Other fallout from the Israel-Hezbollah war

An environmental disaster, a wave of cyberterrorism and a dangerous escalation of the propaganda wars.

Published August 2, 2006 8:36PM (EDT)

The destruction on the ground in Lebanon and northern Israel continues to command the headlines, but the conflict is starting to leave its mark in other ways and extend its reach far and wide.

As Der Spiegel reports, Lebanon is now facing an environmental disaster: "The Lebanese government is calling it the biggest ecological catastrophe in the country's history. Between July 13 and 15, Israeli jets bombed the Jiyyeh power station, located 30 kilometers south of Beirut, and caused up to 35,000 tons of fuel oil to gush into the sea. The oil slick has now spread along 80 kilometers of Lebanon's 225 kilometer coastline and has already reached Syria. A clean up operation is badly needed, but continuing hostilities between the Israeli army and Hezbollah have made this virtually impossible. Now, the catastrophe is threatening to damage the environment across many parts of the Mediterranean."

Citing reports from another security Web site, Andrew Cochran of the Counterterrorism blog notes that the conflict has set off a wave of cyberterrorism: "Zone-H reported yesterday and last week, when US government sites and a Microsoft site was attacked. Yesterday's report really sounded the alarm: 'Hundreds of web sites have been attacked in last days as a protest against bombing attacks by Israel against Lebanon. The largest part of web intrusions were defacements -- web intrusion at any level by which a web page is replaced by the attacker's message -- against Israeli and U.S. web sites.' Zone-H noted that the attacks are coming not just from Muslim areas, but from politically motivated non-Muslims expressing their protest by hacking and defacing websites."

Meanwhile, in a Seattle hospital, 23-year-old Layla Bush is fighting for her life. She is the victim of accused gunman Naveed Haq, who, apparently enraged by the war, went on a shooting spree at the Seattle offices of a Jewish charity organization last Friday, wounding five women, and killing one. That woman, 58-year-old Pam Waechter, was mourned by hundreds at a funeral on Monday.

The disturbing attack in Seattle -- in one respect surprising, in that something like it didn't happen sooner or on an even worse scale -- was a reminder of the potency of the images now streaming out of a second war zone in the Middle East. The devastation there, and a surge in Hezbollah's status in the Muslim world, could lead to far worse, according to New York University's Bernard Haykel. In a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times, the professor of Islamic studies suggested that Hezbollah, in its fierce standoff with Israel, is eating al-Qaida's lunch in the propaganda wars. And that marks "a dangerous turn for the West," he said. "Al Qaeda, after all, is unlikely to take a loss of status lying down. Indeed, the rise of Hezbollah makes it all the more likely that Al Qaida will soon seek to reassert itself through increased attacks on Shiites in Iraq and on Westerners all over the world -- whatever it needs to do in order to regain the title of true defender of Islam."

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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