Israeli air strikes killed at least 27 civilians yesterday as Israel battered Lebanon for a fourth straight day to punish it for letting Syrian and Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters menace its northern border.
US President George W. Bush, who has declined to urge Israel to curb its attacks, said Syria should tell Hezbollah to stop cross-border attacks from Lebanon's mainly Shiite Muslim south, as Hezbollah's leader called for open war.
Eighteen civilians, including nine children, were burnt alive in an Israeli helicopter gunship attack yesterday on residents fleeing border villages in south Lebanon, UN peacekeepers and hospital sources said. The van was carrying families fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israeli loudspeaker warnings to leave their homes. Seven of the dead were from a single family.
PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE
Israeli aircraft also destroyed the main Hezbollah office in Beirut, a nine-story building, and attacked roads, bridges and petrol stations in north, east and south Lebanon, killing at least 12 people and wounding 32, security sources said.
Israel's campaign, launched after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight on Wednesday, has killed 93 people, all but two of whom were civilians, and paralyzed the Lebanese economy.
It aims not just to force Hezbollah to free the soldiers, but to destroy its ability to launch rocket attacks on northern Israel, where four civilians have been killed this week.
French President Jacques Chirac and some other world leaders have sharply criticized Israel's assault on Lebanon as disproportionate. They have also condemned Hezbollah's tactics.
The Israeli army said yesterday it had struck about 150 targets in Lebanon so far, fewer than a dozen of them linked directly to Hezbollah. Most have hit civilian installations.
Israeli army chief Dan Halutz said on Friday that more targets would be bombed in a bid to remove Hezbollah from the border and replace it with a force answering to the Lebanese government.
He said Israel was also telling the Lebanese that "they swallowed a cancer that has to be regurgitated, and if not this country will pay a price as in the past" -- an allusion to Israel's 1982 invasion to drive out Palestinian guerrillas.
Israel was bombarding roads in the north and east to try to seal Lebanon's land border with Syria. It has already bombed Beirut's international airport and blockaded Lebanese ports.
Well over 100,000 people, many of them tourists, have fled to Syria since Israel's attack on Lebanon began, border officials said.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking shortly after Israeli jets destroyed his Beirut home, declared open war on Israel following its bombardment of his Beirut home and stronghold.
"You wanted open war. We are going to open war," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah also said his fighters had hit an Israeli warship off Beirut.
The Israeli military recovered the body of one of four sailors reported missing after the warship was hit.
Israeli military commander Brigadier General Ido Nehushtan said the body was found at sea. A military source said Hezbollah had launched an Iranian-made missile at the vessel.
A senior Israeli intelligence official said yesterday that Iranian troops helped Hezbollah fire the missile that damaged the warship.
The official said about 100 Iranian soldiers are in Lebanon and helped fire the Iranian-made, radar-guided C-102 missile.
Initially, it was thought that Hezbollah used a drone to attack the ship. The Israeli intelligence official did say that Hezbollah does have drones and warned that they are more accurate than missiles.
Several Hezbollah rockets hit the Israeli town of Tiberias yesterday, the furthest they have landed so far. No casualties were reported in the town, 35km from the border, but several people were slightly wounded in other rocket attacks.
Israeli officials warned yesterday that Hezbollah has missiles that could reach as far as 100km to 200km into the country, putting cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv at risk if they are used.
A senior Israeli intelligence official said that Hezbollah has 150 missiles that could reach a distance of 45km, and another 20 with a range of 100km to 200km.
"They may hit Tel Aviv," the official said, adding that Israeli intelligence officials were not sure why Hezbollah has not used the missiles since it started firing rockets at Israel.
An army spokesman said that since Wednesday, more than 350 Katyusha rockets have been fired into Israel, including 40 on Saturday, and have killed four people and injured about 60.
Arab foreign ministers discussed the crisis in Cairo, but it was not clear what they could do. Syria has pledged to back Hezbollah and Lebanon against Israel's "barbaric aggression." Saudi Arabia has blamed Hezbollah for "uncalculated adventures."
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on Friday accused Israel of cutting his country into pieces and demanded an immediate ceasefire.
In an interview with CNN, Siniora said Lebanon was being punished for something in which it had no hand -- the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of eight more.
"Israel is continuing its aggression against Lebanon and the Lebanese," Siniora said. "It's sparing nobody, in no area of Lebanon. Actually it is cutting the country into pieces, whereby more than 20 bridges in the country have been destroyed."
Siniora also accused Israel of being careless about civilian lives and of trying to cripple his recovering country's economy.
Foreign governments were drawing up contingency plans yesterday to evacuate their nationals from Lebanon.
France, Italy and Sweden followed Britain's lead on Friday in preparing a voluntary evacuation of their citizens, mainly by land to Syria or by ferry to Cyprus.
The US State Department also said it was working on a plan with the Pentagon to transport Americans to Cyprus, where they can board commercial aircraft for onward travel.
also see stories:
Israeli PM taking an enormous gamble
Gunmen seize Iraqi Olympic chief
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
BRIBERY CASE: President Tsai Ing-wen accepted Su Jia-chyuan’s resignation as he said that he deeply regretted causing trouble for the president due to the investigation Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) yesterday resigned after his nephew, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清), was implicated in a bribery case related to a dispute over the ownership of Pacific Sogo Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨). “I resigned from the post so that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would not be bothered by it anymore, and the prosecutors can investigate the case in a fair and just manner. I thank President Tsai once again for supporting me. May the country continue to prosper under her leadership,” Su Jia-chyuan said in a statement. The Presidential Office said that Tsai has accepted
‘INCREASINGLY FAVORED’: Taiwan’s ‘transparent laws and efficient courts’ as well as its financial institutions give it a major advantage to become a financial hub, Tsai said Taiwan would liberalize banking and investment rules to establish itself as a regional financial hub, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told the Taiwan Capital Market Forum in Taipei yesterday. Recent world events could be an opening for Taiwan to become an international center for business investments and financial management, Tsai said at the forum, which was organized by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister publication of the Taipei Times). “We’re facing unknowns in the world right now, including the continuing impact of US-China trade tensions and the reorganization of the global supply chain after COVID-19,” Tsai said. “These bring new challenges and opportunities.” Tsai
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would