August 27, 2006: Israeli troops moved back into northern Gaza, and warplanes continued making missile attacks on suspected terrorist leaders and key personnel. Israeli troops brought in large bulldozers, which are apparently being used to make it more difficult to launch rockets from the area, into southern Israel.
Two Western journalists, kidnapped on August 14, were released. Their captors were not just a bunch of local guys grabbing some foreigners as a ploy to get a handout or a job, but a group of al Qaeda wannabes. The kidnappers demanded the release of all Moslem prisoners in the U.S., a typical al Qaeda demand. But with the chaotic conditions in Gaza, the last thing the Palestinian leadership (such as it it) needed was more foreign enemies. The kidnappers were found and persuaded to give up their Westerners. But not before the captives were forced, at gunpoint, to make a video where they pretended to convert to Islam.
August 26, 2006: European nations have agreed to provide about half the 15,000 troops needed for the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. However, Moslem nations have been slow to supply the rest of the troops. Still up in the air is the issue of the peacekeepers being allowed to disarm Hizbollah. This would involve force, as Hizbollah has said it would not comply with any disarmament demands. In the past, UN peacekeepers have backed away from Hizbollah threats. During the recent fighting, UNIFIL peacekeepers even provided Hizbollah with daily updates of Israeli military operations (as observed by UN personnel who stayed in place).
August 24, 2006: Since Israel withdrew from Gaza last year, some 3,500 Palestinians have been killed and injured in the resulting violence. Most of the casualties were caused by other Palestinians. Radical groups insisted on continuing attacks on Israel. These only produced a few dozen deaths and injuries, less than one percent of the hurt the Palestinians were inflicting on themselves. It also brought Israeli retaliation, which was far less damaging than what Palestinian factions were doing to each other. Many Palestinians are now urging that their leaders get their acts together and stop all the posturing. The residents of Gaza are acutely aware of the fact that they were much better off under Israeli occupation, and that electing Hamas to run the place was not such a great idea. Change is in the air, but it hasn't reach the ground yet.
The leaders of Hizbollah have publicly admitted that they would not have staged the July 12 raid into Israel if they believed the Israeli response would have been so massive. Nevertheless, Hizbollah headers also believe they can prevent the UN peacekeeping force from disarming them, and work out a prisoner exchange for the two Israeli soldiers they hold. However, Hizbollah is also aware that Lebanese public opinion has turned on them, and many Lebanese do want the UN peacekeeping force to disarm Hizbollah, and return control of southern Lebanon to the Lebanese government. For over a decade, Hizbollah has resisted that by threatening a revival of civil war, with Hizbollah leading the Shia minority (about 35 percent of the population), against all comers. This made more sense when there were 30,000 Syrian troops in the country. The Syrians are gone, are not coming back, and all Lebanese can see what Hizbollah control of southern Lebanon has brought them. Lebanese blame Israel for the damage, but they blame Hizbollah for setting the Israelis off. Lebanese can't make the Israelis pay, but Hizbollah is a different matter.