LEBANON: ISRAELI STRIKE ON CITY KILLS 9
By JOSEF FEDERMAN, Associated Press Writer
July 16, 2006
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israeli
warplanes fired missiles Sunday at a Lebanese civil defense building in the southern port city of Tyre, killing at least nine
civilians and wounding 42, security officials said.
The attack tore off the
top three floors of the 12-story building, which is next to a hospital. Local TV aired footage of bodies being pulled from
the rubble and carried away on stretchers.
Rescue workers were shown
helping an old woman while a young man, his face dripping with blood, cursed Israel and shouted pro-Hezbollah
"Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar
(God is great)!" he cried.
Another young man, his face
white from dust, stumbled amid broken glass and chunks of concrete that fell from the building.
The Lebanese Broadcasting
Corporation, which aired the footage, said 20 people were killed in the attack, but that could not be independently confirmed.
Earlier Sunday, Lebanese
guerillas fired a relentless barrage of rockets into the northern Israeli city of Haifa, killing
eight people at a train station and wounding seven in a dramatic escalation of a five-day-old conflict that has shattered
hopes for Mideast peace.
Hezbollah's firing of at
least 20 rockets at Haifa and 30 elsewhere came after Israel unleashed its fiercest bombardment yet of the Lebanese capital,
starting after midnight Saturday. The attack reduced Beirut
apartment buildings to rubble and knocked out electricity in many areas of the city.
But Hezbollah leader Sheik
Hassan Nasrallah said his guerrillas have "complete strength and power" despite the five-day bombardment. He urged Arabs and
Muslims worldwide to support his guerrillas, saying his group is fighting Israel
on their behalf.
Within two hours of the
8 a.m. Haifa assault, Israel warplanes retaliated
with at least six airstrikes on southern Beirut, blasting
the Hezbollah headquarters building and sending a thick smoke cloud over the city.
U.S. officials were monitoring violence in Lebanon hour-by-hour to decide whether to evacuate an estimated 25,000 Americans, possibly
to the neighboring Mediterranean island of Cyprus.
About 350 people — most of them Europeans — were evacuated Saturday night and early Sunday from Lebanon to Cyprus
aboard Italian military flights.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert said there would be "far-reaching consequences" for the Haifa
attack. Black smoke rose over the city. Air-raid sirens wailed as the dead and wounded were evacuated. Rockets also hit near
an oil refinery, gas storage tanks and a busy street during morning rush hour.
Israeli authorities put
residents across the north and in the central city of Tel Aviv on heightened alert, reflecting the longer range of the missile
attacks. They blamed Syria and Iran for providing guerrillas with more sophisticated weaponry, raising the
specter of a wider regional confrontation.
At the Vatican, Pope
Benedict XVI expressed grave concern over the escalation of fighting in Lebanon and denounced terrorism and
retaliation in the Holy Land.
Sunday brought the fiercest
attacks since the conflict erupted Wednesday after Hezbollah guerillas penetrated Israel in brazen raid, killing eight soldiers and capturing two.
The fighting opened a second
front for Israel, which was already battling
Hamas-linked Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip
following the capture of an Israeli soldier June 25. Israel has since expanded
its mission from the immediate need to free the three soldiers to a campaign to halt rocket fire from Gaza
and to neutralize Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israeli troops, tanks and
helicopter gunships re-entered northern Gaza on Sunday, firing
missiles and exchanging gunfire with armed Palestinians. The raid killed five Palestinians, including three militants.
Masked militants in Gaza vowed Sunday to launch more rockets at Israel
"to show solidarity with the twin of our resistance," referring to Hezbollah.
attack raised Israel's death toll in the
fighting to at least 24, half of them civilians. At least 130 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon, most of them also civilians.
Iran and Syria
are prime supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah, and Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal warned that any aggression against
it "will be met with a firm and direct response whose timing and methods are unlimited."
