HEZBOLLAH ROCKET HITS ISRAELI HOSPITAL
By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer Fri Jul 28, 12:32 PM ET
- Israeli warplanes and artillery attacks Friday hit Hezbollah positions and crushed houses and roads in southern Lebanon, killing up to 12 people. Hezbollah said it fired
a new kind of rocket, which landed deeper inside Israel than hundreds of other strikes in
17 days of fighting.
Later Friday, a Hezbollah
rocket hit the top floor window of the main hospital in the Israeli border town of Nahariya,
causing damage but no injuries, hospital officials said. The rocket shattered a window and scorched its frame.
The United Nations decided to remove 50 observers from the Israeli-Lebanon border,
locating them instead at posts with 2,000 lightly armed U.N. peacekeepers. The move comes days after Israeli bombs hit a U.N.
observer station, killing four.
Also, the United States evacuated about 500 more U.S.
citizens from Beirut aboard a chartered cruise ship, believed
to the last U.S.-organized mass departure for Americans. Some 15,000 U.S.
citizens have now left Lebanon.
The European Union said it has finished evacuating most of its 20,000 citizens
who wanted to leave Lebanon, and will
now help evacuate nationals of poorer, non-EU countries.
Diplomatic efforts to end
the crisis emerged on several fronts. U.S. allies pressed Washington
to speed efforts to secure a cease-fire in the crisis, which erupted after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers
in a cross-border raid July 12, sparking Israel's
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, attending a regional security conference
in Malaysia, announced plans to return to the Middle East after visits
to Lebanon and Israel
earlier in the week. Israeli media said she will arrive in Israel
on Saturday night and meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday. There was no word on whether she would come to Beirut.
Rice has argued against
an immediate truce, calling for a more "enduring" arrangement that would end Hezbollah's control of southern Lebanon and diminish
the influence of Syria and Iran in Lebanon's affairs.
During a meeting Wednesday
in Rome, Rice faced strong demand from European governments for fighting to end now, but a
lack of consensus won more time for Israel's
President Bush has suggested he would support the offensive for as long as it takes to cripple Hezbollah. He also sharply condemned
Iran for giving the guerrillas military support — a charge Tehran denied Friday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair headed to Washington
for a summit with Bush. Blair's spokesman said the prime minister would seek a U.N. resolution on the Mideast
Blair wants to speed the
pace of diplomacy aimed at a cease-fire and the formation of an international force for south Lebanon. Hezbollah guerrillas have long been in control of the region, in violation
of a previous U.N. resolution.
In France, President Jacques Chirac said his country will press for the rapid adoption
of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for
an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon, his office said.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah announced
it used a new rocket, the Khaibar-1 — named after a famed battle between Islam's prophet Muhammad and Jewish tribes
in the Arabian peninsula — to strike the northern Israeli town of Afula.
Guerrilla rockets have hit near town before, but this attack was the deepest yet.
Israeli police said five
rockets hit outside Afula but caused no injuries.
The strike came two days
after Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah vowed his guerrillas would fire rockets beyond Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, which
has been hit repeatedly in the conflict.
The group did not specify
the range of the new rocket or give other details. But Israeli police said it was the first time a missile of this type has
hit Israel and that it carried 220 pounds
of explosives. That is about the size of the payload of the Fajr-3 rocket that Hezbollah has fired previously, but the Fajr-3
is not believed to have the range to hit Afula.
The heaviest known Hezbollah
rocket is the Fajr-5, with a 440-pound payload and a range of 45 miles, able to hit Tel Aviv's northern outskirts.
Late Thursday and early
Friday, Israeli warplanes struck 130 targets in Lebanon, including a Hezbollah base in the Bekaa Valley, where long-range
rockets were stored, 57 Hezbollah structures, six missile-launching sites and six communication facilities, Israel said.
The bombardment —
along with artillery pounding the south — often hit populated areas and caused casualties.
One airstrike flattened
a house in the village of Hadatha,
and six people inside were believed dead or wounded, the Lebanese state news agency reported. Hezbollah's al-Manar TV said
all six were dead.
Missiles fired by Israeli
jets also destroyed three buildings in the village of Kfar Jouz near the market town of Nabatiyeh. A Jordanian was killed with a Lebanese
couple when their shelter collapsed, Lebanese security officials said.
Nine people, including children,
were wounded in the raid, which apparently targeted an apartment belonging to a Hezbollah activist. Civil defense teams in
Kfar Jouz struggled to rescue people believed buried under the rubble of a collapsed three-story structure, witnesses said.
Three women were killed
in strikes on their homes in southern villages of Talouseh, Sheitiyeh and Bazouriyeh — Nasrallah's hometown, security
Israel fired more than 40 artillery shells at the village of Arnoun just outside Nabatiyeh, next to the Crusader-era Beaufort Castle, which has a commanding view of the border area, witnesses said. Israeli artillery
also hit a convoy evacuating villagers from Rmeish, lightly wounding a driver and a Lebanese cameraman for German TV news.
At least 443 people have
been killed in Lebanon in the fighting,
most of them civilians, according to a Health Ministry count Thursday based on bodies taken to hospitals, plus deaths Friday
confirmed by security forces. But Lebanon's
health minister estimated Thursday that as many as Lebanese 600 civilians have been killed, with other victims buried in rubble.
On the Israeli side, 33
soldiers have died in fighting, and Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel
have killed 19 civilians, the Israeli army said.
The army said Friday that
Israeli troops have killed about 200 Hezbollah guerrillas, but Hezbollah has reported only 35 casualties.
This week brought intense
ground fighting in a small pocket in southeast Lebanon, with Israeli troops
centered on the town of Bint Jbail and nearby Maroun al-Ras
Israeli troops on Friday
appeared to have pulled back from some positions around Bint Jbail, said an official with U.N. peacekeepers, Richard Morczynski.
He did not have details on the extent of pullback.
Bint Jbail was the site
of the worst Israeli casualties in a single battle of the campaign, with nine soldiers killed in and near the town Wednesday.
Also, Hezbollah said its
guerrillas attacked Israeli troops in Maroun al-Ras, though there was no immediate comment from the Israeli army.
"At exactly 1 p.m., the
Islamic Resistance staged a surprise attack on Israeli tanks and emplacements on Masoud hilltop and Maroun al-Ras with various
kinds of weapons, inflicting confirmed casualties," according to Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV.
Masoud hilltop overlooks
Bint Jbail, which Israeli troops started besieging Sunday. The town has the largest Shiite community along the border; it
was known as the "capital of the resistance" during Israel's
1982-2000 occupation because of its vehement support for the Shiite Hezbollah.
Guerrillas on Friday also
fired 14 rockets at northern Israeli towns including Ma'alot, Karmiel and Safed, the Israeli army said. No casualties were