President Bush said Thursday that Israel has the right to defend itself, as it launched fresh attacks on Lebanon after the capture of Israeli soldiers.
Bush, visiting Merkel en route later in the week to the G-8 summit in Russia, laid the blame for the escalation of violence along the border on Hezbollah, whose guerrillas mounted a cross-border raid earlier in the week and captured the two soldiers. He also said that Syria “needs to be held to account” for supporting and harboring Hezbollah.
“The soldiers need to be returned,” the president 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.”
Bush’s comments came during a joint news conference with Merkel, as Israel intensified attacks in Lebanon.
In response to Wednesday’s kidnappings, Israel bombed Beirut’s airport and the southern part of the country in its heaviest air campaign against its neighbor in 24 years. Israel also imposed an air and naval blockade on Lebanon to cut off supply routes to militants.
‘Root causes and consequences’
The violence comes at a delicate time in the Middle East — and for the United States and its European allies, which are trying to preserve a coalition to confront Iran over suspected nuclear ambitions.
Merkel appealed for restraint from both sides in the Mideast. But she suggested they do not share equal blame, repeatedly noting that the violence began with the kidnapping.
“I think that one needs to be careful to make a distinction between the root causes and the consequences of something,” she said.