Monday, July 31, 2006

Israel Embassy: Q & A 31/7/06

Questions and Answers update 31st July 2006.

Why is Israel conducting military operations against Lebanon?

" An unprovoked act of war was carried out against Israel from Lebanon. Israel must protect its population."

Israel has suffered an unprovoked cross-border attack from Lebanese territory. The attack was carried out by Hizbullah, which is a party to the Government of Lebanon. The attack was carried out against Israeli citizens – civilians and soldiers – while on sovereign soil. In these circumstances, Israel has no alternative but to defend itself and its citizens. For this reason, Israel is now reacting to an act of war by a neighbouring sovereign state. The purpose of the Israeli operation is two-fold – to free its abducted soldiers, and to remove the terrorist threat from its northern border. Israel views Lebanon as responsible for the present situation, and it shall bear the consequences.

How will Israel respond to the bombardment of its Northern cities?

"Israel has a responsibility to defend its citizens, and to remove the missile threat from its cities."

A: The thousands of ongoing rocket attacks from Lebanon by Hizbullah against Haifa and Israel's north, in which 17 civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded, should dispel once and for all any popular myth depicting Hizbullah as an ill-equipped guerilla force. As the proxy of Iran created in the 1980's to carry out the country's hostile acts toward Israel- in disregard and violation of Lebanese sovereignty – Hizbullah has received massive shipments of state-of-the-art weaponry from Tehran's arsenal, transported through Syria.

A senior Iranian army officer stated Sunday (16th of July) to the Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat that the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guard set up dozens of advanced rocket and missile bases in the Lebanon Valley and along the border with Israel. Between 1992 and 2005 Hizbullah received some 11, 500 short to medium range missiles and rockets. The official also said Hizbullah is in possession of four types of advanced ground-to-ground missiles: Fajr missiles with a range of 100 kilometers, Iran 130 missiles with a range of 90-110 kilometres and 355 millimetre rockets with a 150 kilometre range. On Friday night, July 14, Hizbullah demonstrated a previously unknown capability when it fired a sophisticated, Iranian-made, radar-guided ship-to-shore missile at an Israel Navy missile corvette, the INS Hanit, killing four sailors.

In the face of this grave Hizbullah aggression, Israel will do whatever is necessary to remove the terrorist threat from its population centres, as would any other state in a similar situation.

Is Israel using disproportionate force?

" Israel is responding to a threat of 12,000 missiles aimed at its cities. Over a million Israelis are in bomb-shelters. How would any other country respond?."

A: Proportionality must be measured in terms of the extent of the threat. Israel's actions result not just from the Hizbullah's unprovoked attack against Israel and the abduction of two soldiers. Israel's military operation is also being carried out against the real and tangible threat against more than a million civilians, throughout northern Israel. The Hizbullah – a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel's destruction – has over twelve thousand missiles targeted against Israel and has launched over 1,500 of them in the past few days. The massive use by Hizbullah of these missiles, causing numerous civilian deaths, hundreds of casualties and widespread destruction, makes Israel's actions necessary. One should ask, ' what would other states do when confronted with a threat of this magnitude?'.

Why does Israel bomb civilian buildings and infrastructure?

"While Hizbullah tries to maximize civilian casualties, Israel does all it can to minimize them."

A: Hizbullah is carrying out indiscriminate missile attacks against Israeli population centres. Fifteen Israeli civilians – Jews as well as Arabs – have been killed, including three young children. Attacks have been carried out against large cities such as Haifa, small farms such as Meron, Arab villages such as Majdal Krum and religious sites such as Safed and Nazareth.

By contrast, Israel only targets facilities which directly serve the terrorist organizations in their attacks against Israel. For example, Israel targeted the Beirut International Airport and the Beirut-Damascus Hightway because they serve Hizbullah to re-supply itself with weapons and ammunition. Israel has also targeted buildings, such as the Hizbullah Television studios, which act as a vital means of communication for terrorist operatives. Unfortunately, the terrorists have purposely hidden themselves and stockpiled their missiles in residential areas, thus endangering the surrounding populations. Indeed, many of the missiles recently fired at Israel is taking extreme care to reduce to minimum the risk to which the population is exposed – often at the cost of operational advantages. For example, leaflets are dropped urging residents to avoid certain Hizbullah installations, even though such prior warning reduces Israel's element of surprise.

Does Israel use weapons prohibited by international law?
"Israel respects international law, even while fighting those who violate it"

A: The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are committed to conducting operations in full conformity with the law of armed conflict. These rules are enshrined in the IDF's Manual on the Law of Armed Conflict, which requires the military operations be directed only against military targets, and that only weapons which can be directed at such targets be used. Additionally, the manual requires that, where the risk of incidental injury to civilians outweighs the expected military advantage, the military operation cannot be carried out.

