The Israel Defense Forces plan to ramp up their offensive in Lebanon in response to yesterday's rocket attacks on northern Israel, which killed three civilians in Haifa and 12 reservists near Kfar Giladi.
A senior General Staff officer told Haaretz that for the first time since the fighting began, Israel plans to attack strategic infrastructure targets and symbols of the Lebanese government.
Other than bombing the Beirut airport to prevent arms transfers to Hezbollah, Israel has hitherto not targeted Lebanon's infrastructure, insisting that it is only at war with Hezbollah, not with the Lebanese government or people.
However, the officer said, "we are now in a process of renewed escalation. We will continue hitting everything that moves in Hezbollah - but we will also hit strategic civilian infrastructure."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz will meet with senior defense officials this morning to discuss the continuation of the operation.
Altogether, Hezbollah fired more than 170 rockets at Israel yesterday, including a barrage of at least 22 rockets on Haifa at about 8 P.M. that killed three people and wounded about 40.
The 12 reservists were killed, and another 12 wounded, by a single rocket that hit their muster point at around noon - one of about 35 fired at the Galilee panhandle yesterday.
Altogether, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said that it treated 138 wounded people yesterday, including five with serious injuries and six with moderate wounds. Sources in the IDF General Staff said that until the chances of a UN-sponsored cease-fire become clearer, which is expected to happen in the coming days, Israel will continue to press its offensive. If Hezbollah has not ceased its fire by this weekend, they added, the IDF will recommend an additional significant expansion of the operation, including the conquest of most of Lebanon south of the Litani River, including the area around Tyre, and a significant increase in air strikes on infrastructure targets. "It could be that at the end of the story, Lebanon will be dark for a few years," said one.
The General Staff believes that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has recently stepped up his attacks because he expects the international community to impose a cease-fire soon. "He thinks that we're nearing the end, and therefore, he's taking risks, such as activating long-range rocket launchers, even though he knows that the air force will destroy almost every such launcher immediately after the launch," explained one officer.
Aluf Benn, Eli Ashkenazi, Jack Khoury, Zafrir Rinat and Ran Reznick contributed to this report.
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