KAI RYSSDAL: Israel hit the Beirut airport twice today. The second time after rockets landed well inside Israeli territory. Hezbollah is denying responsibility for the attacks on the port city of Haifa — it’s about 30 miles south of the Lebanese border. I spoke with reporter Hillary Kreiger, who was in Jerusalem.
HILLARY KRIEGER: Haifa is the third-largest city in Israel and it’s in the center of the country. So, for one thing, it’s a major morale point if Hezbollah can strike that far into the country. The rocket that landed there is the furthest south that Hezbollah has been able to achieve in terms of its Katyusha range.
It also has some strategic value in the sense that the ports are located there, which is a major source of the Israeli economy and industry. And there are also several power-related stations and places that actually could pose an environmental risk should they be struck by a rocket. Beyond that, there’s just a large population center. There are 270,000 people there and the chance of having mass casualties is much higher in that region.
RYSSDAL: Clearly one of the things that the Israeli Defense Force is doing up in Lebanon is taking some sort of economic target up there — knocking out the airport and putting a blockade in. What is happening down in Israel today? Are people stocking up? Are there lines at gas stations and food stores?
KRIEGER: Definitely not in the major population areas. There isn’t any sense, even in places like Haifa, that there needs to be that kind of precaution taken at this point. Up north, it’s much tenser and people are definitely spending a lot of their time in bomb shelters. And so people have been running out to places in order to get goods.
But you were comparing it to in Lebanon, a sense of an economic blockade . . . There isn’t a siege mentality in Israel, or any sense that there would be a shortage of goods or necessities. So there isn’t a stocking up in that sense.
RYSSDAL: Hillary, do you think there will be any impact on the Israeli economy because of this?
KRIEGER: Well, I think that there’s definitely a concern about the economic implications. Any time that there is massive military action, it affects Israel in a number of ways. The first and most obvious effect has to do with tourism. Israel’s tourism has just now been recovering after some six yars of fighting and it was actually on track to come as close as it has to its pre-intifada tourism figures. And that could definitely be affected. Another area has to do with the military cost of any sort of operation. For now, it seems that the government doesn’t want to increase military expenditures. But certain cuts that were planned for the military budget are now likely not going to be taken.
There’s also the question of foreign investment. While there are concerns about foreign investment, right now people are saying that it’s too early to really make predictions. But certainly, if this thing goes on longer it could definitely have an effect there.