had promised the first to Lebanon and Syria. Benjamin Netanyahu, the outgoing Israeli prime minister, delivered the second.

And by last night, Thursday's ruthless Nato-style Israeli attack on Lebanon's power stations and bridges - costing nine lives, five of them firemen - had left both the Israelis and Hizbollah guerrillas threatening further mutual retaliation.

The decision to bombard Lebanon appears to have been Netanyahu's; his government is still technically ruling Israel. Israelis were informed that Mr Barak, who had been speaking warmly of a future peace with Syria, only knew of the assault once it had begun.

It certainly bore all the hallmarks of Mr Netanyahu's government: it was both bloody and hopelessly disproportionate. Last night, Oded Ben Ami, an Israeli military spokesman, was warning of more bombing raids while the Lebanese government was accusing the Israelis of "barbarism".

As usual, the story of Lebanon's latest bombings and killings was rewritten - swiftly and carefully - within a short while after the attack. Israel explained that it was delivering an "appropriate response" to rocket attacks by Hizbollah guerrillas. But this round of violence in fact began on Wednesday when Israel's proxy `South Lebanon Army' militia fired several mortar rounds into the Lebanese Shia Muslim village of Qabriqa, in violation of the 1996 ceasefire accords.

Four civilians - including Fatima Yassin, a 45-year old housewife - were wounded. As usual, the Hizbollah responded by firing Katyusha rockets over the border into Israel.

Israeli military officers have long accepted the cynical rules of the south Lebanon war: the Hizbollah do not fire into Israel unless Israel or its allies have hurt or killed Lebanese civilians. But on Thursday night, the Israelis decided to retaliate against the Hizbollah's retaliation.

So they fired missiles into the Lebanese electricity switching stations at Jamhour - scarcely a mile from the Lebanese president's residence - and at Bsalim, which they bombed in 1996 and which was afterwards repaired by the French government.

Then, while the fire brigade was endeavouring to control a raging inferno, Israeli jets returned to Jamhour and killed five firemen.

While these attacks were taking place, Israeli pilots targeted road bridges near Nabatea, Sidon and Damour, killing two innocent motorists. In response - as both the Lebanese and Israelis expected - the Hizbollah fired 60 more rockets into Israel, this time killing two Israelis and wounding three others.

The Israeli deaths followed the Lebanese deaths - not the other way round - although Israel was yesterday claiming that its bombardment was a response to "unprovoked" aggression.

Unwilling to accept Israel's change-of-government protocol, the Lebanese prime minister, Selim el-Hoss, insisted last night (Fri) that Messers Barak and Netanyahu were in "collusion" over the attack on Lebanon.

So far this year, Israel and its militia allies inside southern Lebanon have killed 19 Lebanese civilians and an Irish UN soldier.

At least 10 Israeli occupation soldiers have been killed inside Lebanon and two Israeli civilians over the border. Beirut was without electricity through the day yesterday - among the hottest days of summer - as its citizens, along with the population of northern Israel, waited to find out if the fiercest bombardment of Lebanon since 1996 had ended in stalemate.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there