Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hezbollah Bombards Northern Israel

Hezbollah bombards northern Israel

Wednesday 02 August 2006 3:03 PM GMT

Some 190 Hezbollah rockets hit northern Israel on Wednesday

Hezbollah fighters have fired a barrage of rockets into northern Israel as the group fought up to 6,000 Israeli troops across five fronts in southern of Lebanon.

Some 190 Hezbollah rockets - the most fired in a single day so far in the conflict - were fired across the border from Lebanon hitting further south than ever before, police and Israeli radio reports said.

Rockets landed near the Israeli town of Beit Shean, about 70km from the border and in the West Bank near the town of Jenin.

One US-born Israeli was killed as he fled for a bomb shelter in Kibbutz Saar, a communal farm near the northern border town of Nahariya. 19 Israeli civilians have died during rocket attacks in the last three weeks.

At least 21 people were wounded during Wednesday's rocket attacks, a police spokesman said.

The rocket barrage came after a two-day lull and claims by Israeli officials that they had considerably weakened Hezbollah’s military capability.

The northern Israeli village of Beit Hillel was hit just before Israel's army chief, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, spoke to reporters there.

Hezbollah 'damaged'

Halutz said Israel has dealt the Hezbollah a damaging blow, including killing hundreds of fighters and damaging their supplies of medium and long-range rockets. He said the army would also consider renewing its airstrikes deep into Lebanon.

"We will need to evaluate the airstrikes in the depth of Lebanon, especially in Beirut," Halutz said. "I assume the matter will come up for authorisation in the next day or two."

Five Israeli soldiers were wounded as they clashed with Hezbollah fighters on five fronts in south Lebanon on Wednesday, the army said. Israeli warplanes and artillery struck as tanks led soldiers into border villages.

Three of the soldiers were injured in fighting near the village of Mhaibib, in the southeast corner of Lebanon, an army spokesman said.

The other two were injured near the border village of Aita al-Shaab, further to the west, where three Israeli soldiers were killed and 25 injured in clashes with Hezbollah on Tuesday.

Thirty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive on July 12.

Baalbek raid

The upsurge in rocket attacks followed a raid by on a Hezbollah-run hospital near Baalbek by Israeli troops in helicopters. The army said five suspected Hezbollah fighters were seized. Hezbollah said only civilians were taken.

Aljazeera's correspondent in Beirut said the raid was targeting Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah.

At least 13 civilians were killed when Israeli warplanes hit Jammaliyeh, a village near Baalbek, and six died in air strikes elsewhere in the Bekaa Valley, security sources said.

A Lebanese army soldier was also killed and two were wounded in an Israeli airstrike on their post in the south, the army said.

At least 643 people in Lebanon and 55 Israelis have been killed in the conflict which has now entered its fourth week.

Aljazeera + Agencies
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Baalbek after the bombs

by Christian Henderson in Baalbek
Wednesday 02 August 2006 10:57 PM GMT

Driving a truck has become a risky business

Baalbek is usually a festive town in August, a place where Arab and world culture is celebrated.

But when Aljazeera visited this week after several days of intense Israeli aerial bombardment, inhabitants of the city were on edge.

The road running through the Bekaa valley, to the east of Beirut, was almost empty and a series of petrol stations on the city’s outskirts had been bombed.

As we parked and walked towards the town’s historic centre a Hezbollah member carrying a handheld radio quickly approached us and politely asked if we "needed help".

Explaining that we were journalists visiting from Beirut we asked if we could see some of the sites that had been hit in Israeli air strikes.

Baalbek is often referred to as a Hezbollah "stronghold" but the town also has a large Christian population and it normally hosts an international festival in the spectacular Roman ruins that lie in the heart of the city.

Yet Hezbollah are indeed strong here and in the 1980s party members were trained by Iranian revolutionary guards stationed in the town.

Willing guides

Now, after three weeks of war, Hezbollah has seemingly taken the town’s security into their own hands.

The man asked us to accompany him to a place where more men with radios took our passports and recorded our names. They apologised for the measures and said they were happy to show us the city.

