Israeli Jets Kill 30; No Letup in Militia Attacks

Residents of Beirut scramble to rescue survivors from a building collapsed in an Israeli strike near the city center. Hezbollah fired 135 rockets Monday.
Residents of Beirut scramble to rescue survivors from a building collapsed in an Israeli strike near the city center. Hezbollah fired 135 rockets Monday. (By Spencer Platt -- Getty Images)
By Edward Cody and Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 8, 2006

BEIRUT, Aug. 7 -- Israeli jets in a relentless hunt for Hezbollah rockets raided sites across Lebanon on Monday, cutting roads and killing about 30 civilians. Despite the attacks, Hezbollah fighters fired 135 more of the weapons into northern Israel. Ten Israelis were reported injured.

In Beirut, foreign ministers from Arab countries called at a meeting for an immediate cease-fire. An emotional Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora accused Israel of state terrorism; officials in Israel signaled an intention to expand their offensive, which they say is necessary to protect their citizens from rocket attacks.

Ground fighting continued in multiple locations in hilly southern Lebanon. Three Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded in combat in the heavily damaged town of Bint Jbeil, the Israeli military said.

As negotiations toward a cease-fire continued at United Nations headquarters in New York, the war concluded its 27th day with no end in sight.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told a parliamentary committee in broadcast remarks that the country is preparing to expand military operations unless the United Nations finds a solution quickly. "I gave an order that, if within the coming days the diplomatic process does not reach a conclusion, Israeli forces will carry out the operations necessary to take control of Katyusha rocket launching sites in every location."

During a meeting with reservists near the Lebanese border, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave a similar forecast, according to his office. "We are not stopping," he was quoted as saying, adding that there "will be no military restrictions" on stopping rocket launches.

The foreign ministers from member states of the Arab League gathered in Beirut despite the hostilities for a day-long show of solidarity. They decided to send representatives to the United Nations to press the case for an immediate cease-fire and other changes in a proposed Security Council resolution. Their deliberations were overshadowed, however, by knowledge that a cease-fire decision resided not with Arab governments, but with Israel, Hezbollah and the big powers on the Security Council.

Reflecting the frustration, Siniora told the ministers that Lebanon has been "stunned" by Israel's attacks, which he said have set Lebanon back decades just as it seemed on the verge of recovery from previous wars. Tears welling in his eyes, he lamented the long list of Lebanese civilians killed in the conflict. He included 40 "martyrs" who he said perished Monday in a "massacre" in the village of Hula, hit by Israeli airstrikes. Later he said that his information had been wrong and that one civilian died at Hula.

"Thank God they were not killed," Siniora said in response to a reporter's question about his emotional speech. "What do you expect when my countrymen are being killed? Children, just because they are Lebanese, they are being killed. How do you expect me to behave?

"Put yourself in my shoes," he went on. "I am just an ordinary man, and I feel with every woman, every child and every man. This is state terrorism, and this is unacceptable. To see what crimes Israel is committing is unacceptable, and we should not tolerate it anymore."

As Siniora's speech was broadcast live via satellite to Israel, a hush fell over Israeli soldiers watching on ceiling-mounted televisions in the lobby of an army-run hotel in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shemona. As his voice began to waver, many groaned or yelled at the screen. "You should cry to Nasrallah," one shouted, referring to the Hezbollah leader, Hasan Nasrallah.

The commander of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, said Israeli attacks had collapsed a building in Hula, burying 18 people under the rubble. Two other places in the village where large numbers of civilians had taken refuge also were hit, he said, and rescuers were unable to reach them immediately because of continued attacks. After the bombing ceased, other officials said, rescue workers discovered that one villager was dead but that about 50 had survived unscathed in a shelter under the rubble.

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