Lebanon fears Israeli `war on terror'

Robert Fisk@indyvoices
Sunday 23 August 1998 23:02

A THREAT by Israel to bomb Lebanon's electricity grid and water resources has prompted fears that Israel may take advantage of America's "war on terrorism" to strike at Lebanon again.

The Lebanese Foreign Minister, Fares Boueiz, has warned a visiting United States senator that Israel could attack under the pretext that, if America can assault Sudan and Afghanistan, Israel can chase its antagonists here.

Last week the killing of an Israeli soldier belonging to Israel's occupation force in Lebanon was followed by a booby trap bombing that killed another soldier and an Israeli construction worker.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, last year imaginatively characterised Israel's occupation of Lebanon as a "war against terror" - President Bill Clinton's words for his latest adventure in the region - although the struggle in southern Lebanon is a classic guerrilla conflict.

After the first Israeli soldier was killed last week in a Hizbollah bomb explosion near Sojod, which wounded four of his colleagues, two Israeli ministers, Uzi Landau and Avigdor Kahalani, said Israel should bomb the Lebanese electricity grid and water resources every time an Israeli dies in southern Lebanon.

Within 12 hours, the Hizbollah exploded their second roadside mine, this time beside an Israeli convoy making its way into the old Crusader castle at Beaufort, outside Nabatea.

Two Israelis, a soldier and a contractor travelling in a civilian car in the convoy, were killed - the Hizbollah had obviously received intelligence about the make-up of the convoy - and the bomb explosion was followed by a fierce gun battle between guerrillas and Israeli troops.

Israel's retaliation included a series of air attacks and artillery bombardments across 20 miles of Lebanon, wounding a 70-year-old Lebanese farmer.

The Hizbollah's deputy secretary general, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said: "Israeli threats will not prevent our military operations from continuing until our land is liberated."

It was not the first time, he said, "that the Israeli enemy has threatened to cover up for its failure to protect its soldiers..."

Mr Landau, president of the Israeli parliamentary commission for foreign affairs and defence, also threatened Syria, which allows Iranian weapons to be transferred through Lebanon to the Hizbollah. "If our soldiers are blown up by mines or command-detonated bombs, Syrian Jeeps can explode in the same way," Mr Landau said.

The Lebanese Foreign Minister told US Republican Senator Chuck Hagel that Israel could benefit from the American missile attacks by striking at Lebanon and claiming it was only doing the same as the United States.

"If Israel chooses to attack us now, it will try to convey to the world that it is fighting terrorism, even though the situation in the south [of Lebanon] is completely unrelated."

The Hizbollah has no links with Osama bin Laden, whose Arab guerrillas were the target for Mr Clinton's cruise missile attack on Afghanistan last Thursday. Mr bin Laden's Sunni Wahabi faith would distance him from the largely Shia Lebanese militia, which is funded by Iran - an enemy of Mr bin Laden's Taliban protectors.

But both the Hizbollah and Mr Boueiz condemned the US air raids. "We consider such terrorism more dangerous than the terrorism of organisations we have rejected," Mr Qassem said, in an unflattering reference to the Taliban.

"Mr Clinton does not have the right to violate international laws just to save himself from the internal trouble he has put himself in." Mr Qassem pointedly omitted to mention the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania earlier this month.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments