Air Attacks Intensify In Lebanon, Israel
Monday, August 7, 2006
BEIRUT, Aug. 7 -- Israeli warplanes and artillery intensified their pounding of Hezbollah targets across southern Lebanon on Sunday, killing a dozen civilians and several Lebanese soldiers. Hezbollah fighters fired more than 160 rockets into northern Israel, killing three civilians in Haifa and 12 army reservists just south of the border.
"It was a direct hit," said Maj. Svika Golan, a spokesman for the Israeli army's northern command, adding that the rocket that killed the reservists at Kfar Giladi was packed with ball bearings to inflict more carnage.
Officials in Haifa, a city about 18 miles south of the border, said an early evening barrage sent rockets crashing into a neighborhood, burying residents in the rubble. A woman was killed when a rocket smashed into her house, and two others died after being taken to a hospital. Dozens of people were wounded, the officials said.
The Israeli army later said it had attacked the Lebanese town of Qana, destroying the launchers that fired the six rockets into Haifa.
The cycle of attacks continued Monday, with Israeli jets striking Hezbollah targets in the southern suburbs of Beirut. A series of strong blasts reverberated across the city just as the sun rose. News agencies reported other Israeli air attacks around Baalbek, a Hezbollah stronghold in the eastern Bekaa Valley, and in southern Lebanon, where witnesses told Reuters six members of a family in the village of Ghazzanieyeh were killed.
The stepped-up air war Sunday was matched by repeated clashes on the ground, as Hezbollah guerrillas attacked Israeli invasion forces backed by battle tanks still moving to control the small villages that dot the hills along Lebanon's southern border. Hezbollah, a militant Shiite Muslim movement, announced it had damaged four tanks and caused an unknown number of Israeli casualties, while three of its own fighters were killed.
With casualties mounting on both sides -- the rocket strikes caused the highest Israeli death toll in a single day since the war began 26 days ago -- the rising spiral of attack and retaliation risked overtaking the still-unsettled diplomatic efforts to arrange a halt to the fighting.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, in an interview, said a draft U.N. Security Council resolution proposed Saturday by the United States and France is "impractical" because it would leave Israeli forces in southern Lebanon with Hezbollah fighters nearby until an international force can be organized and deployed. That, he said, sounds like a recipe for more bloodshed.
"So what is it in fact doing?" he asked. "It is putting flammable material next to the fire."
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened his cabinet but declined to respond publicly to the proposed resolution. "We won't respond to the draft because the less said the better," he said, according to a senior government official who attended the meeting. "When the decision has been made by the Security Council, then the government will convene and decide if and how we should respond."
Siniora, who according to aides met twice Sunday with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman, said he has proposed changes that would include the immediate dispatch of 15,000 Lebanese soldiers to the border area along with a 2,000-member international force under the aegis of the current United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL. Their arrival, to guarantee that no Hezbollah fighters would be allowed south of the Litani River, would be nearly simultaneous with a cease-fire and a withdrawal of all Israeli forces now north of the border, he said.
Siniora said he discussed his ideas in two telephone calls with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice late Saturday, a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and diplomatic exchanges Sunday via Feltman in Beirut. So far, however, there has been no response to his proposal, he said.