Thu, Jul 20, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Israel pounds Lebanon, gets hit by rocket barrage


Israel unleashed fierce air strikes on Lebanon yesterday, killing 56 civilians and a Hezbollah fighter, as thousands of villagers fled north and more foreigners were evacuated to escape the eight-day-old war.

Fierce firefights between Israeli troops and Hezbollah militants also erupted along the western border yesterday as a barrage of rockets struck northern Israel.

The Israeli army confirmed that there was fighting in the area, and said some troops had been wounded, but did not provide any exact details or figures.

Military officials said Israeli troops crossed the border in search of tunnels and weapons. Hezbollah claimed to have "repelled" Israeli forces near the coastal border town of Naqoura. Casualties were reported on both sides.

Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV said two Israeli soldiers had been killed and two wounded in clashes with the Shiite Muslim guerrillas.

Israeli medics said earlier two Israeli soldiers had been wounded in the fighting. The Israeli army had no immediate comment.

Medics in northern Israel said more than 70 rockets had been fired from south Lebanon during the day, although they caused no injuries.

Rockets fell on Haifa and one hit an empty seafront restaurant. A few people were hurt.

Hezbollah said it had also rocketed an Israeli air force base at Ramat David, about 35km inside Israel, and the town of Nahariya.

Despite international diplomatic efforts, there was no sign Israel or its Lebanese Shiite foes were ready to heed the Beirut government's pleas for an immediate halt to a war that has cost at least 285 lives in Lebanon and 25 in Israel.

Hezbollah wants to swap two Israeli soldiers it captured on July 12 for Lebanese and Palestinians in Israeli jails. Israel is determined to drive the guerrillas from the south to halt cross-border rocket attacks.

At least 12 Lebanese, including several children, were killed and 30 wounded in an Israeli air strike that destroyed houses in the southern village of Srifa, residents said.

"There was a massacre in Srifa," said Mayor Afif Najdi, adding the death toll could climb once all the bodies had been recovered.

At least 37 other civilians were killed in air strikes that hammered other parts of south and east Lebanon, security sources said.

Meanwhile, Israeli tanks pushed into Gaza's Maghazi refugee camp yesterday, killing four gunmen and two civilians and wounding 52 people, including 10 children. Five Israeli soldiers were wounded.

In a separate army operation in the West Bank city of Nablus, at least three Palestinians were killed when the army surrounded a prison where wanted militants were apparently hiding, Palestinian officials said.

In two Israeli airstrikes after sunrise, one militant was killed and at least 13 more Palestinians were wounded, hospital officials said.

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Foreigners scramble to flee Lebanon

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