Hezbollah's Deadliest Attack Yet - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Hezbollah's Deadliest Attack Yet

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Hezbollah guerrillas unleashed their deadliest barrage of rockets into northern Israel on Sunday, killing 11 people and wounding 14, while Israeli bombardment killed a dozen people in Lebanon as fighting intensified despite a draft U.N. cease-fire resolution.

Israeli jets fired six missiles into Beirut's southern suburbs Sunday afternoon, Lebanese security officials said. Loud explosions shook the capital, and a column of white smoke rose over the horizon.

Hezbollah and its allies rejected the U.S.-French text of the U.N. resolution, saying its terms for a halt in fighting did not address Lebanon's demands - in a signal that the nearly 4-week-old battle would burn on.

Both sides appeared to be aiming to inflict maximum mutual damage in the few days before the resolution is expected to be voted on by the U.N. Security Council.

Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets at Israeli towns, with one making a direct hit on a crowd at the entrance of the communal farm of Kfar Giladi.

Ten people were killed outright in the explosion, and another died a few hours later from his wounds, Israeli emergency services said. It was the highest toll from a rocket attack since the conflict began July 12. Israel's Channel Two television said nine of the dead were army reservists.

When word of the rocket strike reached the Israeli Cabinet during its weekly meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "Lucky that we are dealing with Hezbollah today, and not in another two or three years," according to a participant in the meeting.

In southern Lebanon, dozens of Israeli strikes hit communities and roads, with some villages bombed continually for a half hour, security officials said. Ground fighting raged along a stretch of southern Lebanon where the Israeli army has crossed the border.

A statement from Hezbollah announced the deaths of three of its fighters, but did not say when or where they were killed.

A Hezbollah rocket blast also injured three Chinese peacekeepers Sunday, China's state media reported, citing a Chinese officer. The report did not specify where the attack occurred or whether the peacekeepers had been hospitalized.

The attack came hours after Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a telephone conversation that the world body should take tangible measures to ensure the security of U.N. peacekeepers, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

The U.S.-French agreement Saturday on a U.N. resolution calling for "a full cessation of hostilities" marked a significant advance after weeks of stalled diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict.

But getting the two sides - particularly Hezbollah - to sign on will likely require a greater push. Israel has said it won't halt its offensive until Hezbollah rockets are silenced.

The plan envisions a second resolution in a week or two that would authorize an international military force for the Israel-Lebanon frontier and the creation of a large buffer zone in southern Lebanon, monitored by the Lebanese army and foreign peacekeepers.

The deployment of the international force is a cornerstone of the U.S.-led Western effort to bring a long-term peace.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed the resolution was aimed at stopping the large-scale violence to allow a focus on the underlying problems in the conflict.

"It's the first step, not the only step," she said at a news conference in Washington.

"We're trying to deal with a problem that has been festering and brewing in Lebanon now for years and years and years," Rice said.

Lebanon's parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, who represents the Shiite Islamic militant group in negotiations, said the draft was unacceptable because it would leave Israeli troops in Lebanon and did not deal with Beirut's key demands - a release of prisoners held by Israel and moves to resolve a dispute over a piece of border territory.

"If Israel has not won the war but still gets all this, what would have happened had they won?" Berri said. "Lebanon, all of Lebanon, rejects any talks and any draft resolution" that do not address the Lebanese demands, he said.

The Lebanese government said Saturday that it objected to portions of the draft resolution and demanded some amendments, but an aide to Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said that did not mean a flat rejection.

Hezbollah's two key allies, Iran and Syria, also rejected the resolution - suggesting they backed a continued fight by the guerrillas.

"The United States, which has been supporting the Zionist regime until today, has no right to enter the crisis as a mediator," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a phone conversation with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Assad said the presence of international troops with extensive power in Lebanon would cause anarchy in the country, according to a report on Ahmadinejad's official Web site.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, on his first visit to Lebanon since Damascus ended a 29-year military presence in its smaller neighbor last year, declared that the U.S.-French cease-fire plan was "a recipe for the continuation of the war" unless Israeli troops withdrew.

An Israeli airstrike killed a Lebanese army intelligence officer and wounded seven soldiers at Mansouri, about 6 miles south of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast, security officials said. They said five other Lebanese soldiers were wounded in Debbin, about 6 miles north of the Israeli border. Earlier, the same officials mistakenly reported those soldiers dead.

Israeli missiles also flattened a house in the village of Ansar, near the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, killing a man and four of his relatives, security officials said. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television later said a sixth body had been found, but officials could not confirm that.

Another strike overnight killed three people in al-Jibbain, a village about three miles from the Israeli border, civil defense officials said.

A rocket fired by a pilotless aircraft blasted a van carrying bread near Tyre, killing its driver, said Salam Daher, a civil defense official in the southern port city. Another person was killed in the town of Naqoura, near the border on the Mediterranean coast.

Israel also bombed two camps of a Palestinian militant group in Lebanon, the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The group reported one person killed in the attack.

Hezbollah's long-range missile launchers are in the areas of Tyre and Sidon, but there was no indication a raging Israeli air assault over the last 24 hours significantly eroded the group's capabilities to hit deep into Israel, said Ryszard Morczynski, a U.N. peacekeeping official in Naqoura.

Arab foreign ministers planned a Monday meeting in Beirut that could see a stormy debate over the draft U.N. resolution. U.S.-allied Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are eager for a halt to the fighting - but their citizens would be angered if they were perceived as forcing a surrender on Hezbollah.

For Hezbollah, the resolution would be a tough pill to swallow, particularly language calling for the "unconditional release" of two Israeli soldiers captured by the guerrillas in a cross-border raid July 12. The abduction prompted the Israeli offensive in Lebanon.

The Israeli army announced Sunday that it had captured one of the Hezbollah guerrillas involved in the abudction raid.

So far, at least 590 people have died in Lebanon, including 507 civilians, 29 members of the army, one Palestinian militant and 53 guerrillas acknowledged dead by Hezbollah. Israeli security officials told the Cabinet on Sunday they had confirmed the deaths of 165 Hezbollah fighters and estimated 200 more had been killed, according to a participant in the meeting.

The toll in Israel stood at 90 dead - 44 killed by rocket attacks and the rest soldiers killed in the fighting.

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