Heavy fighting raged yesterday in the Lebanese border village of Aita al-Shaab, and Hezbollah television said 35 Israeli soldiers had been killed or wounded in the fighting. Israeli warplanes pounded Shiite Lebanese villages in many areas along the border and struck Hezbollah strongholds deep inside the country.
Arab satellite channels carried live pictures as Israeli forces poured in a relentless bombardment of artillery shells on Aita al-Shaab, the town from which Hezbollah guerrillas crossed the border on July 12 and captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three others, igniting the conflict.
Al-Manar TV, the Hezbollah-run channel, reported that guerrilla fighters had Israeli forces pinned down and unable to evacuate their wounded. That seemingly prompted the heavy renewed fighting. Huge clouds of smoke rose above the village and artillery concussions echoed across the valleys.
The Hezbollah television said fighters had ambushed Israeli soldiers near the town's main school building. Israeli authorities have not publicly commented on the Al-Manar claim of casualties.
Earlier yesterday Israeli jets struck Hezbollah strongholds deep inside the country and civilian areas along the Mediterranean coast.
Not far to the east of Aita al-Shaab, a reporter on a hilltop overlooking the village of Kfar Kila saw columns of black smoke rising from the cluster of homes and surrounding hills about 2km from the Israeli border.
At least three airstrikes hit the area, and the thud of artillery shells from Israeli ground troops was constant. About 20 shells landed in the hills around Kfar Kila in the course of 45 minutes.
Israel's Cabinet late on Monday approved a major expansion of its ground offensive, deciding to send troops up to the Litani River, some 30km from the Israeli border.
A Lebanese government official yesterday denounced that decision, saying Israel was repeating the same mistakes it made in the past 30 years by invading the area.
``This will not help [Israel] achieve the security that it is looking for,'' the official said on condition of anonymity.