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Israel And Hezbollah Trade More Fire

As Hezbollah rockets continue to rain down on northern Israel, the Israeli air force launched a wave of bombing raids on the Lebanese capital's southern suburbs early Sunday, Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV and witnesses said.

A total of some dozen loud explosions shook the capital, much of which was plunged in darkness after Israeli warplanes struck power stations and fuel depots feeding them.

The southern suburbs were repeatedly blasted by Israeli warplanes for most of Saturday, but the early Sunday raids were the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive Wednesday in retaliation to the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerillas.

Thousands of residents of those neighborhoods – by definition supporters of Hezbollah – have moved out, reports CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer. They are taking shelter in schools and other public buildings.

But, Palmer reports, not all of them are happy about Hezbollah's actions.

"This is impossible, we have sick kids," Zeinab, a young mother carrying her child, complained. "Why don't they just exchange the two soldiers?"

Hezbollah's TV aired footage it said showed the new strikes. The pictures showed two long columns of smoke rising from buildings into the night sky.

The TV station said a bridge linking the al-Hazmiyah district to the road that leads to the airport, south of the capital, also was targeted.

In Israel, the military confirmed that Israeli warplanes were bombing the Hezbollah headquarters in south Beirut.

The extent of the damage caused to the suburbs could not be established because the area is deemed too dangerous for journalists to visit. Most of the raids target an area known as the "security square," where Hezbollah has its headquarters, reportedly destroyed in a Friday air strike, and where some of its leaders live.

To the south, across the Israeli border, the biblical town of Tiberias was hit by Hezbollah rockets three times on Saturday. These were the first attacks on the city – 22 miles from Lebanon – since the 1973 Mideast war.

CBS News correspondent Richard Roth reports the rockets delivered a deadly message from the guerilla group: Hezbollah can strike deep into Israel.

Israel's third largest city, Haifa, is about the same distance from the Lebanon border, and Roth reports, Patriot missile batteries have been deployed to protect that city.

Israeli officials also warned that Hezbollah has missiles that could reach as far as 62-125 miles, into the country, putting cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv at risk if the weapons are used.

A senior Israeli intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said that Hezbollah has 150 missiles that could reach a distance of about 28 miles, and another 20 with a range of 100-200 kilometers.

Such powerful weapons in the hands of Hezbollah have forced Israel to expand its original goal in attacking Lebanon. The Israelis are now not only trying to rescue their two captured soldiers, Roth reports.

"At the end of this war Hezbollah will not be deployed on Israel's northern border," said Miri Eisen, a spokeswoman for the government.


In other developments:

Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers entered northern Gaza late Saturday, Palestinian residents said, approaching a Palestinian town. The Israeli military would not officially confirm the new incursion.

At the G-8 conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, President Bush blamed Hezbollah alone for the escalating violence in the Middle East, putting himself at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he believed Israel was pursuing wider goals in its military campaign than the return of abducted soldiers.

CBS News has learned that an evacuation of Americans from Lebanon will most likely begin next week. The evacuation would be led by the USS Iwo Jima, with Marine helicopters ferrying as many as 8,000 Americans to nearby Cyprus.

CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports on how the fighting has affected Lebanese-Americans in Dearborn, Mich., who have family members in Lebanon. "Everything is escalating so quickly it doesn't give you time to breathe to react to one thing before something else happens," Issam Abbas tells Bowers of the conflict (video).

A senior Israeli intelligence official said Iranian troops helped Hezbollah fire the missile that damaged an Israeli warship off the Lebanese coast the night before. Two sailors aboard the warship were killed and two others are missing. Hezbollah denied it received Iranian help and Tehran said it had no role in the fighting, disputing Israeli claims that 100 Iranian soldiers had helped Hezbollah attack an Israeli warship late Friday. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the Israeli offensive, accusing Israel of "behaving like Hitler."

Hezbollah's leader said Friday that his group is ready for "open war" with Israel, and as his words were broadcast, guerrillas attacked an Israeli warship that had been firing missiles into southern Beirut. On Hezbollah's Al-Manar television less than an hour after missiles destroyed his headquarters and home, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told Israelis, "You wanted an open war, and we are heading for an open war. We are ready for it."

  • Twelve Egyptian sailors were on board a Cambodian merchant ship sunk in a Hezbollah missile strike, an Israeli naval official said Saturday. The Egyptian sailors survived the attack and were collected from the water by other passing ships, Brig. Gen. Noam Fieg said. The Cambodian ship was hit late Friday when it was about 37 miles from the Lebanese shore, Fieg added.

    Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora pledged Saturday to extend his government's control over all of Lebanon, signaling he wants to end Hezbollah's autonomy in the south — a top Israeli demand.

    But he said he needed the United Nations to first press for a cease-fire to halt Israel's devastating military blitz, which has killed at least 106 Lebanese since Wednesday, most of them civilians.

    "We call for working to extend the state's authority over all its territories in south Lebanon, in cooperation with the United Nations, and working to recover all Lebanese territories and exercising full sovereignty of the state over those territories," Saniora said in a televised address to the nation.

    His voice cracking with emotion, Saniora criticized Hezbollah without naming the group, saying Lebanon "cannot rise and get back on its feet if its government is the last to know."

    "The government alone has the legitimate right to decide on matters of peace and war because it represents the will of the Lebanese people," he said.

    Saniora called for the United Nations to intervene to stop bloody cross-border fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

    "We call for an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire under United Nations auspices," he said.

    In Cairo, Egypt, foreign ministers of 18 Arab countries also asked for U.N. help. The Arab League passed a unanimous resolution calling on the U.N. Security Council to intervene to stop the escalating crisis in the region.

    "The Middle East peace process has failed. The whole process should now be sent back to the Security Council for a complete overhaul," said Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa. "If the Security Council fails, nobody knows what might happen next," he added, pronouncing the whole Mideast peace process "dead."

    The Lebanese Cabinet has refused to condone Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers Wednesday, an action that triggered Israel's offensive on Lebanon, the worst attack on its neighbor in 24 years.

    Saniora did not elaborate on how his government would work with the United Nations to reassert Lebanese authority over its entire territory.

    Israel reacted coolly.

    "It's an excellent declaration but he doesn't need our permission... We have to see what they do and not what they say," Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Israel's Channel 2 TV. He said Lebanon has to prove it is serious by deploying troops on the southern border.

    "A foreign body (Hezbollah) has entered the area and it's your job to get them out of there," he said.

    Saniora declared Lebanon a "disaster-stricken country" and accused Israel of executing an "immoral and illegitimate collective punishment" of the Lebanese people.

    He appealed for national unity and spoke to the Lebanese people, saying: "We will surpass the ordeal, and we will face up to the challenge. We will rebuild what the enemy has destroyed as we always did."