Mon, Aug 14, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Israel strikes Beirut ahead of ceasefire

LAST-MINUTE PUSH Israeli jets carried out air raids on several locales while its ground forces battled in southern Lebanon on the final day before a ceasefire goes into effect

AP , BEIRUT

A Lebanese man fixes his country's flag on the rubble of a destroyed building in a suburb in the south of Beirut yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Israeli warplanes pounded south Beirut with at least 20 missiles in a two-minute period yesterday at nearly the exact moment that the Israeli parliament approved a UN ceasefire plan that was to go into effect 17 hours later.

The shells slammed into the hard-hit Dahiyeh suburb, a Hezbollah stronghold just south of Beirut, Lebanese television stations said. There was no immediate casualty report, but al-Arabiya said several buildings were destroyed.

Hezbollah's al-Manar television issued a statement declaring none of the militant group's leadership was in the area at the time of the attack. Voice of Lebanon radio said there were casualties and rescue workers were trying to reach the area.

Earlier, warplanes fired missiles into several gasoline stations in the port city of Tyre and killed at least 11 people in those and other attacks as Israeli jets ranged across the skies above Lebanon from north to south.

Fierce ground fighting continued in the south, where Israel lost 24 soldiers on Saturday, including five on a helicopter shot out of the air by guerrilla fighters.

Israeli missiles rained down as its Cabinet debated and then approved a UN ceasefire resolution that Secretary-General Kofi Annan said would become effective at 8am today. The Lebanese government approved the truce on Saturday night, shortly after Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said his fighters would abide by the agreement but would not stop fighting until all Israeli troops withdrew.

Statements on both sides of the border portend no quick end to the bloody conflict despite the UN-demanded ceasefire. The UN document calls for Israel to withdraw in conjunction with the insertion of a strengthened UN peacekeeping force of about 15,000 troops and an equal number of soldiers from the Lebanese Army. That could take days, perhaps weeks.

Israeli planes attacked villages near Nabatiyeh north of the Litani River nonstop yesterday, killing one man who had survived an airstrike on his car a day earlier.

Huge fires could be seen near the al-Bass Palestinian refugee camp north of Tyre and near the Najem hospital in the city after the filling stations were hit. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the intense series of strikes that began about 11:30am.

Attacks near Lebanese Army bases in the east of Tyre killed at least three people, including a soldier. Earlier, at least five people died -- a woman, her three children and a housemaid -- in a strike that destroyed a building at Bourj el-Chemali, east of the city.

Jets returned to the village about noon and destroyed two more houses near the Lebanese Army post on the road leading to Bourj el-Chemali.

In the Bekaa Valley, security officials reported two people killed and four wounded in an airstrike on Shaath, north of the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek.

Israeli gunners also shelled several positions along the Litani River, according to security officials. Israeli forces reached the river's south bank near the town of Aalmane on Saturday night and flooded the south of the country with troops and armor and inserted commando units near the Litani by helicopter.

Israeli appears to be trying to trap Hezbollah fighters between forces landed near the Litani and the larger force moving in on the ground from the border.

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Israelis turn on Olmert ahead of UN ceasefire

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