Left: Craters line the runways of Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport; photo courtesy of AP
(Israel, Gaza, Lebanon) With represenatives of all sides calling the escalation of violence in Gaza and Lebanon "war," the as-yet unnamed cat is now out of the proverbial bag.
Israel stepped up its military actions in Lebanon, bombing Beirut's international airport, setting up a naval blockade, and targeting cities and villages throughout southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah guerrillas retaliated by launching at least 70 rockets into northern Israel, with at least four civilians killed and another 50 people injured. Residents in northern Israel have been ordered into bomb shelters.
Israel's continued targeting of civilian infrastructure brought condemnation by many world powers.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced the Israeli attacks on Lebanese and Palestinian civilians.
"This is a disproportionate response to what has happened," he said. "If both sides are going to drive each other into a tight corner then I think that all this will develop in a very dramatic and tragic way."
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy condemned Israel's bombardment of Beirut airport as "a disproportionate act of war" that risked sparking a much wider regional conflagration.
"The only solution is a return to reason by both sides," he said. "We are calling for a lowering of tensions."
President Bush continued to focus blame for the hostilities on Hezbollah and Hamas, and reiterated Israel's right to "self-defense."
"The soldiers need to be returned," he said. "It's really sad where people are willing to take innocent life in order to stop that progress (for peace). As a matter of fact, it's pathetic."
The severity of the Israeli response causes me to wonder if Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert - a career bureaucrat - really has effective control over the Israeli military, or if he finds himself forced by hardliners into a war stance.
The targeting of civilians and civil infrastructure - bridges, power plants, airports, and water supply systems - is on a level of ferocity that can only be characterized as "ruthless," and the conditions in Lebanon and Gaza may soon degenerate into a tremendous humanitarian disaster.