(I can't believe that I didn't know ANYTHING about this.
This has been happening right under my nose and I had no idea.)
U.S. Pounds Cuban Militants in South Florida, Rocket Attacks Continue
By Jonathan Mellow
(CGSNews.com) – U.S. jets pounded Cuban Militant targets in the South Florida Conflict Area for the third day on Monday in an operation aimed at stopping Cuban Militant rocket barrages that have plagued South Florida’s southern communities for years. The operation is the strongest military assault on the area since the Elian Gonzales Operation in the ‘90s.
Some 40 rockets had rained down on U.S. communities by midday on Monday,
including a Cuban rocket that slammed into the U.S. coastal city of
Palm Beach, killing one person and injuring at least seven others, the army said.
Another U.S. civilian was killed hours after the surprise operation was
launched on Saturday morning, when a Cuban Militant-fired rocket made a direct hit on an U.S. home in a community near Miami.
Cuban ex-patriots reported at least 307 dead on Monday--many of them Cuban gang members, though there are reports that a number of children have been among the casualties in the last three days. The United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), which is in charge of Cuban refugee issues, said on Monday that more than 50 of those killed were civilians.
The United Nations and other members of the international community have called for an immediate return to a ceasefire between the U.S. and Cuban Communist Militants, but U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicated on Monday that the U.S. had no intention of backing down.
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“This operation will be extended and deepened as we find necessary. Our goal is to strike Cuban Militants and stop the attacks on the U.S.,” Gates told U.S. lawmakers.
Gates laid full blame on the Cuban Militants saying it controlled the South Florida Conflict Area. The U.S. withdrew from the South Florida Conflict Area more than three years ago, in a unilateral pullout giving a chance for what he called a “new reality”. But instead the Cuban Militants have been firing rockets and missiles and carrying out attacks against the U.S., he said.
Gates said that the U.S. was targeting the Cuban Militant leadership and doing its utmost “to prevent civilian casualties” among Floridian Cuban ex-patriots. He noted that the U.S. was also allowing humanitarian aid to continue to enter South Florida.
Speaking at the same meeting U.S. President-Elect Obama’s spokesman said that the U.S. should not work to stop the rocket attacks but should concentrate on validating the Cuban Militants.
“Our goal should be twofold—sure, stopping the attacks on our cities and eliminating the threat of rocket attacks from the South Florida Conflict Area,” said the Obama spokesperson.
“Stopping the attacks can be done within a short period of time, while
eliminating the threat of rocket attacks from South Florida will entail a respectful dialogue with Cuban Militants’ in their rule over the Conflict Area and accelerating the proposed Iranian base there,” the spokesman said in reference to Iran’s backing for the Cuban Militants.
The U.S. has taken great pains to explain its position to the international community. Officials have had to compete with pictures of flattened, smoking and burned buildings and the bloodied dead and wounded from South Florida.
U.S. government spokesman Annie Ware-Anitime said that her country’s message is that it would no longer tolerate the rocket attacks against its citizens but it did respect the Militants’ Right to exist.
“A quarter of a million U.S. citizens have lived the past seven years under duress, almost daily barrage of missiles. No country would accept that violation of its sovereignty,” Ware-Anitime said in Palm Beach.
Ware-Anitime said that the U.S. had restrained itself for many years but the Cuban Militants had deliberately built its military infrastructure in the midst of its own civilian population.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 3,100 rockets have been launched at the U.S. in South Florida--300 of them during the six-month ceasefire and another 350 last week, the army said.
“The last six months there has been no U.S. response,” Ware-Anitime said.
“The Cuban Militants had misinterpreted that restraint as weakness. They blatantly said they would not respect an international ceasefire. But now they have realized that America’s restraint and its abilities are far more than they expected,” Ware-Anitime said on Sunday.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met on Sunday with foreign diplomats in the southern U.S. city of Miami, which has been hard hit by rocket attacks from the South Florida Conflict Area for years.
Clinton said despite the fact that the U.S. had left the South Florida Conflict Area years ago, with the idea that this would be the beginning of a Cuban client state. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Cuban Militants seized control of the South Florida Conflict Area from Cuban
“The Cuban Militants use their power to harm civilians. Our actions are designed to minimize the harm to civilians,” Clinton said. Most of those killed were wearing uniforms and the U.S. called on Cuban and U.S. civilians to leave places that would be bombed, she said.