Our guide said "a tour in the town is no problem but we can’t take you up to see the 'centres'", a reference to sensitive Hezbollah sites on a hill above the city.

Around 250 houses and buildings had been destroyed in Israeli air raids and we saw a number of devastated houses, schools, and religious buildings. Many of the institutions were run by charitable organisations that are close to Hezbollah but none of them showed any signs of being of any military use.

Most of what we saw were civilian houses, clearly
identifiable by the teddy bears and children’s toys,
kitchen utensils and belongings strewn in the debris.


We could hear the sound of Israeli drones flying over the town.

Casting a glance up to the sky our guide laughed: "The MKs are taking a photo of you taking a photo of that building."

MKs, as they are known in Arabic, are predator drones used by the Israelis to record the GPS coordinates of targets, although larger versions carry small missiles.

While at another bomb sight our guide received a report on his radio that Israeli F-16s were nearing the city.

He said: "You should go now. It's not safe."

Leaving the town we stopped at the liban lait milk factory which had been destroyed by the Israelis in an attack two weeks earlier.

A plume of smoke was still rising between the mangled metal. Swarms of flies had been attracted to the pools of rotting milk.

Factory target

The Bekaa has sometimes been called the "hidden front" in this war and more than 100 civilians from this agricultural region have been killed in Israeli air strikes.

At least five factories in the area have been destroyed resulting in the loss of around 1,500 jobs. The main border crossing between Lebanon and Syria is now closed following repeated attacks and the main road between Beirut and Damascus is deserted.

Further south of Baalbek, we reach the outskirts of the town of Chatura and are met by the remains of the second biggest glass factory in the Middle East.

Salah Barake, one of the managers of the plant, took us up onto part of the roof that remained standing so we could look directly into the wreckage.

Lunch break

Huge craters had been left by the five or six missiles that had ploughed through the metal, glass and machinery. The factory was Indian owned and two Indian workers were killed in the attack.

Barake said: "It’s a miracle more people were not killed. It was just luck that most of them were having lunch when the Israelis hit.

"I don’t know why they hit this factory. It was a good clean business. It had nothing to do with either Muslims or Christians. In two minutes only, 42 years of work have been finished and everything has been lost."

As the afternoon gets late we decide to leave. Climbing back up the mountain road that leads to Beirut we pass bombed out trucks the Israelis believed were carrying arms to Hezbollah.

Driving a lorry is now a risky business and in a futile attempt to avoid being targeted drivers have attached white flags or the banners of big multinational corporations to their vehicles.

When we reach Beirut later that evening we hear the news that an Israeli commando unit raided Baalbek abducting six and killing 11.

Clearly the town's state of unease was justified.

By Christian Henderson in Baalbek
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Israeli 'hackers' target Hezbollah TV

Wednesday 02 August 2006 12:10 PM GMT

Nasrallah's photo caption read: Hezbollah member - watch out

A series of pictures and statements, apparently from Israeli-backed hackers, have appeared on Lebanon's Hezbollah-run television station, some showing pictures of corpses and others labelling the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, as a liar.

One of the images shown on al-Manar television portrayed the body of a fighter lying face-down, wearing khaki trousers with a text in Arabic beneath: "This is the photograph of a body of a member of Hezbollah's special forces."

"Nasrallah lies: it is not us that is hiding our losses," continued the text, which appeared during the evening news and stayed on screen for several minutes.

A photograph of Nasrallah himself also appeared with the legend: "member of Hezbollah: watch out."

Another photograph of corpses was framed by the words: "there are a large number of corpses like this on the ground and Nasrallah is hiding this truth."

Psychological war

Israel also recently hacked into FM radio stations and instead of normal programmes a two-minute recording was repeatedly broadcast.

"Hassan sent men to fight the Israeli army, an army of steel, without preparing them. Stop listening to patriotic hymns for a moment, reflect and bring your feet back to the ground," said the Arabic message.

Israel has reportedly used a variety of technological weapons to add a psychological dimension to its war in Lebanon.

Lebanese mobile phone users have also received text and voice messages saying the Israeli offensive was aimed against Hezbollah and not the Lebanese people.

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