Iran on Sunday again denied Israeli claims that it had troops in
Lebanon and that it helped Hezbollah attack
an Israeli warship Friday, saying the guerrilla group could fend for itself.
Initially, it was believed
that an unmanned drone laden with explosives had hit the Israeli warship; it later became clear that Hezbollah used what Israel described as an Iranian-made, radar-guided C-802 missile.
The army said Sunday that
three sailors missing after the gunship attack were dead, raising the number of Israeli sailors killed in the attack to four.
The Islamic Republic also warned that expanding Israel's bombing raids
to neighboring Syria would bring the Jewish
state "unimaginable damages."
stands by the people of Syria," Foreign
Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.
Hezbollah said it hit Haifa, Israel's third-largest
city, with dozens of Raad-2 and Raad-3 missiles. But Israeli officials said Hezbollah — previously using relatively
small Katyusha rockets — also launched at least four Iranian-made Fajr missiles, its first use of the weapons. The missiles
have a range of 28 miles and a far larger warhead than Katyushas.
Shaul Mofaz, an Israeli
Cabinet minister and former army chief of staff, blamed Syria.
"The ammunition that Hezbollah used this morning ... is Syrian ammunition," he said. He compared Hezbollah to al-Qaida, saying
Israel should mount its operation accordingly.
One of the rockets hit the
section of the Haifa station where crews perform maintenance
on the trains, tearing a huge hole in the roof. About 30 people were working at the time, Ofer Litzevski, a train company
At the scene a body lay
on a stretcher in a white bag.
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav warned
people against holding large gatherings and canceled all cultural events. Trains and buses were halted across northern Israel.
Hezbollah said it intentionally
avoided hitting petrochemical installations in Haifa, according
to a statement read on Al-Manar television, the Islamic guerrillas' main voice to the world.
"But the next time, it (Hezbollah)
will not spare anything in Haifa and its surroundings," the
Israel had deployed a Patriot missile battery in Haifa on Saturday to protect against surface-to-surface missiles. But the Patriot was not
built to combat the kind of missiles that hit on Sunday, said Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, a member of the army's General Staff.
Rockets fired by Lebanese
militants also struck Acco, Nahariya and several other northern towns, and residents of the region were told to head to bomb
shelters. Israeli rescue teams said 20 people were wounded in Haifa
and Acco, four of them seriously.
Israel's overnight attacks on Lebanon briefly knocked Al-Manar TV off the air. The Jiyeh power plant was in flames
after being hit at about 6 a.m., cutting electricity to many areas in Beirut and south Lebanon.
Large sections of the capital
were covered in fine white dust from the barrage. Fires raged, and heaps of rubble and twisted metal covered entire city blocks
near the Hezbollah compound in Beirut's southern district,
known as Dahiyah. The steel gates of the compound were mangled.
One building was collapsed
on its side; other apartment buildings were reduced to rubble or had their upper floors collapsed into those below. Broken
furniture, blankets, mattresses, clothes and stuffed toys were scattered on the streets.
The Dahiyah district was
empty except for guerrillas and a few residents who returned to collect belongings before taking refuge elsewhere.
"We want to sleep on our
own pillows in the shelter," Mariam Shihabiyah, a 39-year-old mother of five said as she emerged from scrounging supplies
from her wrecked apartment. "I just want them and our clothes, that's all ... Can you believe what happened to Dahiyah?"
A copy of the Quran, Islam's
holy book, lay in the street, its dusty pages fluttering. A Hezbollah gunman picked it up reverently lifted and kissed it.
In a statement, the Lebanese
Cabinet said that Italy had relayed Israeli conditions to stop the offensive:
Hezbollah guerrillas should release the two Israeli soldiers and withdraw to beyond a river 18 miles north of the Israel-Lebanon
border, pushing back the threat of rocket fire on northern Israel.
Israeli Foreign Ministry
spokesman Mark Regev had no comment on the Lebanese statement.