U.N. EXEC BLAMES HEZBOLLAH FOR DEATHS
By LAUREN FRAYER, Associated Press Writer Mon Jul 24, 6:22 PM ET
BEIRUT, Lebanon - The U.N. humanitarian chief accused
Hezbollah on Monday of "cowardly blending" in among Lebanese civilians and causing the deaths of hundreds during two weeks
of cross-border violence with Israel.
The militant group has built
bunkers and tunnels near the Israeli border to shelter weapons and fighters, and its members easily blend in among civilians.
Jan Egeland spoke to reporters
at Larnaca airport in Cyprus late Monday after visiting Lebanon to coordinate an international aid effort. On Sunday,
he toured the rubble of Beirut's southern suburbs, a once-teeming
Shiite district where Hezbollah had its headquarters.
During that visit, he condemned
the killing and wounding of civilians by both sides and called Israel's
offensive "disproportionate" and "a violation of international humanitarian law."
On Monday, he had strong
words for Hezbollah, which crossed into Israel,
captured two soldiers and killed eight others on July 12, triggering fierce fighting.
"Consistently, from the
Hezbollah heartland, my message was that Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending ... among women and children," he said.
"I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don't
think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men."
"We need a cessation of
hostilities because this is a war where civilians are paying the price," said Egeland, who was heading to Israel next.
At least 600,000 Lebanese
have fled their homes, according to the World Health Organization.
One estimate by Lebanon's finance minister
putting the number at 750,000, nearly 20 percent of the population.
During his visit to Lebanon earlier Monday, Egeland issued an emergency appeal for $150 million to help Lebanon through the next three months. He told reporters in
Beirut the money was needed to pay for food, health care,
water and sanitation.
"Approximately 500,000 to
800,000 people have been affected by the conflict, of whom some have become displaced persons or refugees," a U.N. statement
The United Nations has contracted 100 trucks to deliver aid coming into Beirut around the country. Egeland said the U.N. hoped to send its first
land convoy to Tyre on Wednesday. Similar convoys will be
scheduled every second day after that. An international Red Cross convoy was expected in the city Monday.
Egeland said he was asking
Israel for safe passage for aid ships to enter the northern port of Tripoli and the southern port of Tyre, which has been heavily bombarded.
So far, Israel has loosened its sea blockade of Lebanon
only to let ships in Beirut port.
"We're hopeful that in the
course of this week, you'll see real progress on the ground. Lebanon
has a right to be frustrated," he said.
He said the U.N. was also
asking Israel to also guarantee safe passage throughout Lebanon.
Hundreds of thousands of
refugees have flowed out of mainly Shiite regions — the south, the Bekaa and the crowded Shiite neighborhood of Beirut
— crowding into cities including the southern port of Sidon, the remainder of Beirut and parts of the north and central
"We are particularly worried
about the population in south Lebanon and the (eastern) Bekaa Valley. It's here that they're in the
crossfire and from where they're being displaced," Egeland said.
Continued Israeli bombardment
makes the aid mission risky.
"Only cessation of hostilities
can make it safe for us and our humanitarian colleagues," Egeland said.