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ISRAEL GOES TO WAR

Israel now faces the most deadly assaults from south Lebanon and the Gaza Strip since it withdrew from those areas

Israel prepares to respond in force to the deadly Hezbollah attack from south Lebanon The cross border raid that abducted another two Israeli soldiers has further escalated the current crisis with Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the south. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has left no doubt that Israel will hit not only Hezbollah but also Lebanese targets in reaction to the unprovoked attack from Lebanon.

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Israel now faces the most deadly assaults from south Lebanon and the Gaza Strip since it withdrew from those areas.

Israels policy of restraint on the Lebanese border in the north and the Gaza Strip in the south is now in tatters. This is a growing realization confronting Prime Minister Ehud Olmerts government in light of the Arab attacks. In May 2000, Israel evacuated all its forces from Lebanese territory and returned to the international border. This was also the case in the Gaza Strip. Last August, all Israeli soldiers and settlers were withdrawn. In both cases, the Israeli government declared it would halt all counter- terror operations if the Hezbollah guerrillas in south Lebanon and the Palestinian gunmen in Gaza stopped their cross border attacks. However, an intolerable escalation from Lebanon and Gaza has been the result. Moreover, in the face of unprovoked Palestinian and Hezbollah raids, Israel has reacted with what is viewed here as a policy of restraint.

Facing caustic criticism for failing to cope with the unbridled Arab attacks on two fronts, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is convening his cabinet in emergency session. Defense Minister Amir Peretz who leaped from labor union boss to defense minister is also facing intense flak as a greenhorn who is not up to the job. In the Knesset, there is speculation about Peretz being fired as defense minister and Kadima forming a new national unity government with the Likud.

The mood is that Israel is now facing a war and must now go on a war footing. This goes for both Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

David Essing

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