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Israel Expands Bombing of Lebanon

  • Jim Teeple

At least 28 farm workers were killed Friday during an Israeli airstrike on a warehouse located in Lebanese territory near the Syrian border. Hezbollah militants said they killed six Israeli soldiers in heavy ground fighting in Lebanon, and Hezbollah rockets killed at least three Israeli civilians in northern Israel. Israel also pushed ahead with ground operations in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli airstrikes targeted Lebanon's Christian enclaves north of Beirut for the first time on Friday, destroying four bridges on Lebanon's main north-south highway. Airstrikes also repeatedly struck the predominately Shiite suburbs of southern Beirut.

On the ground in Lebanon, Israeli troops continued efforts to create a security zone along Israel's border, but they encountered stiff resistance. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev says Israel's army must destroy the threat from Hezbollah.

"The idea is to clear out those Hezbollah areas, so as to make sure that our civilian population will be safe from rocket launches," he said.

Israel occupied southern Lebanon for 18 years, pulling out six years ago after suffering heavy losses. Mark Regev says this campaign is different.

"We have made a decision not to re-occupy Lebanon," he said. "As a result, our ground strategy is flexible and mobile. The idea is that Hezbollah terrorists never know exactly where an Israeli position is. We want to beat them at their own game which is guerrilla warfare. For that reason we are going in, and going out. We have this mobile strategy."

Meanwhile, Israeli troops backed by tanks and airstrikes carried out house-to-house searches in the southern Gaza Strip and clashed with Palestinian militants.

Three Palestinians, including two members of Hamas, were killed on Friday. Eight Palestinians, including a young boy were killed in clashes with Israeli troops on Thursday.

John Ging, the director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, in Gaza says the fighting in Lebanon is raising tensions in the Palestinian territories.

"It is clear with the number of public demonstrations that have taken place in the past number of days, there have been thousands of Palestinians out in the street expressing their frustration about the meltdown in the Middle East," he said. "In fact, one of those demonstrations went out of control of the organizers, and they ransacked one of our U.N. premises. So the mood on the street is one of rising frustration and anger among the people."

At least 175 Palestinians, including 40 children, have been killed in Gaza since the end of June, when Israeli troops re-entered the Gaza Strip in response to the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants. Israel says it will withdraw from Gaza once its soldier is released and Palestinian militants stop firing rockets into Israel.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to reopen the Egypt-Gaza border on Saturday and Sunday, to allow one-way traffic out of Gaza into Egypt. Several weeks ago, the crossing was opened for a short period to allow people to pass from Egypt into Gaza. Israel says it also opened a second crossing to allow 160 trucks carrying food, medical supplies and fuel to enter the Gaza Strip.

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