Israel intensifies airstrikes in Lebanon - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Israel intensifies airstrikes in Lebanon

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Posted: Monday, August 7, 2006 10:38 am | Updated: 2:29 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israeli warplanes intensified airstrikes and launched a new commando raid in south Lebanon on Monday, killing at least 23 people in one of the heaviest tolls in days.

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Lebanon's prime minister won strong support from Arab states to plead his case at the United Nations for a full Israeli withdrawal.

President Bush said he anticipates that Hezbollah and Israel won't agree with all aspects of a Mideast cease-fire resolution but said "we all recognize that the violence must stop."

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora choked back tears as he told a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Beirut that 40 people were killed by an Israeli airstrike on the southern border village of Houla, but he later said only one person was killed.

Saniora got strong backing from the foreign ministers, who warned the U.N. Security Council against adopting resolutions that don't serve Lebanon's interests. They decided to send a high-level delegation to New York to press Lebanon's case.

Israeli warplanes repeatedly bombed Beirut's southern suburbs and pounded other areas of Lebanon, killing 15 people, Lebanese officials said. In northern Israel, scores of Hezbollah rockets wounded five people, rescue workers said.

Seven people were killed when a missile hit a house in Qassmieh on the coast north of Lebanon's port city of Tyre, civil defense official Youssef Khairallah said.

Saniora backtracked on the death toll in the Houla airstrike, saying that a search of the flattened building turned up only one death.

The Israeli army said one soldier was killed and four others were slightly wounded in fighting in the town of Bint Jbail. The soldiers killed five Hezbollah gunmen in the battle, the army said. Al-Jazeera television said two Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting. Another three soldiers were wounded in Houla, the army said.

A new barrage of 83 rockets hit northern Israel, slightly wounding five Israelis, according to rescue services.

Ministers called for a meeting of Israel's Security Cabinet later Monday to discuss whether to broaden the nearly four-week-old offensive.

One minister, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be seen as criticizing the military, said the army needed to send all available ground forces into Lebanon immediately to push Hezbollah and its rocket launchers out of the area south of the Litani River, about 18 miles from the border.

Hezbollah fired its deadliest rocket barrage Sunday on Israel, killing 12 Israeli reservists and three civilians. That brought the Israeli death toll to 94, including 46 soldiers, the 12 reservists and 36 civilians.

Israel's attacks on Lebanon have killed at least 607 people, including 524 civilians, 29 Lebanese soldiers and at least 53 Hezbollah guerrillas.

Israeli warplanes hit an apartment complex in Tyre, and ambulance driver Shadi Jradi said he got a report of five people killed, although he did not see the bodies himself.

A woman and her daughter were killed near a Lebanese army checkpoint between the villages of Harouf and Dweir, security officials said. Four other people were killed in a raid on that destroyed a house in Kfar Tebnit.

Air raids on the town of Ghaziyeh also destroyed several buildings, killing at least one person and wounding 14, hospital officials said.

A building collapsed in the village of Ghassaniyeh, and at least one body was pulled from the rubble. Witnesses and civil defense workers said six more people were buried, but that could not be confirmed.

Five air raids struck the market town of Nabatiyeh, targeting two office buildings, a house and one of the offices of Shiite Muslim Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. No casualties were reported there or in raids on the villages of Jibsheet and Toul.

Attacks also were carried out in Naqoura on the border and Ras al-Biyada, about halfway between Naqoura and Tyre. About 30 Israeli commandos landed by helicopter on a hill overlooking Ras al-Biyada, where they battled Hezbollah militants, Lebanese security officials said. Israeli officials would not confirm the operation.

After nightfall, three loud explosions rocked Beirut, and Lebanese security officials said Israel naval artillery had fired on the southern suburbs from ships off the Mediterranean coast, where they also are enforcing a sea blockade.

In other violence, Israeli warplanes hit roads in the Bekaa Valley, a northeastern region of Lebanon that is a symbol of Hezbollah power. At least four explosions were heard around the city of Baalbek, about 60 miles north of Israel's border, witnesses said. The Israeli military confirmed it had hit several targets in the area.

Warplanes also struck a large factory for construction materials just south of Baalbek.

Jet fighters attacked the Rashaya region farther south on the corridor linking southern regions with the Bekaa Valley, witnesses said. A road near the Beirut border post at Masnaa on the Beirut-Damascus highway, a frequent target of attack, was hit again.

The U.N. plan would call for an immediate halt in the fighting, followed by a second resolution in a week or two to authorize an international military force and creation of a buffer zone in south Lebanon. It also says the two Israeli soldiers whose capture July 12 by Hezbollah guerrillas triggered the war should be released unconditionally.

Saniora and the Arab foreign ministers pressed for changes in the plan. He has proposed a speeded-up deployment of Lebanese troops with the support of U.N. forces in order to ensure that thousands of Israeli soldiers leave the south with any cease-fire, a Saniora aide said.

The Arab foreign ministers warned of "the consequences of adopting resolutions that are not applicable and complicate the situation on the ground and do not take Lebanon's interest and stability into account." Lebanon and the Arabs see the U.S.-French draft resolution as heavily tilted toward Israel.

Washington and Paris were expected to circulate a new draft of the first resolution at the United Nations on Monday, taking into account some of the amendments proposed by Qatar, the only Arab nation on the Security Council, and other members, diplomats said.

Bush said the goal was to find consensus quickly on a U.N. resolution calling for a cessation of violence.

"I understand that both parties aren't going to agree with all aspects of the resolution," Bush said. "But the intent of the resolutions is to strengthen the Lebanese government so Israel has got a partner in peace."

Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon the U.S.-French draft was good for Israel - but the country still had military goals and would continue its attacks on Hezbollah. While Hezbollah has not rejected the plan outright, its two main allies - Syria and Iran - said it was without merit because it did not call for an immediate Israeli withdrawal, among other demands.

Lebanon's parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, also said the plan was unacceptable because it does not deal with Beirut's other key demands - a release of prisoners held by Israel and moves to resolve a dispute over a piece of border territory.

Israel's Haaretz daily, quoting an unidentified general, reported that attacks might be stepped up on Lebanese infrastructure and symbols of the government in response to Hezbollah's escalating rocket attacks. Israeli warplanes have repeatedly blasted Palestinian government buildings during a monthlong offensive in Gaza that began shortly before the fighting with Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has fired more than 3,000 rockets at Israel since the fighting began, Israeli officials said.

Hezbollah militants battled Israeli forces trying to push deeper into southern Lebanon, engaging Israeli infantrymen attempting to advance on the border villages of Aita al-Shaab, Rub Thalatheen and Dibel, the guerrillas' TV station said.

Some 10,000 Israeli soldiers are fighting several hundred Hezbollah gunmen in south Lebanon, trying to track and destroy rocket launchers and push the guerrilla group out of the area.

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