Crossfire War – Shia Militias Conduct Sandstorm Offensive in Baghdad

Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Gaza – Damascus Watch – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – El Arish – Beirut – Damascus – Ramallah – Gaza – Baghdad/London – Washington – Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome; Sandstorm Offensive by Shia Militants in Baghdad – M-1 Abrams Tanks Involved – International Green Zone Bombarded – Heavy Fighting on Gaza/Israel Border

Night Watch: INTERNATIONAL GREEN ZONE – U. S. M-1 Abrams tanks had to be called in as Shia militant groups in Sadr City used the cover of a standstorm to launch an offensive which led to the heaviest fighting in Baghdad since late March. It seems the offensive began with a major rocket barrage of the International Green Zone which houses embassies and government offices. Asharq al-Awsat/AP report the sandstorm grounded aircraft that is used to spot the mortar – rocket teams firing on the zone. Shia groups then launched ground attacks on checkpoints in Sadr City and one attack was so fierce 22 fighters were reported killed. The U. S. claims 38 fighters were killed in all the attacks on the checkpoints. In the meantime the U. S. also claims to have sealed off the southern part of Sadr City which seems to be the main area where the rocket firings are launched. All this fighting is taking place even though the head of the Mahdi Army, Muqtada al-Sadr, has yet to lift the ceasefire. [ASHARQALAWSAT]

Beit Hanoun – Heavy fighting is also taking place on the northern Gaza/Israel border as the Israel Defense Force (IDF) is attempting to limit the Qassam-Katyusha rocket fire and mortar attacks most of which come from northern Gaza. Haaretz reports during the IDF tank firing a house was shelled killing a mother and four children. Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded by saying, “We see Hamas as responsible for every thing that happens there, for all deaths…The army is acting and will continue to act, against Hamas, including inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas is responsible, by way of its activity within the civilian population, for part of the casualties among univolved civilians.” Israel has often accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields. Barak and Israel’s military establishment are aware civilian casualties will increase as it comes closer to Israel’s offensive into Gaza. [HAARETZ]

Hamas is using this latest fighting to call on all Palestinian groups to combine their effort against what they and Tehran call Israel’s “occupation.” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri stated, “The continued Zionist massacres are new proof that the occupier is not interested in calm, and therefore Palestinian armed wings should continue to respond to the aggression by all possible means.” Their immediate response Monday morning was to fire seven rockets and nine mortar shells at Israeli communities in the western Negev.

rfn-Litani River – Israel is showing more concern with the greater threat from Hezbollah in south Lebanon and has begun to openly accuse the European units in south Lebanon, serving under the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), with negligence. Haaretz reports senior sources in Israel’s government has informed them on at least four occasions in the last six months UNIFIL has identified Hezbollah members south of the Litani river an area which the United Nations declared de-militarized since the 2006 war. UNIFIL is not enforcing anything due to fear of conflict with Hezbollah. The Litani is only 20 miles from Israel’s northern border and the area was the scene of the heaviest fighting two years ago. United Nations observation teams have been in south Lebanon since 1978 but the number was dramatically increased two years ago to 13,000 as a result of the Rome Conference right after a ceasefire was declared between Hezbollah/Israel August 2006. [HAARETZ]

Singled out, in Jerusalem’s criticism, is UNIFIL commander Major-General Claudio Graziano who is believed to have a lenient interpretation of his mission. Senior sources in Israel’s defense and foreign policy establishment have accused Graziano of “presenting half-truths so as to avoid embarrassment and conflict with Hezbollah. There is an attempt by various factors in the UN to mislead the Security Council and whitewash everything having to do with the strengthening of Hezbollah in south Lebanon. The policy of coverups and whitewashing will not last long and hopefully, now that the concealing of information has been revealed things will change.” But the suspicious European leadership of UNIFIL is not about to experience any change in their thinking as I wrote two years ago they were only a token force which assumed they could sit back and watch Hezbollah only attack Israel.

For the past two years there have been countless news reports on of Syria-Iran openly re-supplying Hezbollah with missiles and rockets and now reports of thousands of Hezbollah member undergoing conventional warfare training as UNIFIL did nothing. Of course in so thinking they ignored Tehran designating UNIFIL an “enemy of Islam” as soon as the European units arrived, but recent statements by Hezbollah attacking UNIFIL may finally have alerted some of them they will not be ignored when Tehran has Hezbollah enter the war this year using the Palestinian issue as their reason.

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.