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Record Number of Rockets Strike Israel

  • Jim Teeple

Hezbollah militants fired a record number of rockets against Israel Wednesday as Israeli troops carried out their deepest raids yet in Lebanese territory. At least 55 Israelis and 540 Lebanese have died in the conflict that began three weeks ago Wednesday. Israel's prime minister says his country will not stop its offensive until an international peacekeeping force is in Lebanon.

Hezbollah rockets fell south of the Sea of Galilee, along Israel's border with Jordan, 70 kilometers south of the Lebanese border.

Israel has an estimated 10,000 troops in southern Lebanon, but they are encountering heavy resistance in their drive to push Hezbollah militants out of the area.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel will keep fighting in Lebanon until international peacekeepers arrive there to take up positions previously occupied by Hezbollah.

"Israel will stop fighting when the international force will be present in the southern part of Lebanon," he said. "We cannot stop before then because, if there is no presence of a very effective robust military international force, Hezbollah will be there and we will have achieved nothing. Therefore this is the most important and significant line from where we can think of a cease-fire."

Israel resumed air strikes across Lebanon after suspending most attacks for 48 hours after more than 50 Lebanese, many of them children, were killed Sunday in an Israeli strike against the town of Qana.

Prime Minister Olmert says despite the continuing missile attacks against Israel, his military forces are largely achieving their objective of destroying Hezbollah's infrastructure.

"I think Hezbollah has been disarmed by the military operation of Israel to a large degree. That cannot only be measured by the number of missiles they still shoot," he said. The infrastructure of Hezbollah has been entirely destroyed. More than 700 different ground and command positions of Hezbollah were wiped out by the Israeli Army."

Mr. Olmert says Hezbollah must unconditionally release two Israeli soldiers it captured three weeks ago. He also says any international force sent to Lebanon should take up positions along Lebanon's border with Syria, to stop Hezbollah being resupplied with weapons.

Israeli commandos also attacked the Lebanese city of Baalbek, which is just 10 kilometers from the Syrian border, in an operation in which they seized five Hezbollah militants.

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