Israel Renews Attacks On Beirut Suburb

A truck carrying bread and food drives past a destroyed car on fire following an Israeli missile strike in Zahrani near the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2006. AP

Israeli aircraft renewed attacks on Beirut's southern Dahiyeh suburb at daybreak Friday.

Eight powerful explosions were heard in central Beirut within a span of 20 minutes, but the exact target of the attacks were not known. The Voice of Lebanon said several fires erupted and thick smoke rose from the area.

There were not immediate reports of damage or casualties.

VOL and LBC TV said a bridge was also attacked by the Israeli jets at Heitsa in the Akkar province in north of Lebanon. Both stations said initial reports from the area indicated there were casualties.

This comes one day after Israel grabbed strategic high ground in south Lebanon but said it was delaying a new ground offensive toward the Litani River, as diplomats said the United Nations had made progress toward constructing a cease-fire agreement that could go to a vote before the weekend.

Israel lost one soldier in fierce battles with Hezbollah guerrillas, and the Lebanese interior minister said Israeli forces detained 350 Lebanese soldiers and police in their garrison in the southern city of Marjayoun. Israeli denied the report.

With fighting in its fifth week and Israeli troops closer to Beirut than at any time since the war began, reports emerged of progress toward unlocking the stalemate on a United Nations cease-fire resolution. At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said there could be a vote by Friday.

"We've closed some of the areas of disagreement with the French," he said.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora met twice Thursday with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, and a senior aide to the Lebanese leader, who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity, said new ideas for ending the fighting involved combining two envisioned resolutions into one overarching document.

A similar report arose in Israel where lawmaker Otniel Schneller, an adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the United Nations was at work on a new approach.

"A new proposal is being drafted, which has positive significance that may bring the war to an end," Schneller said.

Broadly speaking, a much debated U.S.-French plan called for establishing a cease-fire in one document, with a second and later resolution that would organize a peacekeeping force and outline details of the peace.

In other developments:

  • Russia circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution Thursday calling for a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, Russia's U.N. ambassador said. Vitaly Churkin said the crisis in Lebanon was too urgent to wait for negotiations on a separate U.S.-French Securty Council resolution seeking a permanent cease-fire. "This diplomatic activity is not being conducted in a quiet academic environment," Churkin said. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said he did not think it was helpful to distract attention from negotiations over the U.S.-French draft.

  • Richard Huguenin, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Israel had repeatedly denied request to reach "a whole list of places," including a plan to rescue a family believe trapped in an abandoned orphanage in Maarub, about 12 miles from Tyre. The Red Cross estimates roughly 33,000 people are still living in villages in south Lebanon, another 27,000 are still in Tyre and 40,000 Palestinians in four camps in the south.

  • The World Food Program's coordinator in Lebanon, Zlatan Milisic, said Israeli bombing of bridges and roads was creating huge obstacles for aid convoys to reach tens of thousands of displaced Lebanese.

  • The United Nations' top humanitarian official criticized Israel and Hezbollah on Thursday for hindering aid agencies' access to trapped civilians in southern Lebanon, calling their failure to allow convoys to get through "a disgrace." "The Hezbollah and the Israelis could give us access in a heartbeat," Jan Egeland told reporters at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

  • The Gaza-Egypt border partially reopened Thursday, allowing hundreds of people stuck in Gaza to leave after a weeks-long closure imposed during Israel's military offensive in the coastal strip, a spokeswoman for European border monitors said. However, the border was closed a few hours later by Israel, citing security concerns.

  • Long-distance charges for dialing the Palestinian-run lands will carry their own designation rather than appearing as calls to Israel on AT&T bills. The company also is raising the rates sharply for calling the West Bank and Gaza, citing the rising fees AT&T needs to pay other carriers in that region to connect calls.

    While Israel appeared braced for a prolonged conflict after leaders there authorized a major new ground offensive deeper into Lebanon, officials said they were temporarily holding back to give diplomats time to craft the cease-fire deal.

    Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the military would use "all of the tools" to cripple Hezbollah if diplomacy was not successful soon, but later Thursday he softened those remarks, perhaps in response to diplomatic progress.

    "If we can achieve that by diplomatic means and are sure that there is an intention to implement that document, we shall definitely be in a position where the military operation has achieved diplomatic space and a new situation has been created here in the north," Peretz said.

    Israeli ground troops took control of the mainly Christian town of Marjayoun before dawn and blasted away throughout the day at strongly fortified Hezbollah positions in several directions.

    And Israeli soldiers worked their way through southern Lebanese neighborhoods, breaking through earthworks and looking through the basements of homes where Hezbollah fighters hide with their weapons, reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger.

    A huge explosion rocked the center of the town and the surrounding countryside about sunset and a big fire could be seen raging from a vantage point in Ibl el-Saqi, about 2 miles to the east.
    • Lloyd Vries

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