Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Civilians slain as Hezbollah cries war

DOWNWARD SPIRAL Missiles continued to be fired between Israel and Hezbollah fighters, killing innocents, destroying infrastructure and threatening all-out conflict

AGENCIES , TYRE AND BEIRUT, LEBANON, JERUSALEM, WASHINGTON AND PARIS

A burning fuel storage tank hit by Israeli warplanes is seen through the windows of an adjacent elementary school in Jiyyeh, southern Beirut, on Friday.

PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

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.

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.

TARGETS

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.

WAR CRY

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.

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