Hezbollah-Israel conflict continues

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

As the conflict in the Middle East goes into its fourth day, Israel launched more air strikes against targets in Lebanon. Israel has also reportedly served Syria with a 72 hour ultimatum to stop the Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel and secure the release of two captured Israeli soldiers.

Israel said Saturday that Hezbollah fired two radar-guided, C802 missiles at an Israeli warship on Friday. Israel earlier said that the ship was hit by an explosives-laden drone. The ship, INS Hanit, was in Lebanese waters near Beirut Friday when it was hit. The first rocket was said to miss and the second hit the helicopter deck. Four Israeli sailors were reported missing, two later confirmed dead, as the ship caught fire. The ship has since been towed back to an Israeli sea port.

The Israeli military said that up to 100 elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards had assisted Hezbollah in providing and helping firing C-802 missiles. This was denied by Iran and Hezbollah. Iran called it an attempt "to escape reality with the aim of covering up (Israel's) inability to confront the Lebanese nation and resistance".

An Israeli missile incinerated the people inside a van near the southern port of Tyre, killing eight children and nine adults and also wounding six others. Police said the vehicle the Israelis destroyed was carrying refugees fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israel told them to flee via a loudspeaker announcement. Some Lebanese civilians sought shelter at a Ghanaian UN position, but were turned away and went back to the village; they were attacked as they fled for the second time.

Early on Saturday, more C-802 missiles were fired toward Israeli warships. According to the Israeli military, the missiles missed their intended target but hit and sank an Egyptian merchant ship.

Israel has given Syria a 72 hour ultimatum to stop Hezbollah's activity, according to London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat and a senior source in the United States Pentagon or else Israel "would launch an offensive with disastrous consequences.".[1] The ultimatum also included the release of kidnapped IDF troops. Israel stated that if such a situation did not come about, they may attack targets within Syria.

Lebanese PM Fouad Siniora declared Lebanon a "disaster zone" Saturday and called upon the international community for a cease-fire and help to stop the Israeli "war machine". He added; "These are hours for unity, not for division".

Russian PM Vladimir Putin commented early Saturday that he suspected Israel had more on its agenda than rescuing kidnapped soldiers. Putin said at a G-8 press conference in St Petersburg that "it is our impression that aside from seeking to return the abducted soldiers, Israel is pursuing wider goals", without elaborating his statement.[2]

Lebanon

At least 35 Lebanese were killed in Israeli air strikes, including civilians. According to witnesses, Israeli planes fired four rockets at the Masnaa crossing point, on the Beirut-Damascus road near the Lebanon-Syria border.

A building in Beirut where Hezbollah has its main office was hit again Saturday by Israeli warplanes. The Palestinian Hamas organization headquarters in Beirut was also targeted. No casualties were reported.

Israel's campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon has so far resulted in the deaths of 96 people, most civilians, and at least 229 have been wounded.

The ports in Beirut and Tripoli were hit by Israeli warplanes on Saturday. Radar installations, a lighthouse and grain silos were hit in the raid on Beirut. The coastal cities of Batroun and Juineh were also hit. Two Lebanese soldiers were killed and three wounded in the attacks.[3]

Israeli actions such as blockading Lebanese ports and targeting Beirut's Rafiq Hariri International Airport have also resulted in losses for the latter country's economy. The Israeli army said that it had struck about 150 targets so far, less than 12 of which (according to Reuters) were directly connected with Hezbollah.

Israel

Areas in northern Israel have been under heavy shelling the entire night. Hezbollah fired 12 new Fajr-5 rockets, which hit the towns of Tiberias and Carmiel. Twelve people were wounded in Tiberias and over 60 in northern Israel, with heavy damage to property and houses.

The list of civilian locations that have been hit by Hezbollah so far include the city of Haifa, Naharia, Tiberias, Karmiel, Rosh Pina, Safed, Kiryat Shmona, and smaller towns including Ma'alot, Meron, Kabri, Shavi Zion, Horfish, Elkosh, Zuriel, Oshrot, and others. So far, a dozen Israeli soldiers and four civilians were killed, and many dozens wounded.

Israel says it has deployed Patriot missile batteries, (which are meant to counter ballistic and cruise missle attacks, rather than small rockets fired by the Hezbollah) but did not state a reason.

Gaza

Israel is continuing its offensive in the Gaza strip against Hamas after a soldier named Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in a raid, June 2006.

Despite the Israeli offensive, Palestinians fired more Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, landing mainly in the town Shderot.

Background

Beirut's Rafiq Hariri International Airport which was recently bombed by Israeli planes.

This is the fourth 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 later confirmed the soldiers were kidnapped and then began a mission it called "Operation Just Reward". On July 12 Israel set up a blockade of Lebanon and attacked the landing strips at Beirut International Airport as well as a fuel tank and other areas in Lebanon, while Hezbollah fired rockets into northern Israel. The scenes repeated themselves the coming days.

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This audio file was created from the text revision dated 2006-07-15 and may not reflect subsequent text edits to this report. (audio help)

On July 15 Israel commenced air strikes on targets in central Beirut, the Lebanese capital, in an attempt to damage the infrastructure used by Hezbollah.

Sources

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