A look at some of the myths and facts following Hezbollah's attack on Israel.
Israeli military operations in Lebanon are taking place in response to an unprovoked border attack which left 8 Israeli soldiers dead and two kidnapped by the Hezbollah. Since then many more Israelis have been wounded and killed by over 700 Katyusha missiles and mortars that have rained down on Israel's northern cities, including as far south as Haifa and Tiberias. Israel is exercising her legitimate right to self-defense.
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MYTHS AND FACTS SURROUNDING THE CRISIS
Myth - "Israel's response is disproportionate."
Fact - The definition of a "disproportionate" response is a subjective one. The question that could be asked of any other country in the world is simply: "What would you do in the same situation?" When protecting its citizens, exercising the right to self-defense and responding to missile attacks over a recognized border, most countries would respond in a similar manner. After all, how many Israelis need to die before the world believes that Israeli responses are proportionate?
Any civilian casualties in a conflict are, of course, tragic and regrettable. Civilians on both sides are suffering. However, Israeli air strikes on Lebanon are not intended to kill civilians, unlike the hundreds of Hezbollah missiles that are targeted specifically at Israeli civilians who have been forced into bomb shelters for their own safety. Israel has even dropped leaflets on Beirut suburbs calling on civilians to stay away from Hezbollah strongholds to avoid being caught up in the fighting.
Israel has also been criticized for targeting Lebanese infrastructure such as the Beirut airport. However, it is also interesting to note what has not been targeted. For example, while the airport runway was bombed, other vital installations such as the control tower were left untouched and Lebanese civilian airliners were allowed to fly to safety. Transport hubs and bridges have been targeted in order to prevent Hezbollah moving the kidnapped Israeli soldiers deeper into Lebanon and possibly even as far as Iran, as well as to prevent the terrorist organization being re-supplied with arms from Iran and elsewhere.
Many of Hezbollah's facilities and missile launch sites are located near residential areas, such as the suburbs of southern Beirut. Terrorists hide within the civilian population and use this population as a shield. Israel's priority is to strike at the Hezbollah terrorist infrastructure that has been allowed to develop in Lebanon.
Israel has, so far, avoided initiating a major ground offensive into Lebanese territory and has barely used a fraction of the firepower available to the IDF.
Myth - "Lebanon bears no responsibility for the actions of Hezbollah."
Fact - UN Security Council Resolution 1559 of September 2004, which referred back to Resolution 425, called "upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon"; "for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias"; and supported "the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory".
Syria eventually complied with 1559 and removed its occupying forces. However, the Lebanese government has not disarmed Hezbollah nor has it sent its armed forces to secure southern Lebanon and the border with Israel.
In addition, Hezbollah is actually part of the Lebanese government, which contains two Hezbollah members in the Cabinet. The Lebanese government, therefore, cannot abstain from responsibility for the actions of a part of its own leadership.
Myth - "Hezbollah is an indigenous Lebanese 'resistance' organization."
is a Lebanese umbrella organization of radical Islamic Shiite groups and organizations. It opposes the West, seeks to create a Muslim fundamentalist state modeled on Iran, and is a bitter foe of Israel. Hezbollah, whose name means "party of God," is a terrorist group believed responsible for nearly 200 attacks since 1982 that have killed more than 800 people.
Hezbollah and its affiliates have planned or been linked to a lengthy series of terrorist attacks against the United States, Israel, and other Western targets. These attacks include:
a series of kidnappings of Westerners in Lebanon, including several Americans, in the 1980s;
the suicide truck bombings that killed more than 200 U.S. Marines at their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983;
the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, which featured the famous footage of the plane?s pilot leaning out of the cockpit with a gun to his head;
and two major 1990s attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina - the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy (killing twenty-nine) and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center (killing ninety-five).
In addition, Hezbollah is sponsored, funded and armed by Iran and Syria who use the organization as a proxy to fight Israel and to destabilize the region. Hezbollah is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department.
For more information on Hezbollah, see the following sources:
Myth - "Outside actors such as Iran are not fuelling the crisis."
Fact - A number of analysts have suggested that the timing of the Hezbollah operation is no coincidence, occurring just prior to the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg. The G8 was expected to concentrate heavily on Iran's refusal to comply with demands to curtail its nuclear program. A wider Mideast crisis, provoked by Iran's Hezbollah proxies, has now moved to the top of the G8 agenda, thus relieving some of the pressure on Iran.
In addition, Iranian fingerprints are to be found in the current conflict. The Katyusha missiles that are currently raining down on the north of Israel are supplied by Iran. An Israeli Naval vessel was also struck by an Iranian-made C802 missile, killing four sailors.
Myth - "Israel continues to occupy Lebanese land, specifically the Shebaa Farms area."
As explained by Israel's Foreign Ministry, the Shebaa Farms area is not, and should not be, considered disputed territory - its status was clarified by a number of United Nations statements following the withdrawal of Israel forces from Lebanon in May 2000.
The United Nations views the Shebaa Farms area as Syrian territory. Therefore, UN Security Council Resolution 425 - which concerns Lebanon - does not require Israel to withdraw from this area.
While Lebanon claims to be the owner of the Shebaa Farms area, the UN has encouraged the Lebanese and Syrians to negotiate between themselves as to who is the rightful owner. If Syria were to cede ownership of the area to Lebanon, then it is probable that Israel and the UN would then reconsider the status of the territory. In the meantime, the issue of the Shebaa Farms is used simply as an excuse for the Hezbollah to maintain itself as an armed force in the region.
Myth - "Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails were kidnapped from Lebanese soil and should be released."
Some Lebanese and other Arab spokespeople have defended Hezbollah's actions as a legitimate form of "resistance" aimed at securing the release of Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails from the period of Israel's presence in its southern Lebanon security zone.
Fact - The prisoner whom Hezbollah is demanding, above all others, be released, is Samir Kuntar, jailed in Israel since a 1979 attack in the northern Israeli town of Nahariyah, in which he entered an apartment and murdered three family members and an Israeli police officer.
Kuntar is quite simply a terrorist and a murderer who committed a terrible atrocity on Israeli soil. Those prisoners held in Israeli jails captured during Israel's stay in southern Lebanon are, likewise, held for terrorist offences and due to the inherent risk that they will return to their previous activities.