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Bigger Hezbollah Rocket Goes Farther

Hezbollah fired a new rocket, called Khaibar-1, striking near the Israeli town of Afula, south of Haifa. Israeli authorities reported that several of the rockets hit fields outside Afula, causing no casualties.

Israeli police said those rockets were carrying about 220 pounds of explosives. The air force claimed it destroyed the launcher.

The strike came two days after Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech that Hezbollah would start a new phase in the battle striking beyond the Israeli city of Haifa, which has been hit several times in lethal rocket fire.

The area around Afula, 30 miles south of the Israeli-Lebanese border area, has been struck before, but Israeli security officials said Friday's attacks were the southernmost so far.

The Israeli air force also claims it hit Hezbollah's missile control center in the Lebanese port city Tyre, and that's why there weren't as many longer-range rockets hitting the Israeli port city of Haifa Friday, reports CBS News correspondent Dan Raviv in Tel Aviv. No rockets hit Haifa at all Thursday. Still, Hezbollah has managed to fire about a hundred rockets a day at Northern Israel, wounding a few civilians Friday.

One rocket hit the top floor of a hospital in Nahariya Friday, but there were no injuries.

In other developments:

  • U.S. Intelligence tells CBS News national security correspondent David Martin that Israel badly underestimated Hezbollah's strength, and is now bogged down around Bint Jbail. The Israelis therefore are making preparations to go farther north in larger numbers.
  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will return to the region Saturday, President Bush said, and that he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agree that a multinational force must be dispatched quickly to the Mideast.
  • Both U.S. and Israeli officials tell CBS News' Charles Wolfson that senior U.S. diplomats are now meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem.
  • The United Nations decided to remove 50 observers from the Israeli-Lebanon border, locating them instead at posts with 2,000 lightly armed U.N. peacekeepers. The move comes days after Israeli bombs hit a U.N. observer post, killing four.
  • The United States evacuated about 500 more U.S. citizens from Beirut aboard a chartered cruise ship, believed to the last U.S.-organized departure for Americans. Some 15,000 U.S. citizens have now left Lebanon since fighting erupted.
  • The European Union said Friday it has completed evacuating most of its 20,000 citizens who wanted to leave Lebanon, and will now help with mass evacuations of nationals of poorer, non-EU countries.
  • Israeli police used stun grenades to disperse hundreds of Arab youths who were trying to gain access to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for Friday prayers, police said. No injuries were reported. Al Aqsa is built atop a compound that is a sacred site for both Muslims and Jews. When tensions are running high, Israeli authorities often limit entrance to the compound to Muslims who are 45 or older.
  • Iran's foreign ministry on Friday denied allegations that Tehran has provided military support to Hezbollah in its fight against Israel, a day after President Bush sharply criticized Iran's role in the bloody fighting. "Our support has been spiritual. If we had military support, we would announce it. ... We don't have any hidden business," ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on state-run television.

    Israel is hoping President Bush will not bow to international pressure and settle for just an "immediate cease-fire." Instead, says an Israeli diplomatic source, Israel wants an "enduring cease-fire."

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the other major holdout with the president for an "enduring cease-fire," was meeting Friday at the White House with Mr. Bush Friday.

    United Nations resolution 1559 calls for the disarming of Hezbollah, but in addition, reports Wolfson, Israel wants the release of the two Israeli soldiers Hezbollah took hostage earlier this month, an end to Hezbollah's rocket attacks against Israel, and the international community assurance that Hezbollah will not be allowed to rearm or re-supply.

    Israel further wants an understanding that if it detects any re-supplying of Hezbollah after a cease-fire is implemented, it can destroy that target without being held in violation of the cease-fire.

    Israeli warplanes fired missiles at dozens of targets across southern Lebanon overnight Friday, including buildings that were reduced to rubble and a Hezbollah base where long-range rockets were stored, the military said.

    Meanwhile, the guerrillas continued to launch rockets into northern Israel on Friday, with 10 fired at the towns of Ma'alot, Karmiel and Safed by midmorning, the army said. Two children were lightly wounded by shrapnel when a rocket landed next to their kindergarten.

    Although many of the rockets fall in unoccupied areas in northern Israel, more 3,700 acres of nature reserves and 1500 acres of forests have been burned since fighting began, reports the Israeli news site Ynet. "It will take the north tens of years to bounce back and be a green pearl," Jewish National Fund manager Michael Weinberger said.

    At least 438 people have been reported killed in Lebanon since fighting broke out between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas, most of them Lebanese civilians. But Lebanon's health minister estimated Thursday that as many as 600 civilians have been killed so far in the offensive.

    Thirty-three Israeli soldiers have died in the fighting and 19 civilians have been killed in Hezbollah's unyielding rocket attacks on Israel's northern towns, the army said.

    The army said Friday that Israeli troops have killed about 200 Hezbollah guerrillas since fighting began more than two weeks ago. Hezbollah has reported far fewer casualties.

    Israel launched its offensive in Lebanon on July 12, after Hezbollah guerrillas overran the border, killing eight soldiers and capturing two others. Israeli forces opened an earlier offensive in the Gaza Strip on June 28, three days after Hamas militants attacked Israeli army post in southern Israeli, killing two soldiers and capturing another one.

    Hezbollah and Hamas have both demanded the release of Hezbollah and Palestinian prisoners in return for freedom for the three Israeli captives, but Israel's government has refused.