Deadline set for 400,000 villagers to get out
War in Lebanon: Residents told to get out or risk shells and bombs as Israel launches biggest attack since Beirut blitz of 1982
Patrick Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent. He was awarded Foreign Commentator of the Year at the 2013 Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards.
Monday 15 April 1996
In the four days since Operation Grapes of Wrath started, Israel has increased the scope of the attack by stages. All people living south of the Litani river, 20 miles from the Israeli frontier, were told yesterday to leave their homes. For the first time the Palestinian refugee camp at Beddawi, outside Tripoli, in north Lebanon, was attacked by Israeli aircraft.
After a cabinet meeting yesterday Israel said it would stop its assault if it received cast-iron guarantees that Hizbollah, the Lebanese guerrilla movement, would stop firing Katyusha rockets across the Lebanese border. An Israeli woman was wounded yesterday when Hizbollah fired nine volleys of rockets.
Hizbollah say it has not lost a single fighter since the Israeli offensive started. As the skies over southern Lebanon cleared of mist and rain, Israeli planes launched 15 raids. A helicopter hit an electricity substation at Jamhour in what Israel says was retaliation for an electricity black- out caused by a Katyusha in northern Israel. Another air attack was near the Syrian border.
Syria said the US risks losing its role of mediator in the Middle East because of its support for the Israeli strikes. Syrian radio said the US position was exposing the region to "real dangers" and urged it to keep the role of the honest broker in the Middle East conflict: "The American stand is far from having the credibility which a superpower should maintain as a peace sponsor in the world."
Israeli commentators see US support for Grapes of Wrath as a vital source of political strength for Israel, enabling it to conduct prolonged military operations. On Friday the US urged Syria and Iran to curb Hizbollah attacks and defended Israel's strikes, saying Islamic radicals must feel the "consequences" of their acts.
Ehud Barak, the Israeli Foreign Minister, said the onslaught had two objectives: to strike at Hizbollah militarily and to make clear Israel expects the Lebanese government to halt the rocket attacks. He ruled out diplomatic action at this stage. In Beirut, a foreign ministry official said Syria and Lebanon backed a return by Hizbollah and Israel to an understanding, brokered by the US in 1993, barring both sides from targeting civilians.
The present offensive is more extensive than Operation Accountability in 1993, since it includes Beirut and is likely to last longer. The aim is to put intolerable pressure on Beirut to exhort President Hafez al- Assad of Syria to curb Hizbollah.
In the past the Syrian leader has resisted attempts by the US to get him to withdraw his support for Hizbollah and his alliance with Iran.
Leading article, page 14
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, GAME, PC World and Argos
Miss Honduras Maria Jose Alvarado's stylist Luis Alfredo Garcia is found stabbed to death
Sean Abbott: Messages of support flood in for bowler following death of batsman Phil Hughes
Dr Lam Hoe Yeoh: Voyeur doctor jailed for eight years after using network of hidden cameras to film patients, colleagues and friends on the toilet
'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Ed Miliband's 'north London set' must be demolished to save Labour, say critics
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...