Regarding allegations that illegal use has been made of cluster bombs and phosphorous weapons, it should be noted that neither of these types of weapons is prohibited under the Conventional Weapons Convention, to which Israel is a party. Israel stresses that, in all circumstances, it makes strenuous efforts to ensure that military operations are conducted so as to minimize harm to civilians and damage to their property

Isn't Israel concerned about the mounting number of civilian casualties?

"We don't want to see anyone hurt, but Hizbullah is hiding behind Lebanese civilians in order to attack Israeli civilians. This has to stop."

Israel regrets the loss of innocent lives. Israel does not target civilians, yet is forced to take decisive actions against Hizbullah, a ruthless terrorist organization which has over 12, 000 missiles pointing towards its cities. Israel, like any other country, must protect its citizens, and has no choice but to remove this grave threat to the lives of millions of innocent civilians. Had Hizbullah not established such a missile force, Israel would have no need to take action, and had Hizbullah chosen to set up its arsenal away from populated areas, no civilians would have been hurt when Israel does what it obviously must do. The responsibility for the tragic situation lies solely with the Hizbullah.

Following the deaths on Sunday (16 July) of seven Canadians, what is Israel doing to help the foreign nationals stranded in Lebanon?

Israel has expressed its profound sorrow and regret at the deaths of any foreign nationals in Lebanon who are uninvolved in the violence. Israel is doing everything it can to coordinate, through discreet channels, the evacuation of all foreign nationals who wish to leave Lebanon.

What is Israel doing in order to help address the humanitarian needs of the Lebanese population?

"Israel is working with the UN in order to provide humanitarian aid to Lebanese civilians".

In spite of the very difficult security situation on the ground, Israel is acutely aware of the humanitarian situation as well. Israel has therefore established, though contacts with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a humanitarian corridor in order to meet the needs of those affected on the Lebanese side. This corridor is designed for the shipment of humanitarian supplies and the evacuation of civilians in need of medical care, as well as foreign nationals wishing to evacuate. At present, the route enters Lebanon through the sea port of Beirut and Israel is working with the international community with a view to expand the corridor to include other points of entry as well.

Why is Israel committing so many ground troops when it has stated that it has no designs on Lebanese territory?

"The terrorists are dug in along the border, and can only be removed by force"

Prior to the current crisis, Hezbullah gun positions were deployed all the way up to the Israel- Lebanon border. From these positions, the terrorists carried out unprovoked attacks with machine guns, grenades, anti-tank rockets, and other direct-fire weapons against Israeli towns, civilian vehicles and border patrols. Direct military confrontation with the terrorist fortifications arrayed along the border is critical in order to achieve the objective of dislodging the Hizbullah threat from Israel's north. Therefore, ground operations are a necessary component to the air and artillery operations being carried out against the Hizbullah infrastructure in depth. Israel is not carrying out a large scale ground campaign as was the case in 1982, and Israel has no desire to take and hold the Lebanese territory. Israel's ground operations are meant only to remove the entrenched Hizbullah military presence from along the border, so that the Lebanese Army will be able to extend Lebanese sovereignty to the area, in accordance with Resolution 1559.

Why did the IDF bomb a UN posted and kill four UN soldiers?
A: As part of its ongoing operations against the Hizbullah terrorist organization, the IDF operated on Tuesday 25th July in the area of Al Khiyam, from which Hizbullah has been launching missile attacks against Israel.

Following an initial inquiry, it appears that during the operation a UN post was unintentionally hit, killing four UN soldiers. The IDF expressed deep regret over the incident, stressing that it would never intentionally target any UN facility or personel.

Immediately following the tragic accident, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and expressed his profound regret over the accidental killing of the four soldiers. The Prime Minister said that he would instruct the IDF to hold a comprehensive inquiry into the event and would share the results with the UN Secretary-General.

Why didn’t Israel show restraint and use diplomacy before resorting to force?

"Israel has waited six years for Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah and take control of the south. That time has finally come."

Israel has shown restraint for over six years. In May 2000 Israel took the politically difficult decision to fully withdraw from southern Lebanon, having been compelled a few years earlier to establish a security zone there in order to prevent terrorist attacks and rocket shelling into Israeli towns. The UN Security Council acknowledged Israel's complete withdrawal from southern Lebanon in full compliance with Resolution 425. The Lebanese Government was given an opportunity to take full control of the south and establish a peaceful border with Israel. Instead it chose to succumb to terror rather than vanquish it, and allowed the Hizbullah to occupy the areas adjacent to the border and to accumulate a vast arsenal of rockets and missiles. Israel repeatedly sounded warnings, and called upon the international community to urge Lebanon to reign in the Hizbullah, remove its gunmen from their border positions and dismantle their growing stockpile of missiles. Sadly, Lebanon did not heed the demands of the international community to exercise its sovereignty and disarm Hizbullah , and today, the Lebanese people must unfortunately bear the consequences of their government's inaction.

