Saturday, July 15, 2006

Syria and Iran told to rein in Hizbollah

Syria and Iran told to rein in Hizbollah
By Ferry Biedermann in Beirut and William Wallis in Jerusalem
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: July 13 2006 19:00 | Last updated: July 15 2006 00:33

Syria and Iran came under growing pressure on Friday to restrain the Lebanese Hizbollah and Palestinian Hamas groups as Israel intensified its military offensive against Lebanon.

Israeli warplanes attacked the home and office of Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah leader, and struck Beirut airport and the main highway linking the city and Damascus, tightening a blockade over the country.

But Hizbollah was defiant, striking a warship in Lebanese waters and raining rockets on northern Israel. “You wanted an open war and we are ready for open war,” Mr Nasrallah said on the organisation’s TV station.

Late in the evening, the Israeli army confirmed that a naval vessel had been damaged in an attack off the coast of Lebanon.

Israeli officials said the damage was caused by an unmanned aircraft laden with explosives. Four Israeli sailors were missing, Al Jazeera television said.

The US warned Damascus and Tehran that they would be held accountable for their role in the crisis and insisted that Israel had the right to defend itself. But it called on Israel to minimise civilian casualties. Five more people were killed in Lebanon, bringing the toll since Wednesday to 60.

Syria’s ruling Ba’ath party said last night that it would support its allies, Hizbollah and Lebanon, against Israel’s attacks.

In New York, where the United Nations Security Council held an emergency session, John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, accused Syria of providing a safe haven to the militant wing of Hamas and giving material support to Hizbollah. France, too, suggested Tehran might have encouraged attacks to divert attention from the stand-off over its nuclear programme. But it also sharply criticised Israel for “disproportionate” use of force.

Israel launched big military strikes against Hizbollah targets and civilian installations in Lebanon after the capture on Wednesday of two soldiers by Hizbollah in a raid in northern Israel.

On Friday, the conflict triggered another sharp rise in oil prices to nearly $80 a barrel. The surge combined with fears over geopolitical risks to drive share markets down heavily, the Dow Jones industrial average falling for the third straight day to close down 106.94 points at 10,739.35.


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