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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2006, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Lebanon crisis fires Mid-East press
Mid-East

Lebanon's press is capturing the sense of crisis gripping ordinary people and appealing for help before the country's democratic momentum is halted.

On top of the usual condemnation of Israel and the United States elsewhere in the Arab and Persian papers, there 's anger that leaders appear either divided or impotent.

The most recent papers in Israel paint a mixed picture. One columnist praises the Olmert government for "showing steady nerves" while another says the "current Alice-in-Wonderland government has outlived its usefulness".

Report in Lebanon's Daily Star

Hundreds of Lebanese nationals and foreigners crowded into Beirut's bus depot Friday and bid for the last remaining seats on taxis and buses heading for the Syrian border as Israel intensified its air campaign against the country's infrastructure, leaving the main highway to Syria impassable.

Families camped in the filthy underpass of the Charles Helou terminal amid piles of suitcases, appliances, and other hastily collected belongings. A group of Syrian workers holding $14 bus tickets shoved each other as they fought their way onto one crowded vehicle. The men in front tried to squeeze their arms into the closing doors as the driver looked on helplessly...

Meanwhile, lost-looking Westerners and wealthy Gulf tourists were trying to haggle with the few available cab drivers left in the station and willing to make the now arduous journey from Beirut to Masnaa. Cabbies charged upward of $150 per person for the four-to-six-hour trip, which used to cost $10 and take about two hours on the Damascus Highway before it was cut by Israeli bombs...

Editorial in Lebanon's Daily Star

Our fledgling independence is under fire. Only a little over a year since we started making our own decisions and trying to forge a sense of national unity, we have been hit with a crisis of unexpected proportions...

Yet even now, as Israel is laying waste to our country with guns and missiles paid for with US tax dollars, and as American-made bombs are raining down on our cities, we are still clinging to the same values and ideals that the Bush administration has promoted: We want life, liberty and happiness; we want democracy, sovereignty, freedom and independence.

No-one is calling for the return of Syrian occupation, even though one could argue that Syria's presence served as a deterrent to this kind of Israeli onslaught. No-one is asking whether the US government only asked the Syrians to step out only so that the Israelis could step in to replace them. We are holding out hope that the Americans will be faithful to the values that they have championed and protect us from further harm...

Commentary in pan-Arab Al-Sharq al-Awsat

What is happening in Lebanon is a case of blatant and hideous aggression on the part of Israel against defenceless civilians... Israel is a state that thrived on arrogance and tyranny, therefore it lives in this way.

Commentary in Israel's Maqor Rishon

The action Israel has avoided taking for years, and which has now become necessary, is a ground operation in which conventional IDF forces will have to supplement any aerial operations. Lebanon is full of Jihadist forces, and Iran and Hezbollah are preparing the country to be a battle ground. No less important is the fact that international pressure on Iran and Syria has eased up. The previous battle, a month ago, took place when Syria felt that pressure on it following the assassination of Al-Hariri was waning: the current escalation is because Iran feels it has regained control of the situation regarding its nuclear program since North Korea launched ballistic missiles, and since Russia and China are preventing sanctions against Iran. Israel needs a new government that will be able to extricate us from the cycle of defeatism. Our current Alice-in-Wonderland government has outlived its usefulness.

Commentary in Israel's Yedi'ot Aharonot

In the emergency meeting two days ago, ministers were already told that missiles would be fired at Haifa. Nasrallah was the one taken by surprise. The Shia leader misread Israel's political map and wrongly assessed the trio made up of Olmert, Peretz, and Halutz. The three are showing steady nerves and a willingness to fight back on a scale unprecedented in the this region. This is not the first time in Israel that a government labelled "peace-loving" rather than right-wing "war-mongering" does not balk at taking extreme action which involves harming "innocent people".

Editorial in Algeria's El Watan

The state-sponsored terrorism waged by Israel in Lebanon and in Gaza is being perceived with benevolence, indeed encouraged, by the Americans. Through its behaviour, the United States is accentuating the growing hostility of the Arab peoples toward it and are pushing Arab youth into going off and swelling the ranks of radical Islamism for the purpose of avenging their brothers...

Unfortunately, Washington has been encouraged in this criminal attitude by the passivity of the Arab regimes, whereas the latter have retaliatory means such as petroleum or trade, for example. Worse yet, those who have diplomatic relations with Israel have not made the gesture of recalling their ambassadors. The scheduled Arab League meeting will only be one more gesticulation that will contribute nothing concrete and will in no way go after the Americans, who only have contempt for the Arabs. The Saudis have already revealed their intentions. In their hatred of Shia, they preferred to condemn Hezbollah rather than Israel. How can they deserve any respect?

Editorial in Saudi Arabia's Saudi Gazette

Saudi Arabia has distanced itself from the miscalculated adventures of those purporting to be fighting the Arab cause but have instead put all Arab countries at risk... The Middle East is on the brink of all-out war though peace still has one remote chance - through the Quartet's road map and the Arab initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia. Israel must be brought back to the negotiating table, now.

Commentary in Iran's Iran News

Israel has stepped up its assault on Lebanon as the United Nations Security Council prepares to hold an emergency meeting to tackle this Middle Eastern crisis. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has blamed the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla for its role in the tensions...

The US, European countries and Russia are not expected to condemn Israel, but the silence of Muslim nations and the laxness of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference in the face of Israeli behaviour are much more painful than the crimes committed by the Jewish government. Have Islamic nations forgotten that Israel killed seven family members in the Gaza Strip to set off this round of violence? Who are occupiers: Palestinians or Israelis? Israel needs trigger a new round of violence in the region from time to time in a bid to excite its public opinion and cover up its domestic problems...

Column in Syria's Al-Thawrah

By carrying out this treacherous aggression, Israel seeks to achieve two goals, one of which is absorbing the domestic tension created by the shame that has befallen the Israeli army as a result of the two operations in Gaza and southern Lebanon. The second Israeli goal is deepening divisions among the Lebanese political forces. The Israeli bombardment of vital Lebanese facilities and bridges is meant to give ammunition to some Lebanese politicians so that they can oppose the abduction of the two soldiers. Undoubtedly, Israel will not achieve either goal, because the majority of the Lebanese people support their resistance, and are fully aware of Israel's aggressive nature.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




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