Hezbollah said it fired a new rocket, called the Khaibar-1, striking near the Israeli town of Afula, south of Haifa on Friday, Aljazeera learned.

Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said Hezbollah had fired 97 rockets into Israel on Friday, including an unknown new type that carried 100kg of explosives.

"At least one missile of unknown type carrying around 100kg of explosives hit the town of Afula," Rosenfeld said.

The attacks hit two homes in northern Israel and wounded three people, the army said.

The strikes came two days after Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, said his group would start a new phase in the battle, striking beyond the Israeli city of Haifa.

The area around Afula, 50km south of the Israeli-Lebanese border area, has been struck before, but Israeli security officials said Friday's strikes were the southernmost so far.

Ground battle

In southern Lebanon, heavy fighting continued between Israel and Hezbollah as the Israeli army continued to occupy several small Lebanese villages on Friday afternoon.

However, some Israeli troops around the town of Bint Jbeil had also redeployed towards the Israeli border and the frontier village of Marun al-Ras after heavy fighting with Hezbollah fighters, local police said.

Hezbollah announced that its forces had attacked Israeli military units in Talet Masud district and Marun al-Ras, Aljazeera learned.

Israel's army believes that at least 200 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in the 17 days of fighting in Lebanon, a military source said on Friday.

Hezbollah has announced the death of 32 of its fighters, including two rescue workers, since the fighting broke out.

Air raids

Lebanese police said that Israel had carried out more than 130 air raids on Friday, killing at least 13 people and wounding many more.

The first Israeli bombs fell shortly after dawn, killing two people in their home in the village of Deir Aamiss south of the city of Tyre.

Israeli jets also killed one man when they fired missiles at a building near the southern market town of Nabatiyeh on Friday morning, Lebanese officials said.

A separate Israeli air raid destroyed a deserted four-storey building near the town, a local official said.

The building housed a construction company owned by a Hezbollah member, the officials said.

Hussam Abu Shamet, a Jordanian man in a nearby house, was killed by missile shrapnel in that attack.

Others civilians died elsewhere across southern Lebanon and also in the Bekaa valley where Israel's air force struck at a suspected Hezbollah stockpile of long-range missiles.

At least 450 Lebanese have now died in the 17-day conflict.

On Thursday, Lebanon's health minister estimated that as many as 600 civilians have been killed so far.