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Friday, 11 August 2006

Weiner views Lebanon battle from front

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
August 11, 2006

BY MATTHEW KALMAN
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

KFAR GILADI, Israel - Rep. Anthony Weiner inspected a front-line Israeli artillery unit yesterday as sirens wailed, announcing an impending Hezbollah rocket attack.

Weiner (D-Queens, Brooklyn) is in Israel with a New York delegation that includes Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn) and other New Yorkers.

The visit, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council and UJA-Federation of New York, included meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and first-hand accounts of the suffering of Israelis fleeing their homes under Hezbollah rocket fire.

"There is no doubt that there are innocent victims in this conflict," said Weiner, citing the deaths of Lebanese children as well as Israelis hunkered down in bomb shelters. "But at the end of the day, this is Israel taking a defensive action that it didn't choose," he said.

As artillery batteries pounded Hezbollah targets up to 15 miles across the border, Weiner heard the Israeli reservists talk about their dedication to fighting for a cause they believe in.

The unit commander, Maj. Eado, told Weiner he was at an academic conference in Seattle when his unit was called up. Eado said he jumped on a plane home when he hear about the 12 reservists killed on Sunday.

By Thursday, Eado - army regulations prevent him from giving his full name - stood overlooking the spot where those 12 men died while directing a different artillery battery.

"I feel much better over here. I've been with these soldiers for the past 10 years. I feel I owe it to them and to the country, but first to the people I serve with," he said.

Weiner said many of his constituents had family in Israel, and that, as an American, he shared Israel's commitment to the fight against terrorism and Hezbollah in particular.

"Every block has a family member who's here. There's also a feeling that there are two countries in the world fighting terrorism right now, the United States and Israel ... a sense that Israeli soldiers are fighting our battle as well," he said.

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