Israeli jets continue air attack on Lebanese cities

 

Lebanese walk on the beach as an oil storage facility continues to burn, after being hit in an Israeli missile strike five days ago
Lebanese walk on the beach as an oil storage facility continues to burn, after being hit in an Israeli missile strike five days ago, south of the port city of Sidon in southern Lebanon.

Civilians have taken the brunt of the 12-day war that has cost 365 lives in Lebanon and killed 37 Israelis.

"We have been living in hell," Lebanese farmer Mohammad Zabad, 45, said.

Israeli factory worker Keren Hagigi said he had witnessed horrific scenes after a rocket hit an industrial zone in Haifa. "There were wounded people on the road and a wounded person in the building too. There was terrible destruction," he said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, leaving for the Middle East later in the day, has said she will pursue a lasting solution, not an immediate ceasefire. Washington blames Hizbullah and its allies, Syria and Iran, for the conflict.

Israel's army said it had yet to decide whether to invade Lebanon, while the defence minister said Israel could accept a new NATO-led force in the south to keep Hizbullah at bay.

Syria called for an immediate ceasefire, followed by diplomacy to end the conflict. Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad said Syria was ready for dialogue with the United States.

Israeli warplanes bombed targets in Beirut and east and south Lebanon, killing at least six civilians and wounding about 80, many of them in the southern port of Tyre.

Blasts echoed across Beirut during night-time air strikes on Shia suburbs. Warplanes also destroyed a Shia religious centre in the southern city of Sidon, wounding four people.

A dozen Israeli air raids on the eastern Bekaa Valley killed at least one civilian and wounding seven. Two civilians died in a raid on a southern village. Israeli warplanes also targeted a communications mast near the southern town of Jezzine.

A Lebanese photographer, Layal Najib, was killed near the southern village of Qana during an Israeli bombardment. She was the first fatality among journalists covering the war.

An Italian unarmed UN military observer was wounded during clashes in Maroun al-Ras, a day after the Israeli army said it had captured the southern border village from Hizbullah guerrillas. The Italian army said his life was not in danger.

Hizbullah confirmed the Israelis had taken Maroun al-Ras after fighting in which three guerrillas died, but said the battles had shown that Israel's army was "defeated and useless".

Two people were killed and 15 wounded when Hizbullah rockets slammed into apartments and vehicles in Haifa, Israel's third largest city, which lies 35 km (20 miles) south of the border.

Hizbullah said it had hit Haifa with Raad (Thunder) 2 rockets, which are short-range Iranian-made missiles.

Meanwhile, UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland said the violence must stop to enable major aid efforts to get under way.

"The rockets going into Israel have to stop," he said. "The enormous bombardment that we have seen here with one block after another being levelled has to stop," he said as he toured Beirut's shattered Haret Hreik area, a Hizbullah stronghold.

He said Israeli bombing of the once-crowded Shia district had breached humanitarian law. "It is horrific. I did not know it was block after block of houses," he told reporters.

Mr Egeland, who has estimated that $100 million is urgently needed for relief work in Lebanon, plans to travel to Israel on Tuesday to negotiate safe corridors by air, land and sea.

The war in Lebanon has displaced half a million people. Others are trapped by fighting, especially in border villages.

More than 1,000 Hizbullah rockets have killed 17 Israeli civilians, prompting between a third to a half of all residents in northern Israel to escape the bombardment, officials said.

Twenty Israeli soldiers have also been killed in the conflict, launched when Hizbullah guerrillas seized two soldiers and killed eight in a cross-border raid on July 12.

Defence Minister Amir Peretz said Israel would back the deployment of a NATO-led international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, an idea Israel had earlier brushed aside.