Shooting Breaks Out Between Israel and Lebanon (+other news)
Update (15:30 EST) OK, still quiet on the northern front. Israel's claim is that it has an enclave beyond the fence, and that UNIFIL recognizes this enclave even if Lebanon doesn't. This enclave is between Israel's border fence and the international Blue Line border. To me this once again reflects Israel's slightly warped ideas about borders... "This is the fence - but we claim the right to do stuff on both sides of it".
Also, Israel's claim that it was merely pruning trees sounds odd. If so, what were a Lt. Colonel and a Captain, Battalion and Company commander respectively, doing there?
UNIFIL, which as mentioned above recognizes Israel's right to the enclave beyond the fence where the soldier on the crane was, reportedly confirms that Israel informed it of its plans but that it, UNIFIL, requested Israel not to do it that day as their commander was abroad. Israel went ahead anyway. And for final context, a week ago Haaretz ran an article quoting a Dan Kertzer memo at the State Department, predicting that "Israel will lie in wait for an opportunity to strike in Lebanon".
So both sides have reasons of their own for this little episode and perhaps for more. This does not bode well. More regular roundup in a bit. No more Lebanon updates in this installation unless things go ape.
Update (11:00) Israel confirms one casualty, a colonel. One severely injured still being fought for by doctors. The shooting has not resumed but tensions are very high.
Now, this incident has some deeper background than Israel's apparent violations. Hizballah is in urgent need of a story-changer, as it is about to be officially blamed for the 2005 murder of Lebanese PM Rafiq al-Hariri. In addition, having based its raison d'etre as a unique force in Lebanon on its prowess in resisting Israeli aggression, the huge Israeli spy ring that was recently caught didn't really help its image. More in a bit.
Update: (10:50 EST) OK, story getting strange. IDF spokesman claims that everything they did in the area was coordinated with UNIFIL, the UN force which is supposed to keep S. Lebanon militia (i.e. Hizballah) free and keep the peace. Sounds bizarre that UNIFIL, deployed under UN SC Resolution 1701 which states that the Lebanese army will control ALL of Lebanon, would OK an Israeli violation of same. However, no official denial has been forthcoming yet. Shooting is over. Israel apparently has 1-2 dead. Reuters reported an officer dead and the IDF North. Command General told reporters that Israel has two casualties, severely injured. Since "serious injury" is a common Israeli media euphemism for "dead" used before military censorship allows media to actually report the truth, that score might change.
(09:09 EST) Update: Guess what? Israel started. This pic clearly shows Israeli soldiers using a crane to uproot a tree inside the Lebanese side of the border, in order to plany surveillance cameras. With Lebanon rocking for weeks following the discovery of an Israeli spy ring, that shit don't fly too well.
(08:30 EST) Shooting broke out on Israel's northern border today after Lebanese army forces shot at Israeli forced whom they accused of crossing the "blue line" border. Israeli forces fired back and so far there are reports of 3 Lebanese dead and several Israeli injured, one seriously.
The interesting part is that reports have Hizballah staying out of this little skirmish. This is the Lebanese army trying to prove that Hizballah ain't the only one standing up to Israel.
This will be a live blog updating the situation throughout the evening, with the hope that it turns out to be disappointing as a dramatic offering. And now to your regularly scheduled, late as usual Holyland Update:
Someday I'll have the time and clarity of mind and taskload to actually get these done while it's still the motherfuckign weekend. Until then - here's the Week
endday Holyland Update, flight 080310. We've got an exceptionally heavy load this time, so we'll dispense of the customary cryptic previews and get straight to the madness, trying our hardest to address each issue as briefly as circumstances allow. This message provided to you by Graphomaniacs Anonymous, who remind us all that we are powerless over verbiage addiction:
Israel, for the first time outside a time of actual war or immediately thereafter, destroyed an entire minority village, this one inhabited by Bedouin families. The unrecognized village of al-Arakib, 3 miles north of Beer Sheba, population 300, was razed to the ground by 1500 police, special police forces, and apparently a couple busloads of teenage Civil Guard police auxiliary volunteers. Someone thought this would be a good experience for teenagers - a healthy cleansing of the heathen from the promised land. According to reports, the tender youth responded positively to this character-building experience and had a grand time. Can't help but wonder which of the little kids who saw their parents humiliated by sneering thugs will grow up with enough hate to blow my kids up.
