Blair, Annan urge deployment of human shields

The exchange of fire continues between Israel and Hezbollah:

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Fighter bombers pummeled Lebanese infrastructure Monday, setting Beirut’s port ablaze and hitting a Hezbollah stronghold in attacks that killed at least 17 people. The militants group retaliated by firing rockets that flew further into Israel than ever before.

The Katyusha rockets landed in the town of Atlit, about 35 miles south of the border and some five miles south of the port city of Haifa. Nobody was hurt in the Monday attack, but Hezbollah rockets killed eight people in Haifa on Sunday.

Security officials and medics said that Hezbollah rockets also fell on Haifa, the second day the city has been targeted. No injuries were immediately reported.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan have called for UN peacekeepers:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called for the deployment of international forces to stop the bombardment of Israel and to persuade the Jewish state to stop attacks on Hezbollah.

Speaking on the margin of the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Blair said the fighting would not stop until the conditions for a ceasefire were created.

“The only way is if we have a deployment of international forces that can stop bombardment coming into Israel,” he said.

Annan appealed to Israel to spare civilian lives and infrastructure. The G-8 nations, who had struggled to reach a consensus on the escalating warfare between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, have expressed concern on the “rising civilian casualties” and urged both sides to stop the violence.

I don’t disdain UN involvement in the conflict (as many do) but I do think that much depends on the mission of the force, the rules of engagement, and where they’re deployed.

If the primary mission of the UN force is force protection as has been so frequently the case, and the force is deployed to south Lebanon, I don’t see how it can have any effect whatever.

BTW, there is already a UN peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon, UNTSO. It’s the first, original UN peacekeeping mission and it’s still open for business nearly 60 years later. It’s unclear to me how additional forces without a clear mandate to do much of anything will succeed in doing much of anything.

They might deter Israeli attacks on Hezbollah emplacements and reduce collateral damage to innocent Lebanese who are living and working adjacent to these positions.

If the force is deployed to Israel, it would be an historic first. The effectiveness of such a human shield activity presupposes that Hezbollah can be deterred by the presence of a UN force. I’d like to see some evidence that would give me reason to believe this.

Something depends also, I think, on what you think the actual immediate precipitating events of the current exchange of hostilities is.

If you think that the actual immediate precipitating event is the capture of Israeli soldiers and Hamas and Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israeli cities, I don’t understand how UN involvement will help.

If you think that the actual immediate precipitating event is the Israel attacks on Hezbollah emplacements, offices, and avenues of re-supply and/or escape, then I can understand how UN involvement will help.

However, if you think that the actual immediate precipitating event is the struggle between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims for political influence within the Muslim world, we’ll need to look elsewhere for solutions.

UPDATE: While I was writing the post above, the contents of the story changed. Now it’s reporting that Israel has briefly sent troops into Lebanon. And back again:

JERUSALEM – Israeli ground troops entered southern Lebanon to attack Hezbollah bases on the border, but they rapidly returned to Israel after conducting their military operations, officials said Monday.

Israel’s six-day-old offensive against Hezbollah following the capture of two Israeli soldiers has been primarily an aerial campaign, but government spokesman, Asaf Shariv, said the Israeli army chief of staff confirmed that ground troops had gone into Lebanon, if only briefly.

Does this represent an escalation, a scouting mission, a probing action, a mistake?   Stay tuned.

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