Lebanon police: 15 die in IAF strike on van in south Lebanon
Lebanon police: 15 die in IAF strike on van in south Lebanon; Nasrallah vows to strike south of Haifa.
Israel Air Force strikes killed at least 27 Lebanese civilians on Saturday, pounding Lebanon for a fourth straight day to punish it for letting Hezbollah fighters threaten northern Israel.
An IAF missile wrecked a van near the southern port of Tyre, killing 15 passengers and wounding six, police said. The van was carrying families fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israeli loudspeaker warnings to leave their homes. A police spokesman said more may have been wounded as the vehicle was directly hit.
IAF aircraft also bombed a Hezbollah office in southern Beirut's Haret Hreik district, and attacked roads, bridges and petrol stations in north, east and south Lebanon, killing at least 12 people and wounding 32, security sources said.
Israel's campaign, launched after Hezbollah killed eight Israel Defense Forces soldiers and abducted another two on Wednesday, has killed 93 people.
Earlier Saturday, IAF jets targeted bridges and fuel storage tanks and gas stations in the east and south, security officials said.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station said at least three people were killed in an air strike in Hermel, in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
IAF jets destroyed two bridges in eastern and southern Lebanon, the Lebanese officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
The jets pounded a mountainous area near the border with Syria where radio and satellite TV antennas are installed, they said.
Another strike targeted three bridges south of Beirut early Saturday, officials said.
Jets also hit six gas stations and fuel storage tanks were also set ablaze in attacks along the coastal highway linking Beirut to the south of the country.
IAF jets dropped leaflets on Beirut depicting Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah as a cobra threatening to strike out at the Lebanese capital. "To the Lebanese people, beware: He appears to be a brother, but he is a snake," said the green leaflet showing a caricature of Nasrallah's face, with his black turban rolled in the shape of a snake.
Packages of leaflets, tied to parachutes, were dropped at dawn in downtown Beirut, but were swiftly rounded up by Lebanese security forces, AFP reported.
IAF strike targets Hezbollah radio stationOn Friday, IAF jets renewed attacks on a southern suburb of Beirut, targeting a radio station belonging to Hezbollah, the group said.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV reported that the IAF fired a missile in the vicinity of the Al-Nour station, in the Haret Hreik neighborhood south of Beirut, but missed the facility and struck an apartment in a residential building instead.
An Al-Jazeera reporter on the scene, however, said the building housing Al-Nour station, which is about 300 yards away from Al-Manar headquarters, was hit. He said there was damage to the Al-Nour offices but an underground station area was still operational.
There was no immediate word on casualties, and the station remained on the air.
An IDF spokesperson said the army attacked a Hezbollah complex that includes Hezbollah's TV station.
Al-Manar aired footage of the attack, showing smoke billowing from an apartment in the area and firefighters running toward the building.
The Israel Defense Forces said it has dropped leaflets warning civilians of the impending attack and that many of them have left the Shi'ite Dahiya quarter of south Beirut, where thousands of people live in multi-story residential buildings.
"We will atack more significant targets than we have attacked until now," the officer said. "If we had chosen to bomb earlier, it would have ended with hundreds of civilians killed, and we took ethical considerations into account. On the other hand, we will not adopt a naive approach, and the model of terrorists hiding behind civilians will not be accepted."
He said any civilian who chooses to remain in the area is putting his life in danger.
Nasrallah has his office and residence in south Beirut. Hezbollah's Shura Council, its decision-making body, and the TV station are also located in that area, a section heavily guarded by Hezbollah.
The IDF announcement came shortly after Israeli aircraft bombed the Beirut international airport for the second day in a row, as Hezbollah continued to fire rockets on northern Israel.
Hezbollah official Ghaleb Abu Zaineb reiterated Friday the militant group's commitment to attacking Haifa if Israel attacks Beirut.
"We are committed to what we say, but we will decide the manner and timing of our response," said Abu Zaineb, a member of the Hezbollah political bureau. "The enemy must expect an attack on Haifa at any time."