Quick background: Before 1948, Bedouins roamed the entire Negev. Their rights to their grazing and dwelling lands, and even pursuant property rights, were recognized by the Ottoman Turks, the British and even the Jewish National Fund. After Israel's independence war, and after most of the Negev's Bedouin (some 60 out of 75 thousand) were chased off/"ran away", the remaining Bedouin were forbidden from returning to their ancestral lands and were herded together in a small triangle in the northern Negev. Little by little they began to inch back and also wage legal battle to get their lands back. In the 70's, seven towns were established for Bedouins in an attempt to un-nomadize them. Currently half the Negev's Bedouins live in these shantytowns, while the other half lives in "unrecognized villages" - assortment of hovels and tin-sheet huts, unconnected to power or water. Recently Israel has recognized some of these villages as part of a new initiative. With this place, they decided to play hardball. And unlike in the case of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, nobody gave these guys fancy "villa trailers" or compensation, or treated them gently and put their stuff on trucks first. No, hovels were razed on top of their meager contents.
To a different item in the same ballpark: Israel's government has decided to deport 400 children of foreign workers who are either under the age of 5 or haven't been here and enrolled in an educational institute for 5 years. This a compromise compared to Interior Minister salivating intention of deporting 1200 kids, regardless of how long they've been here or whether they know any other home. According to Mr Yishai, these 1200 kids are a grave threat to the "Jewish Character" of Israel - a country of over 6 million Jews. Yeah. One in 5000. Me, I'd rather call these kids my co-nationals than Yishai or his kids, but that's just more proof of what a bad Jew I am... Little ray of light: A facebook page has already been opened for people willing to hide the kids slated to be chased away.
Your humble narrator needs to run an errand and get his kid from KG. More when I'm back. Do check in from time to time.
The big story this past week or so was the CH-53 (Hercules) chopper of orus that crashed in Romania, killing six Israeli Air Force troops and a Romanian air crew man. This happened during joint drills with the mighty Romanian military. The drill was sold as focused on "Low-altitude flight, search and rescue". But when a search and rescue mission was needed, following the crash, Israel flew in its 669 air rescue commando unit from home. Weren't they supposed to be already there, at a drill focused on their very field of expertise?
Israeli media went into full disaster mode, preempting the TV schedule and whatnot, with the papers (the tabloids, at least) giving it cover and page 2-3-4-5 treatment for 2-3 days following. On the night it happened (it happened in the afternoon, Israel time, but they were allowed to talk about it only at 22:30. I ran with it 3 hours earlier at YouPost, cause the censorship doesn't bother to email us its gag orders.
The free newspaper Israel HaYom, funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and devoted entirely to defending PM Bibi Netanyahu (aka the Baron von Bibhausen), has been pronounced the newspaper with the highest exposure in Israel, dethroning Yediot Aharonot for the first time in about 4 decades. This ties in to the above paragraph to explain why Yediot and especially the other tabloid, the shilly nationalist and leftist-hunting Maariv, went berserk trying to prove that Bibi was derelict in the aftermath of the chopper crash. He was hosting a birthday party for his son (modest get-together, it was called... 100 guests, DJ, caterer... Yeah, modest). Anyway, it wasn't the extravagance the papers harped about. They tried to make this Bibi's "My Pet Goat" moment, saying he did nothing but continued to cavort with the guests. This is of course nonsense, he excused himself frequently to talk on the phone throughout the event and really it was an isolated event he could do nothing more about.
Addendum: Just today, a week later, two more Israeli CH-53 choppers were forced to make emergency landings in Romania (no one hurt this time), even though the joint drills (search and rescue, sure) were called off after the first one crashed.
The other big military story was the elite commando trainee who snapped during the infamous "captivity series", in which commandos-to-be are snatched in the middle of a drill or trek, held in POW-like conditions for 3-4 days, have the living crap beat out of them, etc, etc. So this guy, in the middle of this, (or rather right before he's supposed to be mock-kidnapped, the details are fuzzy) manages to elude everyone, run away, and not be found till the evening, when he shows up safe and sound at his folks' house in the north of Israel. During the intervening time an entire country of course quietly lost its mind, with rumors he really was kidnapped by the terrorists swirling and whatnot. He's been kicked off the unit. Actually that's splendid performance when faced with the specter of captivity, no?
That's it for now. I'll add a part 2 to this installation when I wake up (which means while y'all are sound asleep). So check back in tomorrow. Same batshit time, same...you get the idea. WHU airlines is not responsible for any illusions, sympathies or misconceptions that may have been misplaced on our tours. Please collect your luggage and check your comments and thumbs. Thank you for flying the crazy skies.