Israel and Hezbollah intensify fighting

Israel and Hezbollah have sharply intensified fighting – an apparent bid to inflict maximum mutual damage in the days remaining before a draft UN ceasefire resolution takes hold.

UN peacekeepers reported 'intense shelling and exchanges'

Israel resumed air strikes on southern Lebanon killing at least five people in the village of Ansar near the port of Sidon early on Sunday morning.

Three other civilians were killed when a missile struck a house in the coastal town of Naqura, close to the border with Israel, police said.

Bridges and roads across Lebanon were also destroyed. Two roads linking the eastern Bekaa plain with Beirut and north Lebanon were hit, as well as two bridges in Akkar province north of the capital.

Two camps of the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were targeted in southeastern Lebanon. No casualties were reported in either raid.

On Saturday, air raids hit Hezbollah strongholds in south Beirut and for the first time struck in the Christian heartland north of the capital, firing rockets at bridges and severing the last major road link to Syria and the outside world.

The UN peacekeeping force in the south of the country, known as UNIFIL, reported what it called “intense shelling and exchanges on the ground” all along the border.

In the most dramatic operation, Israeli commandos battled Hezbollah fighters in a pre-dawn raid on an apartment building in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre.

Both Israel and Hezbollah claimed victory in the Tyre battle – with Israel claiming it was “very successful” in taking out a key unit involved in firing long-range rockets into Israel – including one that hit Hadera – 80km into Israel – on Friday.

The Lebanese military and rescue workers said four civilians and a Lebanese soldier at a nearby checkpoint were killed in the raid.

The Israeli military reported eight soldiers wounded, two seriously.

The Israeli army also said one soldier had been killed and one wounded just inside Lebanon overnight when Hezbollah mortar rounds hit their vehicle. They had been hunting for rocket launchers across the border from the Israeli village of Metula.

Arab television stations said another Israeli soldier was killed and six wounded on Saturday in fighting in south Lebanon.

In northern Israel, Hezbollah rocket attacks killed three people and wounded five on Saturday.

Sidon residents warned

Israeli jets continued pounding targets late Saturday and early on Sunday with strikes near Tyre, the southern market town of Nabatiyeh and two separate roads in the north of the country, both of them leading to Syria.

Sidon is hosting many refugees from fighting farther south
Sidon is hosting many refugees from fighting farther south

Sidon is hosting many refugees
from fighting farther south

Israel warned residents of Sidon to evacuate south Lebanon’s biggest city before planned air strikes on what it said were Hezbollah offices and rocket-launching sites located there.

An Israeli army spokesman said leaflets dropped on Sidon, where the population of 100,000 has been swollen by refugees from fighting further south, had warned all residents to leave.

A local official in Sidon said Hezbollah’s Shia fighters were not present in the mainly Sunni Muslim city.

Traffic was normal in the city and there were no signs large numbers of people were planning to leave.

Kamal Wehbi, a university professor who was jogging on the seafront, said: “Rocket launchers in Sidon? This is a joke, this is psychological warfare from the state of terrorism, I’m staying here and going nowhere.”

Lebanon says a million people, a quarter of the population, have been displaced by the war.

The conflict has killed at least 734 people in Lebanon and 78 Israelis.

Source: News Agencies