July 23, 2006

Israel pounds Lebanon, seizes village

By Lin Noueihed

MARJAYOUN, Lebanon (Reuters) - Israel bombed Hizbollah's
stronghold in Beirut and civilian targets in east and south
Lebanon on Sunday amid reports it planned to move more troops
across the border.

Hours after Israeli forces seized a strategic Lebanese
frontier village, at least seven blasts echoed across Beirut as
jets roared over the southern suburbs. Strikes destroyed a
Shi'ite center in the southern port city of Sidon, wounding
three people.

A least 12 strikes in the eastern Bekaa Valley destroyed
three factories, a house and several bridges, starting large
fires and killing at least one civilian and wounding seven. Two
other civilians died in a raid on a south Lebanon village.

Israel's 12-day-old onslaught in Lebanon to cripple
Hizbollah has claimed 358 lives, mostly civilians. Hizbollah
attacks and rockets have killed 35 Israelis.

Israeli aircraft repeatedly bombed the Haret Hreik
neighborhood in south Beirut, flattening buildings, many of
them used by the guerrilla group.

An Israeli general said soldiers took control on Saturday
of Maroun al-Ras, a hilltop village overlooking both sides of
the border, where six Israeli commandos have been killed in
heavy fighting this week.

Israel's Army Radio said more troops were expected to move
into southern Lebanon on Sunday to widen the army's ground
operations against Hizbollah just inside the border.

The Israeli army found the body of a soldier who went
missing last week during fighting in south Lebanon.

Envoys from three European countries hold talks in Israel
later on Sunday ahead of the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice in a new round of diplomacy aimed at ending
the fighting.

Cyprus braced to take in nearly 10,000 more foreign
evacuees from Lebanon and the United Nations urged
international donors to send aid swiftly to the far greater
numbers of people left behind.

About 14 crowded vessels were expected at the Cypriot ports
of Larnaca and Limassol over the next day or so, part of a
days-old mass evacuation involving dozens of countries from
India to Sweden that shows no sign of slowing.

U.N. relief agencies have called for safe passage to take
in food and medical supplies. An estimated half million people
have fled their homes.

Jan Egeland, the United Nations' emergency relief
coordinator, said at least $100 million was needed to avert a
humanitarian disaster in Lebanon over the coming months.


In the town of Marjayoun, about eight km (5 miles) from the
border, cars packed with people waving white flags fled north,
fearing Israel will step up the war.

Israeli forces had urged residents of 14 villages in south
Lebanon to leave ahead of more air raids.

Resisting growing calls for a ceasefire, the United States
stressed the need to tackle what it sees as the root cause of
the conflict -- Hizbollah's armed presence on Israel's border
and the role of its allies, Syria and Iran.

"Resolving the crisis demands confronting the terrorist
group that launched the attacks and the nations that support
it," President George W. Bush said.

The Haaretz newspaper quoted unnamed senior officials as
saying they believe they have U.S. approval for operations
against Hizbollah for another week.

Israel has built up its forces at the border and called up
3,000 reserves, but has been wary of mounting another invasion
only six years after ending a costly 22-year occupation of the

The army said its forces were continuing to carry out
"pinpoint" operations against specific locations close to the
Israeli border in southern Lebanon.

Already, 20 soldiers have been killed in the latest
conflict. Another 15 civilians have been killed in Hizbollah
rocket attacks since the fighting started.

Israeli air raids hit transmission stations used by several
Lebanese television channels and a mobile telephone mast north
of Beirut, cutting mobile phone services in northern Lebanon.

Israel's army said it hit a Hizbollah radio and TV
transmitter and an antenna relaying frequencies used by
Hizbollah, whose al-Manar television was still broadcasting
after the strikes.

The war started when Hizbollah captured two soldiers and
killed eight in a July 12 raid into Israel, which had already
launched an offensive in the Gaza Strip to try to recover
another soldier seized by Palestinian militants on June 25.

(Additional reporting by Beirut, Jerusalem, Nicosia,
Washington bureaux)