'This plays into Hizbullah's hands'

Arab diplomats: Kana attack likely to undermine anti-Hizbullah coalition.

nabih berri 88 (photo credit: )
nabih berri 88
(photo credit: )
The tragic incident in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kana, in which more than 50 civilians were killed as an apparent consequence of an IAF missile attack, is likely to undermine the new anti-Hizbullah coalition that is spearheaded by moderate Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, Arab diplomats warned on Sunday. Moreover, the incident is expected to trigger further and more massive protests on the streets of several Arab capitals, with demonstrators venting their frustration against Arab heads of state and governments, the diplomats, based in Jordan, told The Jerusalem Post. Meanwhile, a Lebanese Shi'ite leader hinted that the attack on the village could have an impact on the fate of the two IDF soldiers held by Hizbullah. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told reporters in Beirut that the "conditions for exchanging prisoners have now changed." He did not elaborate. Berri, who claims that he has a mandate to represent Hizbullah, on Friday proposed a cease-fire and exchanging the two soldiers with only the three Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. "What happened in Kana plays into the hands of Hizbullah and Muslim fundamentalists throughout the Arab world," said one diplomat. "We were praying to Allah that such an incident would not happen." Another diplomat said that his government would now find it "extremely difficult" to sit on the side and watch as Lebanese women and children were being pulled out from the rubble. "My government has been under attack for criticizing Hizbullah, which triggered this war by kidnapping the two Israeli soldiers," he said. "Now we are being attacked as traitors and many Arabs are accusing us of supporting Israel in its war against Hizbullah. But the incident at Kana has changed everything and we are now forced to take a tough stance against Israel." According to the diplomat, the US will lose most of its allies in the Middle East unless it stops the Israel-Hizbullah war. "We are already under tremendous pressure," he noted. "Many Arabs and Muslims are inciting against the Arab governments for failing to join the battle against Israel. In the next few days the pressure on the Arab presidents and monarchs will increase and there's a limit to how long they could hold." The killings in Kana unleashed widespread anger across the Arab world, which appeared to be united in strongly condemning Israel for "deliberately" targeting innocent civilians. Images of rescue workers carrying bodies of children sent thousands of Arabs to the streets in spontaneous outburst of anger. While most of the Arab world reacted with harsh rhetoric, the Palestinians vowed to step up their suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israel. Militias belonging to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas threatened to launch terrorist attacks on US interests in the region and to destroy Israeli embassies around the world. Several other Palestinian militias issued a joint statement in which they announced their intention to step up their attacks on Israel in retaliation for the Kana deaths, saying Israel should expect an "earthquake" soon. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a Fatah official and senior aide to Abbas, said the Kana incident would not go unpunished. "The Palestinians and Lebanese are determined to avenge the massacre," he said, calling on all Arabs and Muslims to join forces to fight Israel. Hamas, for its part, warned that "all options were open" against Israel after the Kana incident. "Israel has crossed all red lines by carrying out this ugly massacre," said a statement issued by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. "As of today, Hamas maintains the right to respond and all options are open." In Beirut, thousands of protesters stormed the UN building in the city, shattering windows and destroying furniture. Chanting "Death to America, death to Israel," the demonstrators demanded the expulsion of the US ambassador from Lebanon. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora demanded an "unconditional and immediate cease-fire in the aftermath of these continuous massacres." He added: "We cannot accept any action without an immediate cease-fire and there can be no progress otherwise." He said the attack on Kana was "no mistake. It came after heavy artillery first." Syrian President Bashar Assad described the attack on Kana as "state terrorism." He said the incident "shows the barbarity of this aggressive entity [Israel]. It constitutes state terrorism committed in front of the eyes and ears of the world." Jordan's King Abdullah strongly condemned the incident as an "ugly crime" and urged the world community to "shoulder its responsibilities" in forcing an immediate cease-fire. "The king strongly condemns this ugly crime by the Israeli armed forces which killed a large number of Lebanese civilians, mostly children and women," a royal court statement said. "This criminal aggression represents a flagrant violation of international law and conventions." King Abdullah pledged to continue intensive efforts with the world's influential powers with a view to bringing about a comprehensive cease-fire and an end to military operations.