HEZBOLLAH FIRES NEW ROCKETS INTO ISRAEL
By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer July 28, 2006
TYRE, Lebanon - Hezbollah
launched a new kind of rocket Friday that made its deepest strike into Israel yet, while Israeli warplanes and artillery blasted apartment buildings and roads gunning for guerrillas.
Lebanese officials said
about 12 civilians died in the day's fighting; Israel
said it killed 26 militants, raising to about 300 the total number killed in the campaign.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to head back to the Middle
East this weekend to make a second attempt to resolve the crisis, but diplomatic efforts were solidifying into
two sharply divided camps. Most agree on the idea of bringing international forces into the south to end Hezbollah's decade-long
free rein here — but still unresolved is how and when.
The United States, backed by Britain, wants
the force to be part of a broad package that will disarm guerrillas along the border and move in the Lebanese army to end
the Hezbollah threat to Israel once and
for all. It says it won't press for a cease-fire until such an agreement is reached.
Many Europeans and Arab
countries are increasing the pressure for an immediate cease-fire first, followed by a plan to tackle the complicated issues
of a force to curb the Shiite guerrillas.
The deadlock allowed the
18-day-old offensive to persist with a new dimension of destruction emerging — the environment.
Beaches in Beirut
were black with oil spilled from a power station that was blasted by Israel
two weeks ago and was still burning. In the south, rescue workers dug through the rubble of bombed houses, looking for bodies.
Israel deployed a Patriot interceptor
missile battery north of Tel Aviv, believing the area could be in range of Hezbollah's barrages.
Late Friday, the Israeli
army said it killed 26 Hezbollah guerrillas in fighting for the Shiite town of Bint
Jbail. The army did not report Israeli casualties, but Israel Radio said six soldiers were wounded.
Hezbollah has verified 35
guerrilla casualties. The competing claims could not be resolved independently.
Hezbollah said its guerrillas
attacked Israeli troops on a ridge overlooking Bint Jbail and in Maroun al-Ras, a nearby villages that Israeli troops overran
last weekend. The guerrillas said five Israeli soldiers were wounded.
Eight Israelis died fighting
for control of Bint Jbail on Wednesday, the highest toll of the campaign. Bint Jbail had 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.
Hezbollah for the first
time unveiled a weapon that raises that threat. The guerrillas said they used a new rocket, the Khaibar-1 — named after
the site of a historic battle between Islam's Prophet Muhammad and Jewish tribes in the Arabian peninsula — to strike
the Israeli town of Afula.
"With this, the Islamic
Resistance begins a new stage of fighting, challenge and confrontation with a strong determination and full belief in God's
victory," Hezbollah said in a statement.
Five of the rockets crashed
into empty fields outside Afula, causing no injuries.
Israel said the rockets were renamed, Iranian-made Fajr-5s. They have four times the power and range of Katyusha rockets,
making them able to hit Tel Aviv's northern outskirts.
Hundreds of Katyushas have
hit northern Israel in the current fighting,
including 96 on Friday, one of which hit a hospital. The Afula 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 Israel army said a half-million Israelis were living in shelters in northern Israel because of the rocket bombardments. Lebanese officials
said the fighting has displaced at least 500,000.
The Israeli offensive began
after Hezbollah guerrillas killed three soldiers and captured two others in a cross-border raid into Israel. The war with Hezbollah opened a second front for Israel,
which was already battling Palestinians in Gaza after Hamas
militants seized a soldier in a cross-border raid June 25.
Israeli tanks and troops
pulled back to the Israel-Gaza border Friday after an unusually deadly incursion that killed 30 Palestinians over three days.
The army said the withdrawal was temporary.
border with Lebanon, the United Nations decided to move 50 unarmed observers from their posts to the
better-protected positions of 2,000 lightly armed U.N. peacekeepers after an Israeli bomb killed four observers this week.
With medicine, food and
shelter trickling into the war zone in southern Lebanon, the U.N. humanitarian chief called for a three-day truce to let help
aid get in and enable thousands of civilians trapped in the heat of the battle to get out — a call that got no response.
In Washington, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said they want an international force dispatched quickly to southern Lebanon. But they said
any plan to end the fighting must address the long-term issue of disarming Hezbollah.
"This is a moment of intense
conflict in the Middle East," Bush said. "Yet our aim is to turn it into a moment of opportunity
and a chance for broader change in the region."
In Beirut, Hezbollah signed
onto a peace plan put together by the prime minister that calls for an international force and the Lebanese army to move into
south Lebanon — a step that could mean the withdrawal of guerrillas from the border and eventual disarming.
But the plan requires not
only a cease-fire first — but also a prisoner exchange and a resolution of several disputes between Israel and Lebanon
that Beirut says fuel Hezbollah's strength and gives it a reason to continue fighting.
A team of European Union leaders praised the proposals and the show of unity in Lebanon's government, which has been paralyzed by divisions
over the crisis. "We think (the plan) forms a good basis for a regional agreement," said Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioka,
whose country holds the EU presidency.
French 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, increasing the pressure on the United States and Israel.
In southern Lebanon, Israeli missile strikes and artillery rained down
around towns and roads targeting rocket sites and buildings believed connected to Hezbollah but wreaking destruction in populated
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 destroyed three
buildings in the village of Kfar Jouz
near the market town of Nabatiyeh, apparently targeting the apartment of a Hezbollah activist. A Jordanian was killed in a
nearby house, and the blasts collapsed a shelter, killing a Lebanese husband and wife.
Three women were killed
in strikes on their homes in other southern villages, security officials said. A wounded woman was rushed to the hospital
in the village of Ain Arab,
and more people were believed trapped in the debris of a destroyed building there.
An explosion, believed to
be from Israeli artillery, hit a convoy evacuating villagers from Rmeish, lightly wounding a driver and a Lebanese cameraman
for German TV news. Another strike hit a potato truck and a nearby car, wounding three.
At least 445 people have
been killed in Lebanon in the fighting,
most of them civilians, according to a Health Ministry count Friday based on bodies taken to hospitals. 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.