August 3, 2006

Hizbollah kills 12 in deadliest day for Israel

By Andrew Marshall

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hizbollah guerrillas killed eight people
in a rocket barrage on Israel and four Israeli soldiers in
clashes in Lebanon on Thursday, the deadliest day of the war
for Israel in 23 days of fighting.

As world powers struggled to agree on a U.N. resolution to
end the fighting, both sides threatened to escalate the war.

In a televised speech, Hizbollah leader Sayyed Hassan
Nasrallah said the group would target Tel Aviv if Israel
attacked central Beirut. Israeli television quoted a senior
military source as saying Israel would destroy Lebanon's
infrastructure if that threat was carried out.

"If you strike Beirut, the Islamic Resistance will strike
Tel Aviv and it is able to do so," Nasrallah said, in the first
apparent confirmation that Hizbollah has longer-range missiles
capable of hitting the city 130 km (80 miles) from the border.

Despite an intensive air and ground campaign to wipe them
out, Hizbollah guerrillas continue to unleash rockets and
battle Israeli troops on the ground in Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the war had
killed 900 people in Lebanon and wounded 3,000, with a third of
the casualties children under 12. He said a million Lebanese, a
quarter of the population, had been displaced and
infrastructure devastated. The Reuters tally of Lebanon deaths
is at least 686.

Sixty-eight Israelis have been killed in the war including
41 soldiers. The military said the four soldiers killed on
Thursday died in two attacks with anti-tank missiles.

The Israeli army has carved out a "security zone" of 20
villages in south Lebanon up to six km (four miles) from the
border and will stay until an international force arrives,
Israeli television said.


The United States, France and Britain hope for a U.N.
Security Council resolution within days that would call for a
truce and maybe strengthen existing U.N. peacekeepers until a
more robust force can be formed, U.N. officials said.

The State Department said it still hoped for an agreement
by Friday on a resolution to end the fighting.

But splits between the United States and France, a possible
leader of the new force, over the timing of a ceasefire have
complicated diplomatic efforts to halt the war.

France's U.N. ambassador said he was less confident that a
Security Council resolution could be adopted within days.

"Yesterday morning I was confident that we could have a
resolution adopted in the coming days, but by the end of the
day I was less confident," Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said.

The Lebanon war, which erupted after Hizbollah snatched two
Israeli soldiers in a raid across the border on July 12, has
coincided with an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip to
recover another captured soldier and halt Palestinian rocket

Israeli forces killed five Palestinian gunmen and three
civilians, including a 10-year-old boy, in the Gaza Strip on
Thursday, witnesses said. Israel's offensive in the Strip,
which it quit last year, has cost at least 161 Palestinian

Israeli aircraft launched strikes on 70 targets in southern
Lebanon and Beirut overnight.

Jets bombed Hizbollah-dominated suburbs of Beirut for the
first time in days overnight and hit a bridge in the northern
Akkar region, as well as targets in the eastern Bekaa Valley
and roads near the Syrian border, a Lebanese security source

Planes repeatedly bombed targets around the southern town
of Nabatiyeh and shelling cut a road in the southern Bekaa
Valley. Heavy Israeli air strikes and shelling also hit the
area around the southern village of Blat, north of Marjayoun.

Two Lebanese civilians were killed in an Israeli air strike
on a car in a village east of Tyre, and an air raid near
Baalbek in the Bekaa valley killed one, security sources said.


Israel is expanding the ground war in southern Lebanon.
Seven brigades, or up to 10,000 troops, were fighting Hizbollah
on Thursday, Israeli army radio said. Israel's Channel Two
television said Defense Minister Amir Peretz asked the army to
prepare for a possible push north to Lebanon's Litani river.

U.N. peacekeepers of the UNIFIL force said the Israelis had
made two new incursions into Lebanon in the past 24 hours and
kept hold of five other areas previously seized.

A Lebanese security source said 80 Hizbollah fighters had
been killed so far -- well below the Israeli estimate.

An Israeli inquiry into Sunday's bombing of Qana, where up
to 54 Lebanese civilians died, said the military had made a
mistake, but accused Hizbollah of using civilians as human
shields. Amnesty International said the probe was inadequate.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in remarks
published on Thursday he expected a U.N. vote on a truce next

The United States and France, diplomats said, are ironing
out differences on an initial resolution calling for a truce, a
buffer zone and the disarmament of Hizbollah.

But Paris has insisted it will not send troops without a
truce and an agreement in principle on the framework for a
long-term peace deal by Israel, Hizbollah and the Beirut
government. Washington wants a force as soon as fighting stops.

Once fighting ended, talks would begin at the U.N. on a
second resolution for a permanent ceasefire all combatants
could accept and authorizing an international force in the

(Additional reporting by Jerusalem, Damascus, U.N. and
Milan bureaux)