Israel Hits Tower In Beirut, Warns Of More Bombing

A family waits on a corner as they and hundreds of other residents of a southern Beirut neighborhood prepare to evacuate in anticipation of Israeli airstrikes.
A family waits on a corner as they and hundreds of other residents of a southern Beirut neighborhood prepare to evacuate in anticipation of Israeli airstrikes. (By Spencer Platt -- Getty Images)
By Edward Cody and Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 11, 2006

BEIRUT, Aug. 10 -- Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a radio tower in downtown Beirut on Thursday and dropped leaflets warning residents of the Lebanese capital that more extensive bombing, whose "painful and severe results will not be limited" to Hezbollah fighters, is on the way.

The warning of more bombing of the city and the missile strike, in a busy area known as Ras Beirut, generated a swell of panic among Beirut residents. Although some speculated that Israel may be waging psychological warfare to gain advantage in negotiations at the United Nations, many people here took the warning seriously, recalling the weeks of Israeli bombing here in 1982. In the 30 days since this conflict erupted, Israel's bombing of Beirut has been limited largely to the southern suburbs, where Hezbollah has its base, while the downtown has been spared.

[Early Friday, eight powerful explosions resounded across Beirut, and local news reports said Israeli jets were pounding Hezbollah strongholds in the southern Dahiya suburb, the Associated Press reported.]

The Hezbollah leader, Hasan Nasrallah, warned last week that his fighters would fire missiles at Tel Aviv if Beirut were bombed, raising the danger that the war could escalate into a bloodier cycle of retaliation.

More than 140 Hezbollah rockets crashed into northern Israel on Thursday, killing Fathi Assadi, 26, and her 5-year-old son in Dir al-Assad, an Arab village in western Galilee, according to Israeli police. Eleven other people were injured in the attack, including the dead boy's 3-year-old brother and his grandmother.

A volley of missiles also landed in Haifa, about 20 miles south of the border, but officials there reported no injuries.

Ground combat was centered along a five-mile stretch of winding road between Marjayoun and Khiam, in the hills just above Israel's northernmost Galilee region. Israeli infantry, backed by tanks, artillery and warplanes, pushed into the area early in the day. The armored vehicles clanked without opposition through Marjayoun, a Christian market town, but came under attack from Khiam, a nearby Hezbollah stronghold populated mainly by Shiite Muslims.

Marjayoun was headquarters of the South Lebanon Army, an Israeli-sponsored Lebanese militia that helped Israeli forces against Hezbollah guerrillas during an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in 2000.

Hezbollah, a militant Shiite and Arab nationalist movement, said its fighters hit 11 Israeli tanks in the border-area clashes, killing or wounding crew members.

A 35-year-old Israeli reserve soldier was killed when a Hezbollah fighter hit his tank with an antitank missile near Qleia, according to an Israeli military spokeswoman. Two other soldiers were injured.

[Early Friday, Israel Radio said another Israeli soldier was killed in fighting in south Lebanon overnight, AP reported]

Fighting Thursday was also reported in the nearby village of Burj al-Moluk, which lies in the shadow of the Crusader-era Beaufort Castle.

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