Middle East Fight Impacts Charlottesville

By: Venton Blandin
By: Venton Blandin

July 14, 2006

Israel widened its offensive against Lebanon's infrastructure and population today. Fighter plans blasted the airport for a second day, and bombed residential building in the southern suburbs of Beirut. The airport and Lebanese air space have been effectively shut down since Thursday's first attack.

On Wednesday, Guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a daring cross-border raid, and Israel responded by launching it's heaviest offensive in Lebanon in 24 years.

The impact of the fighting in the Middle East touches all corners of the globe. In Charlottesville, people from both countries are watching the situation closely.

"I think it's really terrible, it's tragic, and especially with things going on in Iraq. We hope things will change in the rest of the region," said Lebanon-born Raif Antar.

Raif Antar is Lebanese, and wants a change for his native country. The owner of a local restaurant in Charlottesville sees the changes there now, but says it's not what he expected.

"It's the 21st century, and we hoped that things would move forward instead of regressing backwards, and it's really not good," added Antar.

Israel has tightened its seal on Lebanon after two of its soldiers were captured. People who know Israel say it's not the Israel they know. Brian Cohen, a two-time visitor to the country, said the real Israel may surprise most people.

"I think all too often people view the country being as war-torn, and constantly at battle. But it's a beautiful country, and it's a shame when it gets brought into these types of situations," said Brian Cohen who frequently visits Israel.

While the two men come from different parts of the world, they do understand what is going on, but they have their own views on what is really happening.

"There are states around the region that are using Lebanon as a scapegoat and provoking Israel, and getting Lebanon in this whole mess," said Antar.

"Political views always differ a little bit, but most importantly, nobody wants to be at war. Nobody wants to be fighting with their neighbors," added Cohen.

Both men say they will be watching the news closely as they both have family and friends in the area where the fighting is taking place.

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