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Heavy Fighting Reported on Israel-Lebanon Border


At least 11 Israeli soldiers have been wounded in several clashes with Hezbollah militants on the Lebanese side of the Israel-Lebanon border. Hezbollah also continued firing rockets into northern Israel Thursday as Israeli warplanes carried out strikes in Lebanon.

Israeli ground troops were involved in a series of clashes with Hezbollah militants as the Israeli army continued limited ground operations in Lebanon. Israel is warning residents south of the Litani River, about 30 kilometers inside Lebanon, to leave the area.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz says Israel will use all means at its disposal to push Hezbollah out of south Lebanon.

Peretz says Israel has no intention of occupying Lebanon, but Israel will not retreat from defeating Hezbollah.

Israel's senior army commander says the fighting could go on for an extended period of time. Israeli warplanes carried out more strikes against targets in Beirut's southern suburbs Thursday.

Lebanese officials say more than 500,000 people have been displaced as a result of the fighting. Nearly all of the casualties in Lebanon have been civilians. Yigal Palmor of Israel's Foreign Ministry says that is because Hezbollah has based its operations in civilian areas.

"We never target civilian objectives," he said. "However Hezbollah has been using the population as a human shield. They have been storing weapons and rockets in civilian homes and buildings and they have been firing rockets from within villages and civilian population centers."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says the bombing will continue, as long as Hezbollah continues to hold two Israeli soldiers it captured last week, and until the Lebanese Army moves into positions now occupied by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Israel dropped leaflets across the Gaza Strip Thursday, warning Palestinians that anyone hiding weapons will be targeted. Israel carried out a several air strikes in Gaza and Israeli troops clashed with Palestinians at several locations.