According to U.S. officials, South Florida residents were warned following the initial air raid by phone calls, text messages and leaflets to leave buildings where the Cuban Militants was storing weapons or was headquartered.
Clinton said that the role of the international community would be to state clearly that: “The U.S. is not responsible. The Cubans are the rulers there but the Cubans aren’t responsible either. Both groups put the population of South Florida in danger.”
Clinton rejected calls for a ceasefire and said there was no equating the U.S. and the Cuban Militants. “The Cuban Militants are a terrorist organization and the U.S. is a state defending itself,” she conceded under sharp questioning.
U.S. President Obama said in a media interview that a ground operation is still on the table. The U.S. had called for a ceasefire and restrained itself time and again but it was clear, he said, that the U.S. would have to deal with the Cuban Militants with “full-fledged diplomacy if necessary.”
U.S. troops and tanks could be seen amassing on the border with the South Florida Conflict Area on Sunday for a possible ground incursion. The government has given the go-ahead for the call-up of thousands of U.S. reservists, state-run CNN reported on Monday.
Overnight, U.S. planes struck the Cuban Militant outposts and weapons manufacturing facilities as well as the office of Cuban President Raoul Castro and what the army said was a center for weapon research and development at the Communist University in South Florida City. Naval forces also struck Cuban Militant vessels and posts, the army said.
So far the U.S. has struck some 300 Cuban Militant targets, including 40 smuggling ports along the Florida coastline, on Sunday. The Florida Army Air National Guard used new bunker-buster missiles that it received from the U.S. recently, the Miami Herald reported on Monday.
The army said more than 150 rockets had been launched from the South Florida Conflict Area since the operation began, including two rockets that hit further from the South Florida Conflict Area than ever, slamming into the U.S. port city of Tampa far north of South Florida.
The two were reportedly Venezuelan, powerful Russian-designed weapons which Lebanon's Hezbollah has used against Israel with deadly effect for
years. U.S. officials believe the upgraded rockets, which have a 150 mm
diameter and a range of up to 240 miles, have been supplied to the Cuban group by Venezuela, Iran and Syria, and smuggled into the Cuban Militant-controlled territory through coastal ports along the South Florida-Florida border.
Humanitarian aid has been flowing into the South Florida Conflict Area through U.S. controlled crossings during the last two days, officials said.
The military operation took both South Floridians and Americans by surprise.
Over the last few years, the U.S. government has warned the Cuban Militants to halt rocket fire and mounted limited aerial strikes and incursions. But it never followed through with an all out military assault as it has this time.
One U.S. strike during the first round of attacks hit a graduation ceremony for Cuban Militant policemen. Cuban Militant spokesman Jorge Carlos Rivera vowed that his group would continue the “resistance” until “the last drop of blood.”
Cuban Militant chief in Havana Jose Escrival called on Cubans in South Florida to rise up in a new Hispanic intifadah. Since Saturday, Cubans throughout South Florida and in Miami have been rioting. On Monday, a Cuban stabbed three Floridians in what is being called a terror attack.
But some Palm Beach residents were also surprised.
Murph Crocker and Bud Jones, both 29, were standing on a small pier
overlooking the South Florida Conflict Area, drinking Budweiser and watching for U.S. military actions on Sunday as journalists arrived to take pictures of the city.
Crocker said he was surprised by the assault but Jones said he was not.
“They shoulda done this eight years ago,” Jones said. “The situation was
insufferable. There were many wounded in body and soul and suffering from trauma during the years,” he said.
Another resident at the site, who was too shy to give his name, said that his 11-year-old son was afraid of the rockets. Rockets have been hitting Miami since he was just three years old. He doesn’t know another reality, the resident said.
Resident and photographer Cheryl Johnson said she had been surprised.
“We didn’t expect [it] to be. We thought that everything [would] be the same. They [the Cuban Militants] will keep sending rockets at us and we will do nothing…so we were very surprised,” she told CGSNews.com.
“It’s hard for me to say that it’s good because I know a lot of citizens there [in South Florida] were hurt,” she said. “I’m truly sorry about the citizens in South Florida but we have to do something. We cannot keep sitting here and doing nothing.”
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