Israeli bombs, Hezbollah rockets keep coming

story.mideast.01.gi.gifAt least six Israeli bombs fell on the coastal city of Tyre in a 20-minute span Sunday morning, killing one civilian and wounding at least 20 others.

Israeli airstrikes also hit southern Beirut, and Israel Defense Forces said it struck a building that “serves Hezbollah” in the town of Sidon.

Meanwhile, a barrage of rockets landed in and around the Israeli port city of Haifa Sunday morning, killing at least two people and wounding 11, witnesses and local officials said.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said two people were killed by the rockets, including a person in a woodworking factory and the driver of a car.

Among the critically wounded in Tyre were two children — a 9-year-old and an 8- month-old — injured when a rocket hit their family’s car. Their father was killed, CNN was told at a hospital where the wounded were taken.

Huge columns of smoke rose on the horizon about two miles east and south of the center of the city.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Beirut. Lebanese media reported three people were injured in Sidon.

Israeli officials have said Israel doesn’t intend a full-scale ground invasion in Lebanon, but instead will continue pinpoint attacks on specific targets.

It is believed that Israel has as many as 5,000 soldiers massed at its border with Lebanon.

At least 267 Lebanese people have been killed in the fighting, and 631 wounded, according to Lebanese officials. Hezbollah attacks have killed seven Israeli civilians and 20 soldiers and wounded more than 300 civilians and more than 60 soldiers, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Diplomatic efforts

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza prepared to leave for the Middle East later on Sunday.

Rice and President Bush were scheduled to meet with Saudi officials before her departure.

Rice has said she won’t be pursuing a cease-fire at the moment. Speaking at the State Department last week, she said Hezbollah is the source of the problem in Lebanon and a cease-fire “will be a false promise if it returns us to the status quo.”

Israel said Sunday that a multi-national peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon is acceptable as a solution to the current Mideast crisis.

The idea was broached by Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday, a ministry spokesman said.

On Saturday, Israeli forces took control of the southern Lebanon village of Maroun al-Ras. The Israeli military said the seizure was a “first foothold” in an effort to create a security buffer and spare Israeli civilians from cross-border rocket attacks. Maroun al-Ras is a few kilometers from the Israeli town of Avivim.

Israel has repeatedly stressed that it has no plans to reoccupy southern Lebanon, after dismantling its security zone in Lebanon six years ago.

U.N. relief chief: Can’t get supplies to southern Lebanon

U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland toured the rubble-littered streets of southern Beirut on Sunday and complained about the lack of safe routes for humanitarian relief supplies.

“We do not have free access at the moment,” he said. “We do not have security for our trucks. We do not have security for our relief people.”

The United Nations has purchased 50 trucks and a ship that can travel from Cyprus to Beirut, then to the port city of Tyre, he said. The problem, however, is the lack of security.

On Monday the United Nations will launch a $100 million fundraising campaign to appeal to donors to help the Lebanese people, he said.

Egeland will also negotiate the establishment of humanitarian corridors on Monday in hopes that trucks can head south quickly to bring people supplies.

“There are people dying in hospitals because they do not have enough supplies, and it’s our obligation to help now,” he said.

U.S. embassy urges Americans to leave

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut urged Americans who have not left Lebanon to do so. Early Sunday there was no wait for U.S. government-assisted boat transport out of Lebanon, embassy officials said.

Those wishing to be evacuated by helicopter may have to wait “a number of days” because slots are scarce, the embassy said.

The U.S. consul in Beirut said most Americans who want to leave Lebanon have done so already, The Associated Press reported.

“We are now in the latter stages of transporting Americans who wish to depart Lebanon. We believe most Americans have done so,” U.S. Consul William Gill told AP.

Other developments

 

  • A U.N. observer was wounded as a result of gunfire exchange between Hezbollah militants and the Israel Defense Forces, according to an official with UNIFIL (U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon). 

     

  • Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday renewed his appeal for an immediate cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon and encouraged all sides to start negotiations, The Associated Press reported
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