Israel is attempting to put pressure on the Lebanese government and force Hezbollah to free two Israeli soldiers the group captured Wednesday. Israel has already bombed Lebanon's airports and blockaded the country from the sea, bringing trade and tourism to a halt.
Nasrallah vowed Friday to strike Israeli targets south of Haifa, after the attack left the group's headquarters in Beirut in ruins.
Hezbollah was quick to announce that Nasrallah had been unhurt in the strike.
"Hezbollah's secretary-general, family and bodyguards are safe and sound," a Hezbollah statement said. Nasrallah's residence and office were destroyed in the attack.
It gave no word on casualties in the latest of several raids on Hezbollah's stronghold of Haret Hreik.
Nasrallah said the group would strike deeper inside Israel, which it charged with launching the operation in Lebanon to avenge its failure in preventing the abduction and killing of its soldiers by Hezbollah earlier in the week.
Hezbollah would also strike "beyond Haifa and what is beyond, beyond Haifa," Nasrallah said.
"You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open war," the Hezbollah leader said. "You have chosen an all-out war with a nation which... has the capability, the experience and the courage."
Nasrallah said that Lebanon could either surrender or "have faith in Allah and victory," and said he was sure that most of Lebanese would want to stand side by side with Hezbollah.
The Beirut attack came hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and security chiefs approved new targets against Hezbollah. Security officials said the army would begin hitting the targets, which were not publicly identified, overnight.
"Israel is poised to take whatever steps it deems necessary to protect its citizens in the face of the ongoing barrage of rockets that have been coming over the border," said David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office.
IAF bombs Beirut airportIAF planes bombed Beirut's international airport Friday, a few hours after striking a Hezbollah stronghold, a bridge in the southern suburb of Beirut, and the fuel stores of the Jiyyeh power plant south of the city, witnesses and security sources said.
The Lebanese Army responded with anti-aircraft fire.
Three people were reported killed and 55 wounded in the Israeli strike early Friday. The death toll brought to 51 the number of Lebanese killed since Wednesday, when Israel began retaliating for the abduction. One of the fatalities was a Hezbollah militant and the remaining 50 killed were civilians.
IDF spokeswoman Miri Regev said Friday that the IDF has hit "dozens of rocket storehouses and stockpiles" belonging to Hezbollah. She also said the Hezbollah stronghold is "the place where the Hezbollah leaders, including Hassan Nasrallah, are located on a regular basis."
Friday's raids took place after Katyusha rockets slammed into the northern port city of Haifa on Thursday. Earlier that day, two Israelis were killed and 120 were wounded when scores of Katyusha rockets fired by Hezbollah guerillas rained down across northern Israel.
"We cannot tolerate a situation where a terrorist organization is operating from a sovereign country on our northern border and threatening well over half a million Israeli civilians," said army spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal.
Also Friday, IAF jets bombed a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine base in eastern Lebanon, several kilometers west of the Syrian border, and struck the main highway linking Beirut to Damascus early Friday, security sources said.
The jets struck at least five separate times along different points of the international route, one of the sources said. Witnesses said the road was clear of traffic after earlier congestion as tourists fled Lebanon to neighboring Syria.
Israel has hit hundreds of targets in Lebanon since Wednesday night. GOC Northern Command Major General Udi Adam said Israel was targeting infrastructure in Lebanon that held rockets and other arsenals belong to Hezbollah.
Adam said the IDF was not ruling out sending ground troops into Lebanon, but was not planning a massive call up of reserves.
Israel struck the Beirut airport Thursday, blasting runways and setting fuel tanks ablaze to prevent the transport of weapons and the hostages from the area, an IDF spokesman said. The IAF also bombed the small military airport of Qulayaat in northern Lebanon on Thursday, cutting off Lebanon's civilian and military air access.
Tehran has denied reports that the hostages have been transferred to Iran.
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