Hezbollah-Israel war continues for a third day

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Friday, July 14, 2006

The fighting continues as Israel launches a fresh wave of attacks on Lebanese targets Friday, striking Beirut's International airport, the road from Lebanon to Damascus and a power plant. Since Wednesday, Hezbollah have fired over 300 rockets into towns in northern Israel, killing four civilians and wounding dozens. Hezbollah rockets reached as far south as the port city of Haifa.

Lebanon said on Friday that Israel had launched "a widespread barbaric aggression" with the intention of hurting Lebanon. The country urged the United Nations community to stop the military offensive. "The targets chosen are connected either directly or indirectly with terrorism," Israeli Air Force General Ido Nehushtan, said.

The Israeli attacks included the southern suburb of Beirut where Israel says Hezbollah has a stronghold. Most roads and bridges leading to the southern suburb of Beirut have been shelled, isolating the suburb from the rest of the country. The attacks came after Israeli planes dropped leaflets on the evening of July 13, warning residents in the mainly Shiite south suburb of impending attacks to Hezbollah property.

Israel says Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, is also a target. "Nasrallah has issued his own sentence." said Ronnie Bar-On, the Israeli interior minister. The home and headquarters of Hezbollah's spiritual leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah was hit by Israeli missiles, but Nasrallah and his nearest were unhurt in the attack. Nasrallah said in a televised address after the attack that Hezbollah is ready for an "open war" with Israel.

This comes after Ehud Olmert said Lebanon had committed an "act of war" when Hezbollah attacked Israel.

"You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open war", Nasrallah said in the broadcast. "You have chosen an all-out war with a nation which ... has the capability, the experience and the courage." He continued saying that Lebanon would either surrender or "have faith in Allah and victory".

The Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora described the conflict as a "controlled war" and called it an opportunity to address the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Five civilians were killed and at least 50 have been wounded in Lebanon on Friday after Israeli attacks. According to Lebanon, 63 people have been killed and 167 wounded in the country since the raids commenced on Wednesday.

The Israeli military and Israel's ambassador to the UN said that the rockets fired into Haifa on Thursday by Hezbollah were manufactured in Iran. Lebanese PM Siniora said that it was puzzling for Hezbollah to perform the attacks unsupported.

States worldwide have called for the release of the prisoners and for Israel to exercise restraint, while Lebanon has urged the UN Security Council, which held an emergency meeting on Friday, to pass a ceasefire resolution.

Lebanon's UN envoy, Nouhad Mahmoud, claimed that Israel's attacks on Lebanon "will not resolve the problem, but will further complicate it. The Security Council meets today in the shadow of a widespread barbaric aggression waged by Israel to this very moment against my nation," he said. "What Israel is undertaking is an act of aggression and devastation aimed at bringing Lebanon to its knees and subverting it by any means."

Israel's chief of staff, Dan Halutz, said Friday that all three soldiers were alive and in a "reasonable" state of health.

Lebanon

Israeli planes targeted a headquarters of Hezbollah in Beirut and destroyed the building. Hezbollah's spiritual leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and his family are said to be safe.

The tarmac on Beirut International Airport was patched up after being hit several times by the Israeli air force on Thursday. Five airplanes belonging to Middle East Airlines then took off from the airport heading to Cyprus.

In addition, a private plane owned by former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati took off with the former PM onboard. Assurances were given by Fuad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, that they would not be attacked. It was reported that the United States had helped broker a no-attack deal.

However, the runways were hit again on Friday some time after the airplanes had taken off. A parking lot near the terminal building was also hit.

Other targets hit in Lebanon included a fuel tank at the power plant in Jiyyeh. Power shortages have been reported. The Hezbollah radio station al-Nour was targeted by an Israeli strike, but continued broadcasting. Also, a road between Haboush and Iqlion el Tufah was hit.

A total of 18 targets claimed by Israel to be Hezbollah sites have been hit by air and sea launched missiles. The Israeli military said they attacked Hezbollah outposts in south Lebanon, a facility for weapons-storage and three gas stations south of Sidon.

Five explosions were reported in Beirut late Friday.

Up to 17 000 Lebanese civilians have been escaping the country bound for Syria through the Masnaa crossing. Even though the main road between Beirut and Damascus have been repeatedly targeted by Israel in the last 24 hours, that didn't hinder people as they arrived on foot and by car. "We have become refugees", a woman said on her way crossing the border. The two countries have eased border crossing procedures and deployed extra staff.

An Israeli navy ship was severely damaged after being hit by an explosives-packed UAV launched by Hezbollah. The ship was 16 km from the Lebanese coast when it was hit. This is a new, previously unused tactic by the militant group. They have however tested such drones twice in recent years. Four Israeli sailors were reportedly being searched for after the attack.

The strike on the ship was seemingly timed with Hezbollah leader Nasrallah's broadcast. In it he said: "The surprises that I have promised you will start now. Now in the middle of the sea, facing Beirut, the Israeli warship ... look at it burning".

A second ship was hit by a rocket past midnight. Reports say it was a civilian merchant ship, but its nationality was not immediately identified.

Israel

In related news, Hezbollah fired several rockets in five separate attacks into northern Israel, Friday. Packs of Katyusha rockets hit Nahariya, Safed, Hatzor, Pqui'in, Kiryat Shmona, Karmiel, Matat and Yesod Hamaalah. Two civilians in the northern Israeli town of Miron were killed and casualties were reported all over the Galil.

Later on Friday, more rockets were fired into northern Israel.

Background

This was the third day of violence after July 11 when Hezbollah attacked Israeli army patrols and captured two Israeli soldiers in a mission Hezbollah called "Truthful Promise". Israel confirmed the soldiers were kidnapped. On July 12 Israel set up a blockade of Lebanon and attacked Beirut International Airport and other areas in Lebanon, while Hezbollah fired rockets at towns in northern Israel.

Israel is continuing its offensive in the Gaza strip against Hamas after a soldier named Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in a raid in June.

Sources

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