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G-8 Leaders Denounce Hezbollah Attacks on Israel


Israeli military planes bombed the port of the Lebanese capital of Beirut and other sites in Lebanon Monday. It was the sixth day of an offensive against the Hezbollah militant group. Meanwhile, political leaders at the G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia denounced the attacks on Israel by Hezbollah.

Israeli missiles struck Lebanon Monday in a massive retaliation after Hezbollah rockets hit the Israeli city of Haifa a day earlier, killing eight people. Officials say more than three dozen people died during Israeli airstrikes. They included at least eight Lebanese soldiers and 10 civilians in southern Lebanon. The officials say the attacks on the capital of Beirut hit a fuel depot, factories, and civilian installations.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Israeli parliament the fighting would end when two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah are freed, rocket attacks on Israel have stopped, and the Lebanese army is deployed along the border.

Iran and Syria are the main supporters of Hezbollah. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has called for a ceasefire and a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah. The militant group has offered to swap the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers for an unspecified number of Arab prisoners.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has called for the fighting to stop. "An immediate and comprehensive ceasefire under the auspices of the United Nations which will enable the U.N., the Arab countries and other international parties, in cooperation with the Lebanese government, to responsibly resolve all issues arising from the events of the past few days as well as their underlying causes."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to Israel to abide by international law and spare civilian lives. "I think we need to get the parties to agree as soon as practicable to a cessation of hostilities, but to do that they need to give diplomacy time and space for us to work."

World leaders at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia released a statement blaming Hezbollah for the violence and urging Israel to show restraint. U.S. President George W. Bush said Hezbollah was clearly responsible for the problem. "We have to clarify a root of instability in the Middle East and that's Hezbollah and Hezbollah's relationship with Syria, and Hezbollah's relationship to Iran and Syria's relationship with Iran."

French President Jacques Chirac expressed concern about Israel's response to the Hezbollah attacks. "The whole of the G-8 expressed grave reservations about the disproportionate nature of Israel's response, which I must say, had been provoked. And secondly, we stressed the imperative need to put an end to the bombings, which ultimately are targeting the things which are nothing to do with restoring peace."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for the deployment of international forces to stop the bombardment of Israel. "The most immediate priority is to create the conditions in which the cessation of violence can happen. But this is a very, very serious situation indeed, and it is going to be vital that we use every single effort we can possibly can to make sure over the next few days that we put in place those conditions that can actually allow us to have that cessation of violence."

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia is using all its Middle East channels to try to win the release of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah.

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