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Israel Escalates Military Campaign Against Lebanon


Israel struck deep inside Lebanon Thursday, targeting airports, military airbases and Hezbollah positions. More than 50 Lebanese civilians have been killed in the attacks, while at least one Israeli has died in Hezbollah rocket attacks against Israel, one day after Hezbollah guerrillas attacked Israeli troops killing eight and capturing two others.

[Israel late Thursday attacked Beirut's international airport for the second time. Television footage showed flames rising from fuel tanks hit by the Israeli airstrikes.]

Tensions escalated as at least one Katyusha rocket landed in Israel's third largest city, Haifa. It was the first time rockets have hit Haifa, which is about 50 kilometers from the Lebanese border. No casualties were reported in the incident.

Senior Israeli military and political leaders all say they will no longer tolerate a Hezbollah presence in south Lebanon. Air Force General Ido Nehushtan, a member of the Israeli Defense Forces General Staff met with reporters late Thursday.

Click here to see map of conflict

"The objectives have been studied very clearly," said General Nehushtan. "This situation in which a very lethal terrorist organization, and Hezbollah is a very lethal and capable terrorist organization, well, this situation in which it operates from a sovereign country, our neighbor, freely can no longer be tolerated. We have to address that. This is the objective."

General Nehushtan says Israelis are prepared to take as long as they need to achieve their objectives.

"We have patience, and we are resolved, and we have to provide security for our citizens, and we are willing to take as long as it takes," he said.

Israeli officials say they expect Lebanon to fulfill U.N. Security Council resolutions and move the Lebanese army into territory previously occupied by Hezbollah guerrillas, something the Lebanese government has so far refused to do. Gideon Meir, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry says, under no condition will Israel negotiate with Hezbollah to end the crisis.

"I repeat the policy, which was expressed by Israel's prime minister, Israel will not negotiate, either directly or indirectly, with any group that has kidnapped Israeli soldiers," he said.

Even as they intensified attacks against targets in Lebanon, Israeli military authorities authorized further incursions in the Gaza Strip, as part of a two-week operation to free a captured Israeli serviceman, and stop the firing of homemade Qassam rockets by Palestinian militants into Israel.

An Israeli air strike destroyed the offices of the Palestinian foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas militant. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the international community to intervene on Thursday, saying Israel's Lebanon offensive is raising fears of a new regional war in the Middle East.