Israeli bombs again pummel Beirut suburbs

Bridges north of the capital also taken out
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) — Israel launched a second straight day of airstrikes on the Lebanese capital on Friday, targeting an area known as a stronghold of Hezbollah militants but also taking out bridges north of the city.
Most of the targets were in the Oozaee area, a Hezbollah power base and also the location of several Palestinian refugee camps.

But for the first time in the conflict, Israel further isolated the capital by targeting major routes north of Beirut, knocking out four bridges.

The bridges targeted were Madfoun, Fidar-Halat, Casino and Maameltain. Their destruction paralyzed traffic from the north into Beirut, according to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.

Other roads were open, but Lebanese Internal Security Forces prohibited traffic in fear of renewed strikes, LBC said.

The airstrike on Maameltain bridge left two Lebanese wounded, who were in vehicles on the bridge in a Christian neighborhood of eastern Beirut, LBC reported. Arab television station Al-Jazeera reported four were wounded in the airstrike.

Israeli missiles also struck Ibrahim Abdel Aal power plant, which provides most of the western Bekaa valley and southern Lebanon with power, LBC reported.

Late Thursday, Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets over several Beirut neighborhoods warning residents to leave “for your own safety.”

The leaflets warned of an expansion of the Israeli campaign in Beirut because Hezbollah continues to fire rockets into Israel and because of statements made Thursday by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. (Watch as the leaflets are dropped on the neighborhoods — :43)

“The expansion of terrorist operations by Hezbollah will lead to a painful and harsh response and the results will be painful not only for Hassan’s gang and its criminals,” the leaflets read.

On Thursday, Nasrallah vowed to strike Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israel’s bombardment of the Lebanese capital.

“If you hit Beirut, the Islamic resistance will hit Tel Aviv and is able to do that with God’s help,” Nasrallah said in a televised address. (Watch the hunt for the Hezbollah leader — 2:04)

It was unclear if Nasrallah’s address was live or taped. (See photos of a Beirut neighborhood before and after Israeli airstrikes)

Israeli military sources told CNN that if Hezbollah did strike Tel Aviv, Israel would target the Lebanese infrastructure. A spokesman for Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz declined comment.

Also, as diplomats struggle to come up with an agreement that could end the fighting, Hezbollah’s press officer told CNN that a cease-fire will not stop the militant group from fighting Israeli soldiers “on our soil” — land that Hezbollah defines as encompassing the disputed Shebaa Farms region, occupied by Israel.

“No one can stop us from fighting the Israeli soldiers on our soil as long as there is one occupied meter of land,” Hussein Rahal said. “Even if there is a cease-fire.”

Hezbollah has stated in the past that it will not disarm until Israeli troops leave Shebaa Farms, a small sliver of land near the Lebanon-Syria border that Israel seized from Syria during the 1967 Middle East War. (Watch Muslim leaders meet on the crisis — 2:06)
Rice: ‘All want an end to the hostility’

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CNN that Israelis “have their own capabilities to deal with these threats.”

“The international community needs to say to Hezbollah that these kinds of threats are also not helpful at a time when the international community, the Lebanese people, the Israeli people, all want an end to the hostility,” she told “Larry King Live” in a taped interview to be broadcast Thursday night.

Nasrallah also offered an olive branch in his lengthy statement, saying Hezbollah would stop rocket attacks on Israel if Israel stops its attacks in Lebanon.

“You attack our cities, our villages, our civilians, our capital, we will react,” he said. “At any time you decide to stop your aggressions on our villages and towns and cities and our civilians, we will not hit any settlement or any Israeli city.”

His comments came shortly after media reports that Israel’s defense minister has ordered generals to prepare to push up to 18 miles into Lebanon, up to the Litani River, The Associated Press reported.

Cabinet approval would be needed for the advance, Israeli media reported.

Israeli forces are now stationed across 11 villages in southern Lebanon, according to the IDF, trying to clear Hezbollah from a five-mile-wide security zone before any international peacekeepers are deployed, AP reported.

Hezbollah pounded northern Israel with more than 200 rockets Thursday, killing eight people and injuring several, Israeli police said, after Israel resumed airstrikes on Beirut’s suburbs.

Four were killed in Akko, Israel, just north of Haifa, and three died in the Maalot area, which is closer to the Lebanese border, police said. (Watch the aftermath of missile attack on Akko — 2:04)

Nasrallah said in his TV address that his forces were inflicting “maximum casualties” on Israeli ground troops.

Lebanese officials reported four civilian deaths Thursday from Israeli missile strikes in south Lebanon, according to the AP.

As of mid-Thursday, 642 Lebanese civilians and soldiers have died and 2,315 have been wounded in the three-week-old Israeli military offensive against the Hezbollah militia, according to Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces.

As of the same time, Israel has reported 68 deaths, including 27 civilians.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed in Thursday’s fighting in southern Lebanon, the IDF said.

The IDF said its ground forces killed four Hezbollah fighters in the western part of southern Lebanon on Thursday. (Watch one of ‘the most dangerous places’ on the border — 3:40)

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said more than 1 million people, a quarter of Lebanon’s population, have been displaced, according to AP.
Truce talks

On the diplomatic front, France circulated a revised draft resolution for the United Nations Security Council on Thursday calling for an immediate halt to the fighting and spelling out conditions for a permanent cease-fire in Lebanon.

The U.S. State Department said it hoped for a cease-fire resolution by Friday, but U.S. diplomats were prepared to work into the weekend to achieve a deal.

A sticking point has been the timing of a cease-fire. France and other European countries support Lebanon’s call for an immediate cease-fire. The United States and Britain have said an immediate cease-fire would not eliminate the long-term threat that Hezbollah imposes on Israel. (Watch how diplomacy is gaining momentum — 2:02)

U.N. diplomats are discussing a two-pronged solution to ending the conflict. The first step would be the cessation of hostilities followed by the deployment of a rapid-reaction force to southern Lebanon, according to U.N. and diplomatic sources speaking on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing.

Then, a more expanded group of peacekeepers would be deployed with a mandate to enforce a more permanent cease-fire and establish a buffer zone, the sources said.

Israel began its operation after Hezbollah militants crossed into northern Israel, kidnapped two soldiers and killed three others July 12.

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