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(photo credit: AP [file])
A group of Lebanese political dissenters, including MP Walid Jumblatt criticized on Thursday the role of Hizbullah and Syria in the recent escalation in Israeli-Lebanese tension.
Speaking live on Lebanese television a Lebanese parliament member raised the question of whether the driving force behind the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers on Wednesday was not actually a Syrian initiative.
He admitted that release of prisoners was a Lebanese demand, but asked whether the military move on Wednesday was for the sake of releasing prisoners or in response to the IAF flyover above [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's palace [two weeks ago]." He suggested that Assad may also have been trying to evade the conclusions of a United Nations' probe investigating Syria's role in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Harir.
The dissenters asserted their consternation at one organization - Hizbullah - controlling all of the occurrences in Lebanon, Channel 2 reported.
Other moderate Arab governments reacted with relative restraint to Israel's offensive in Lebanon, condemning attacks on civilians and infrastructure, but also implicitly criticizing Hizbullah.
The relative silence appeared to reflect a sentiment in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that the Shi'ite Lebanese guerrilla group had dragged Lebanon into a needless fight by snatching two Israeli soldiers - a fight that would only benefit the hard-line regimes in Syria and Iran.
Egypt warned that the violence could engulf the whole region in conflict and called on all sides to avoid "being dragged into a new cycle of violence and counterviolence."
"Targeting civilians under the pretext of fighting terrorism is unacceptable and unjustified. Israeli practices violate international law," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.
But he condemned attacks on civilians by both sides - a comment that could apply to Hizbullah's rocket attacks on northern Israel.
"We condemn any military action that targets civilians. We consider it a terrorist act, regardless of who the civilians are or its source," he said.
In Jordan, the second Arab country after Egypt to have a signed peace treaty with Israel, the government issued a statement condemning "Israel's use of force against unarmed civilians and the outcome in terms of the human loss and destruction of civil institutions."
But it clearly criticized the Iran- and Syrian-backed Hizbullah, saying, "Jordan stands against whoever exposes the Palestinian people and their cause, Lebanon and its sovereignty to unexpected dangers."
Egypt has launched a diplomatic push with Syria in a bid to resolve the crisis. Syria is a top ally of Hizbullah and the Hamas, whose fighters snatched an Israeli soldier two weeks ago, sparking a similar Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Aboul Gheit made a swift visit to Damascus on Wednesday to deliver a message from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Syria's Bashar Assad. Mubarak met Thursday at Alexandria with Saad Al-Hariri, Saad Hariri, leader of Lebanon's largest parliamentary bloc and a top opponent of Syria.
The Cairo-based Arab League announced it would hold an emergency meeting of foreign ministers on Saturday to discuss the situation in Lebanon and Palestinian territories.
Israeli forces intensified their attacks in Lebanon on Thursday, imposing a naval blockade on the country and pounding its only international airport and the Hizbullah TV station in Israel's heaviest air campaign against Lebanon for 24 years. Two days of Israel-Lebanese violence have killed 47 Lebanese, Eight Israeli soldiers and an Israeli civilian.
The mild Arab response drew fire from the Egyptian government's top domestic opponent, the Muslim Brotherhood.
"The Arab official stance has gone from a clear failure to support the resistance to a suspicious silence on Zionist crimes, reaching what amounts to collaboration of some of the regimes with the enemy," said Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef said Thursday.
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