Bush Relents – Sends Powell To Israel
United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, accompanied by a "quartet" of envoys representing the US, Russia, the European Union and UN is heading to the Middle East.
The contingent has the responsibility of encouraging Israel to withdraw troops from Palestinian territories and to lead both sides toward a ceasefire.
Israeli forces have bombarded cities throughout the West Bank and Gaza areas in retaliation for Palestinian suicide bombings against civilians inside Israel-proper.
The cities of Ramallah and Bethehem, along with other towns in the Palestinian territories have been made “no-go” areas for foreigners. Journalists and observers have been targeted by both Israel’s IDF soldiers and Hizbollah militants.
Israeli soldiers have conducted summary executions of terrorist suspects, and snipers have targeted civilians, including children, women, ambulance officers and humanitarian aid workers.
United States President George W Bush, criticised for being reticent to curb Israel’s advance into war, was pressured this morning to put the United States behind an Israeli with-drawl from occupied territories. Listen to Bush’s address by clicking here…
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Bush said: “In the days since, the world has watched with growing concern the horror of bombings and burials and the stark picture of tanks in the street. Across the world, people are grieving for Israelis and Palestinians who have lost their lives. When an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up, and in the process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future, itself, is dying -- the future of the Palestinian people and the future of the Israeli people. We mourn the dead, and we mourn the damage done to the hope of peace, the hope of Israel's and the Israelis' desire for a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors; the hope of the Palestinian people to build their own independent state.”
The United Nations Security Council this afternoon, voted unanimously to demand the implementation "without delay" of its recent resolution 1402… see Spectator article: UN Resolution Passes as Israel Advances Murder Spree on the Middle East. It also welcomed the United States decision to send Colin Powell to the region.
United Nations Secretary-General, Koffi Annan, also called on Israel "to give Colin Powell and the Quartet full access to the compound of Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat and to the Chairman himself."
He stressed that together with US envoy General Anthony Zinni the Quartet could be used as an effective instrument to pursue the implementation of resolution 1402.
Annan said forcing Arafat into exile would be "reckless" and said that it would be "a miscalculation of monumental proportions" to believe that dismantling the Palestinian Authority would create conditions where Israel can achieve security for itself.
Spiralling violence cannot be blamed on one party alone. "The Palestinian Authority seems to believe that failing to act against terrorism, and inducing turmoil, chaos and instability, will cause the Government and people of Israel to buckle," Annan said. "They will not."
The situation is also beyond Palestinian security services, which are “seriously limited in their ability to contain terrorism”, Annan said. He said however, Arafat did have the capacity to exercise political leadership, to set the course for the future of his people.
In a break-through statement, Yehuda Lancry, the United Nations’ permanent representative of Israel, said his country was willing to work with General Zinni and Secretary Powell "to engage in steps, together with reciprocal Palestinian actions, to achieve an immediate and meaningful ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli troops, the implementation of Tenet and Mitchell and an end to all acts of terrorism and incitement in accordance with resolutions 1397 and 1402."
Earlier today Annan condemned a deliberate assault by Hizbollah militants against unarmed UN military observers operating in south Lebanon.
He demanded that UN workers be given freedom of movement and threatened that any escalation of tensions along “the Blue Line” could have serious consequences for Peace and Security in the wider Middle East region.
The United Nations is to investigate the attack. UN troops - who collectively came from France, Ireland and Norway - were seriously hurt. "Attacks on peacekeepers really can't be tolerated," a UN spokesman said this afternoon, noting that the incident was the first attack on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon since Israel withdrew two years ago.
The incident took place at about 10:15am local time, when a group of four UN military observers were attacked by Hizbollah militants near the Shabaa Farms area. The observer patrol was travelling in clearly marked UN vehicles when armed Hizbollah forced their vehicle to stop. The car windows were broken and the UN observers dragged out of their car and assaulted with rifle butts. A separate four-man UNIFIL patrol saw the incident and went to help the observers. During a scuffle which followed, the Hizbollah elements seized the UN peacekeepers' weapons. One of the UN officers radioed headquarters which then immediately called Lebanese authorities to bring the situation under control. Within a few minutes of making this contact, UNIFIL was informed that Hizbollah had left the scene.
All UN officers are reported to be in hospital in a stable condition.
The UN has since received “profound apology” from Hizbollah along with assurances that this will never happen again. The Lebanese Government has also expressed its full support for the work of the UN peacekeepers.