Israeli-Hezbollah warfare continues - East Valley Tribune: News

Israeli-Hezbollah warfare continues

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Posted: Sunday, August 6, 2006 7:45 am | Updated: 5:00 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hezbollah guerrillas unleashed their deadliest barrage of rockets yet into northern Israel, killing 11 people, while Israeli bombardment killed 17 people in southern Lebanon as fighting only intensified despite a draft U.N. cease-fire resolution.

Israeli jets also fired six missiles into Beirut's southern suburbs Sunday afternoon, Lebanese security officials said. Loud explosions shook the capital, and a column of white smoke rose over the horizon.

Hezbollah and its allies rejected the U.S.-French text, saying its terms for a halt in fighting do not address Lebanon's demands - in a signal that the nearly 4-week-old battle will burn on.

Both sides appeared to be aiming to inflict maximum mutual damage in the few days before the resolution is expected to be voted on by the U.N. Security Council.

Hezbollah fired a volley of 80 rockets at several Israeli towns, with one of them making a direct hit on a crowd of people at the entrance of the communal farm of Kfar Giladi.

Ten people were killed outright in the explosion, and another person died a few hours later of his wounds, Israeli emergency services said - the highest toll from a rocket attack since the conflict began on July 12. Israel's Channel Two television reported that nine of those killed were reserve soldiers.

A forest burst into flames from the 15-minute barrage and huge plumes of gray smoke rose into the air. Other rockets hit the nearby town of Kiryat Shemona, damaging a synagogue.

When word of the rocket strike reached the Israeli Cabinet during its weekly meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "Lucky that we are dealing with Hezbollah today, and not in another two or three years," according to a participant in the meeting.

In southern Lebanon, dozens of Israeli strikes hit communities and roads, with some villages bombed continually for half an hour, security officials said.

Ground fighting also raged along a stretch of territory on the southern Lebanese border that the Israeli army has invaded.

A Hezbollah rocket blast also injured three Chinese peacekeepers on Sunday, the Chinese state media reported, citing a Chinese officer. The report not specify where the attack occurred or whether the peacekeepers had been hospitalized.

The attack came hours after China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a telephone conversation that the world body should take tangible measures to ensure the security of U.N. peacekeepers, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The U.S.-French agreement on a resolution calling for "a full cessation of hostilities" marked a significant advance after weeks of stalled diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict. But getting the two sides - particularly Hezbollah - to sign on will likely require a greater push. Israel has said it won't halt its offensive until Hezbollah rockets are silenced.

The plan also envisions a second resolution in a week or two that would authorize an international military force for the Israel-Lebanon frontier and the creation of a large buffer zone in southern Lebanon, monitored by the Lebanese army and international peacekeepers.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed the draft resolution was aimed at stopping the large-scale violence to allow a focus on the underlying problems in the conflict.

"It's the first step, not the only step," she said at a news conference in Washington.

Lebanon's parliament speaker, who represents the Shiite Islamic militant group in negotiations, said the draft resolution was unacceptable since it would leave Israeli troops in Lebanon and does not deal with Beirut's key demands - a release of prisoners held by Israel and moves to resolve a dispute over a piece of border territory.

"If Israel has not won the war but still gets all this, what would have happened had they won?" Nabih Berri said. "Lebanon, all of Lebanon, rejects any talks and any draft resolution" that do not address the Lebanese demands, he said.

The Lebanese government said Saturday that it objects to portions of the draft resolution and demanded some amendments, but an aide to Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said that did not mean a flat rejection.

Hezbollah's two key allies, Iran and Syria, also rejected the resolution - suggesting they back a continued fight by the guerrillas.

"The United States, which has been supporting the Zionist regime until today, has no right to enter the crisis as a mediator," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a phone conversation with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Assad said the presence of international forces with extensive power in Lebanon would cause anarchy in the country, according to a report on Ahmadinejad's official Web site.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, on his first visit to Lebanon since Damascus ended a 29-year military presence in its smaller neighbor last year, declared that the U.S.-French cease-fire plan was "a recipe for the continuation of the war" unless Israeli troops withdrew.

In a bit of saber-rattling, the former Syrian envoy to Washington also said his armed forces were under orders to respond immediately to an Israeli assault on his country, something Israel repeatedly has pledged it would not do.

"If Israel attacks Syria by any mean, on the ground, by air, our leadership ordered the armed forces to reply immediately," he said after emerging from a meeting with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.

Deployment of an international force in south Lebanon to rein in Hezbollah guerrillas is a central cornerstone of U.S.-led Western efforts for a long-term peace.

Six members of the Lebanese military were killed in two Israeli airstrikes. Missiles also flattened a house in the village of Ansar, near the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, killing a man and four of his relatives, Lebanese security officials said.

Another strike overnight killed three people in al-Jibbain, a village nearly three miles from the Israeli border, civil defense officials said.

A rocket fired by a pilotless aircraft blasted a van carrying bread near Tyre, killing its driver, said Salam Daher, a civil defense official in the southern port city. Another person was killed in the town of Naqoura, near the border on the Mediterranean coast.

In Naqoura and several villages near Tyre, residents called rescue officials to report more people trapped under the rubble of crushed buildings, but crews could not retrieve the dead because of continued bombardment.

"We don't know how many and we can't get there," Daher said.

Israel also bombed two camps of a Palestinian militant group in Lebanon, the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The group reported one person killed in the attack.

Hezbollah's long-range missile launchers are in the areas of Tyre and Sidon, but there was no indication the raging air assault of the last 24 hours has significantly eroded the group's capabilities to hit deep into Israel, said Ryszard Morczynski, a U.N. peacekeeping official in Naqoura.

Arab foreign ministers were due to gather in Beirut for a crucial meeting on Monday that could see a stormy debate over the draft U.N. resolution.

For Hezbollah, the resolution would be a tough pill to swallow, particularly language calling for the "unconditional release" of two Israeli soldiers captured by the guerrillas in a cross-border raid July 12. The abduction prompted the Israeli onslaught in Lebanon.

The Israeli army announced Sunday that it had arrested one of the Hezbollah guerrillas involved in the initial raid, in which the two soldiers were captured.

So far, at least 591 people have died in the fighting in Lebanon including 507 civilians, 34 members of the army and 50 guerrillas aknowledged dead by Hezbollah. The Israeli military says it has killed more than 400 Hezbollah guerrillas since the fighting began.

It brought the number of Israelis killed so far to 90, 44 of them killed by rocket attacks and the rest soldiers killed in the fighting.

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