How does Israel view the speech made by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday (16th July)?

The speech speaks for itself. It was filled with obvious lies, among which was Nasrallah's claim that Hizbullah targets only military objectives (when in fact his missiles are unguided and can only be fired towards area targets, such as Israel's cities). For Israel, the operative aspect of his speech was his promise to continue attacks unfettered by any "red lines". Israel will, as always, take such a threat seriously, and take the appropriate actions to protect its citizens. It was clear from his words that Nasrallah understands that Hizbullah's policy of randomly attacking Israel's population centres and plunging the region into instability is making his position increasingly isolated, even in the Arab world.

How does Israel expect the Government of Lebanon to take action after having demonstrated years of inaction and ineffectiveness?

"The Lebanese Government has both the ability and the international backing to take control of its own country – what it lacks is the will to take action."

The recent reduction of the Syrian military presence in Lebanon has allowed Beirut more freedom of action in order to promote Lebanese interests, yet no action whatsoever has yet been taken against Hizbullah.

The Government of Lebanon bears responsibility for the Hizbullah threat. It provided Hizbullah with official legitimacy and allowed its armed operations to proceed unhindered. Hizbullah would never have obtained the missiles and military equipment at its disposal had the Lebanese government not allowed this weaponry to reach Lebanon. Hizbullah's threat along Israel's broned would not have been possible if it were not the for the failure of the Lebanese government to deploy its forces in southern Lebanon.

It is the responsibility of the Government of Lebanon to fulfill its obligation as a sovereign state to extend its control over its own territory, as called for by Security Council Resolutions 425 and 1559. Through its operation, Israel expects both to pressure the Beirut government to take action, to facilitate this action by providing the international encouragement and the operational conditions favourable to the disarming of Hizbullah and the effective deployment of the Lebanese army southward to the Israel-Lebanon order.

Why does Israel say that Syria and Iran are involved in the Hamas and Hizbullah terrorism?

" Syria and Iran specialize instate sponsored terrorism – Hamas and Hezbullah are their foreign policy tools."

Syria hosts in its capital, Damascus, the headquarters of a number of Palestinian Jihadist terrorist groups, including Hamas. The Syrian regime provides shelter and logistical support for Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who has been living there for a number of years. From Damascus, Mashaal commands terrorists within the Palestinian territories who carry out ongoing attacks against Israel and its citizens, including the bombardment of southern Israel with Kassam missiles and the recent terrorist infiltration and abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Syria also provides support to the Hizbullah, including the transfer of arms, munitions and operatives through the Damascus airport and border crossings into Lebanon. The Hizbullah would not be able to operate in Lebanon without clear Syrian sponsorship.

Iran is the main benefactor of Hizbullah. It provides funding, weapons, directive and even Iranian cadre (the 'Pazdaran' Revolutionary Guards) for this terrorist organization. Most of the long-range missiles which hit the Israeli cities of Haifa and Carmiel (13 July) were manufactured by Iran, as was the guided missile fired against an Israeli missile boat off the Lebanese coast. For all practical purposes, Hizbullah is merely an arm of the Teheran Jihadist regime. Iran has also made considerable inroads of influence into Palestinian terrorist organizations, including Fatah's al-Aqsa Brigade and Hamas' Iz a-Din al-Kassam group. It provides their terror cells with funding, technical instruction and operational directives.

What motivates Hamas and Hizbullah, and why does Syria and Iran support them?
"It's a symbiotic relationship – while Jihadist terrorists hope to take over the world, their sponsoring states want to keep the world distracted."

Hamas and Hizbullah are driven by an extremist Jihadist ideology which calls for the immediate destruction of the State of Israel – as part of an international effort to wage 'Holy War' against the 'infidel' Western world in order that their radical brand of Islam prevail throughout the globe.

Syria and Iran support these groups, not only because they support their ideology, but also because they provide Damascus and Tehran with a tool to strengthen the influence of their own regimes to divert attention from other issues which have exposed them lately to international pressure. Syria is facing rising criticism over its involvement in the murder of ex-Lebanese affairs. Iran is exposed to a widening pressure over its nuclear development program. In addition, the international community is denouncing both regimes for their dismal human rights record. Consequently Israel views Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria and Iran as primary elements in the Jihad/Terror Axis threatening not only Israel but the entire Western world.

If Syria and Iran are behind the terrorism, why is Israel attacking Lebanon?

"Israel is targeting Hizbullah, not Lebanon – and will avoid military escalation whenever and wherever diplomacy may succeed."

