Lebanon, after blockade, haltingly starts to rebuild

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While a fragile and not-fully-honored truce continues to hold sway in Lebanon, and despite the Israeli government’s three-week-long blockade of the country, initial steps are being taken in Lebanon to rebuild.

The legacy of the U.S.-backed Israeli bombardment is grim. The Lebanese government reported on Sept. 1 that 1,187 of its people, about a third of them children, were killed and 4,092 were injured during the assault.

Casualties mount daily as the Israeli military continues to make intermittent raids, as the digging out of bodies under collapsed building continues, and as unexploded ordnance, including cluster bomblets, continue to kill and maim innocent civilians.

A UN agency that monitors land mines said post-truce casualties from unexploded ordnance stood at 13 killed and 48 injured as of Sept. 1. The agency estimates that 120,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance litter southern Lebanon, presenting a special danger to children.

Most of these weapons, including the anti-personnel cluster bombs, were manufactured in the U.S.

About 970,000 Lebanese were displaced from their homes, and about 30,000 homes were damaged or flattened. Over 100 bridges, 900 businesses and two hospitals were destroyed, along with many electrical power stations and nearly 100 roads. Estimates of the damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure vary; on Sept. 5 NBC News cited the figure of $7 billion.

About 35-40 percent of households in southern Lebanon are still without electricity, and in some cities, like Bint Jbail, 85-90 percent have no power. The power shortage has contributed to an acute lack of drinkable water, since pumps are unable to operate withouy electricity. Food and medicine are also in short supply in several areas, impeded in part by the Israeli blockade.

Some reconstruction aid has been forthcoming from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco and several other nations, including European countries. Hezbollah and other forces in the Lebanese national resistance movement have been an important part of the cleanup and rebuilding effort, according to news reports.

Amnesty International charged that Israel deliberately targeted civilians and the country’s infrastructure, thereby committing war crimes. At least one poll, cited in an article by Noam Chomsky, shows that 90 percent of Lebanese regards the U.S. as “complicit in Israel’s war crimes against the Lebanese people.”

About 4,000 Hezbollah rockets were fired into Israel during the 34-day conflict. About 40 Israeli civilians were killed, along with 117 Israeli soldiers.

A unifying demand of a wide spectrum of Lebanese political opinion, including the Lebanese government and resistance forces, is that Israel end its air and naval blockade of their country. Planes and ships still cannot enter Lebanon without Israeli government approval.

As the World went to press, Israel announced it would lift the blockade on Sept. 7.

Despite the cease-fire agreement, some Israeli troops remain in southern Lebanon, ostensibly awaiting the full deployment of the Lebanese Army and an international military force under the auspices of the United Nations.

The Lebanese Communist Party has warned that Washington and Tel Aviv hope to disarm the resistance forces and to weaken Lebanon via an international force weighted in the U.S.’s and Israel’s favor, something the latter were unable to achieve by military means. Such a weakening, the LCP says, is intended to facilitate the U.S. drive to subjugate Syria and Iran as part of the Bush administration’s vision of a “New Middle East.”

Meanwhile, on Israel’s “other front” in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the living conditions of the Palestinian people continue to grow worse.

Israeli air strikes and raids against alleged Palestinian militants continue on a daily basis. An article in War Times quotes the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem saying that “since June 28, Israeli fire has killed at least 225 civilians, including 46 children and 10 women, and wounded at least 815, including 232 children and 27 women.”

Israel continues to hold about a third of the Palestinian government in jail, where they have joined about 9,000 others, many without charges.

On Sept. 3, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced plans to build another 690 homes in the occupied West Bank. The New York Times reported that the Israeli government would face only “pro forma American criticism” for this action, criticism that “has had little effect on Israeli policy in the past, and is not expected to matter in this case.”