A: Israel is not attacking the government of Lebanon but rather, Hizbullah military assets within Lebanon. Israel has avoided striking at Lebanese military installations, unless these have been used to assist the Hizbullah, as were a number of the radar facilities which Israel destroyed after they helped the terrorists fire a shore-to-ship missile at an Israeli corvette. With regard to Syria and Iran, Israel has no desire to escalate the military action beyond the present theatres of operation in Lebanon and Gaza. Israel feels that the involvement of Syrian and Iran is best addressed, at present, through coordinated diplomatic pressure.

The Iranian issue will preoccupy the world in coming months, and what is happening now is merely preparation. Israel has told its allies that if the free world is unable to form a united front against Hizbullah, then it will be unable to convince Teheran that it is truly serious about stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program. Regarding Syria, Israel has publicly stated that it does not intent to attack Syrian targets. Syria therefore, has no justification for any intervention in the present operations against Hizbullah. If, however, it does intervene, Israel has stated that its response will be vigorous.

How will Israel pressure Syria and Iran?
"Israel is not alone in its fighting against terrorism"

There is a widening consensus in the international arena that Jihadist terror is a global menace which must be confronted with determination and resolve. Israel has been in intensive contact with foreign governments and world organizations, in order to coordinate pressure on these regimes, ensuring they understand that the price that they'll pay internationally for their support of terrorism will be unbearably high.

It appears that Israel faces a two-front conflict. Are the two fronts in fact connected?

Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, in his press conference after the 12 July attack, presented his list of ransom demands for the release of the abducted Israeli soldiers. It included a demand for the release of Hamas terrorist inmates as well as members of Hizbullah. This is indicative of the fact that the level of coordination of these two Jihadist terror groups is not just ideological but operational as well.

Israel has stated that it won't negotiate with Hamas, but what about Hizbullah?

Following the July 12 attack from Lebanon, Prime Minister Olmert stated that "Israel will not give in to extortion and will not negotiate with terrorists regarding the lives of the Israeli soldiers."

What are the diplomatic avenues available to end this crisis?
"Israel is telling is Palestinian and Lebanese neighbours: ' Return the hostages, disarm the terrorists, control the territory, and then we'll have peace'."

A. Regarding Lebanon, Israel understands that although military operations are now necessary to defend its citizens by neutralizing the threat posed by Hizbullah's terrorist infrastructure, the eventual solution is indeed diplomatic. On this level, there is no substantive difference whatsoever between the Israeli position and that of the international community. The components of such a solution are as follows:
- The return of the hostages, Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser and Eldad Regev
- A complete cease fire
- Deployment of the Lebanese army in all of the southern Lebanon
- Expulsion of Hizbullah from the area
- Fulfillment of United Nations Resolution 1559

On the Palestinian front, Israel will conduct continuous counter-terrorist operations until Hamas terrorism ceases, the hostage Gilad Shalit is returned home safetly and the shooting of Qassam missiles against Israeli cities bordering Gaza stops. There will be no negotiations on a release of prisoners.

17. What is Israel's view of the 16 July G-8 statements on the situation?

"Israel and the international community see eye-to-eye on the elementse of a solution."

A: Israel welcomes the recognition of the G-8 nations that Hizbullah and Hamas are responsible for initiating the current violence by their unprovoked attacks on Israel's civilians and abductions of Israeli soldiers within Israel's sovereign borders. The G8 statement attests the fact that Israel and the international community share common values and are facing a common problem – the grave threat posed by extreme Jihadist terrorist organizations, such as Hizbullah and Hamas. Like the G-8 Israel believes that the way to a solution lise with the release of the abducted soldiers, the cessation of rocket fire on Israel, and Lebanon's full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1559 requring the disarming of Hizbullah.

Does Israel support the initiative put forward by the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi for a cease-fire? What about the initiative to establish a multi-national peace-keeping force?

A. Israel will support all international efforts meant to promote the return of the abducted soldiers and to enforce the international consensus already accepted by the UN Security Council in regard to Lebanon, namely to press the Lebanese government to implement Resolution 1559, impose its sovereignty on the region bordering Israel and disarm Hizbullah. In this regard, Israel would agree to consider stationing a military capable and battle-tested force composed of soldiers from the European Union member states, subsequent to the formulation of a mandate which would have to include control of the crossings between Lebanon and Syria, deployment in southern Lebanon and assistance to the Lebanese Army, all this within the context of a full implementation of Resolution 1559, as mentioned above.

How long will the Israeli operation last?

"We can't just call a truce and go back to way things were – we must change the ground rules."

A. The international community understands that in order for the objectives to be achieved, the operation cannot be halted before the implementation of the G-8 decision. While diplomatic negotiations will be necessary in order to facilitate implementation, the start of negotiations in itself will not halt the operations. This will only occur after the return of the abducted soldiers and the removal of the missile threat against Israel.

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