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Israel-Hezbollah Fighting Picks Up

Israeli troops clashed with Hezbollah guerrillas on the Lebanese side of the border Wednesday, while bombers flattened 20 buildings and killed at least 19 people, as fighting between the two sides entered its second week.

In Moshav Avivim, an Israeli town on the border, Israeli soldiers were engaged in a substantial battle with Hezbollah guerrillas, reports . "There are shells landing all around us. We can hear the constant boom of outgoing artillery. Israeli tanks on the road and on the border are engaged in this firefight. There are reports already of two Israeli soldiers killed," Logan said.

Some 900 Americans left Beirut on the government-chartered cruise ship Orient Queen, reports

. "A lot of Americans are expressing frustration as to why this all took so long," Cowan said. "Thousands of Americans in Beirut are trying to flee the war zone, but the process is slow, hot and frustrating." The ship is headed for Cyprus.

Europeans and Lebanese with foreign passports already have fled by the thousands.

In other developments:

  • Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV reported that the Islamic militant group struck an Israeli air base 30 miles from the Lebanese border. That distance would make it the deepest strike by Hezbollah into northern Israel in more than a week of fighting. The Israeli army denied the report.
  • President Bush is still resisting calls for a cease-fire, reports . He continues to believe diplomacy is of no use unless it fixes the underlying problem. And that problem, as he sees it, is the continuing support of Iran and Syria for Hezbollah.
  • Hezbollah rockets continued to fall on Israel's third largest city and its major port, Haifa. reports one struck an unoccupied Arab house in the mixed city.
  • Israeli bombers, which had been focusing on Hezbollah strongholds in southern Beirut, also hit a Christian suburb on the eastern side of the capital for the first time. The target was a truck-mounted machine that was used to drill for water but could have been mistaken for a missile launcher. The vehicle was destroyed, but nobody was hurt in that attack.
  • Israeli forces killed six Palestinians Wednesday after tanks moved into the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza under cover of machine gun fire, the latest incursion in Israel's three-week military push in the seaside territory.
  • In a separate army operation in the West Bank city of Nablus, at least three Palestinians were killed when the army surrounded a Palestinian prison where wanted militants were apparently hiding, Palestinian officials said.

    Military officials said Israeli troops crossed the Lebanon border in search of tunnels and weapons. Hezbollah claimed to have "repelled" Israeli forces near the coastal border town of Naqoura. Casualties were reported on both sides.

    The Israeli army confirmed there were clashes with Hezbollah in the border area and that some Israelis had suffered casualties. The army would not elaborate. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television channel reported that two Israeli soldiers had been killed and three wounded, but that could not be confirmed.

    Israel, which has mainly limited itself to attacks from the air and sea, had been reluctant to send in ground troops because Hezbollah is far more familiar with the terrain and because of memories of Israel's ill-fated 18-year occupation of south Lebanon that ended in 2000.

    The fighting dealt a blow to diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire and to send a new international force to bolster the 2,000-member U.N. force in south Lebanon appeared stalled.


  • "The U.N. envoys are expected to return this week and report back on the proposals for a ceasefire and the regional views of a U.N. stabilization force proposed by the Secretary General and Prime Minister Tony Blair," said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk, "a proposal which has already met with some resistance by U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who said earlier in the week that the mechanisms were already in place under U.N. resolutions to disarm Lebanese militias."

    Israel declared Tuesday it was ready to fight Hezbollah guerrillas for several more weeks, raising doubts about international efforts to broker an immediate cease-fire. The fighting has killed nearly 300 people and displaced 500,000.

    "It will take us time to destroy what is left," Brig. Gen. Alon Friedman, a senior army commander, told Israeli Army Radio on Wednesday.

    Israel stressed it did not plan to target Hezbollah's main sponsors, Iran and Syria, during the current fighting.

    "We will leave Iran to the world community, and Syria as well," Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Army Radio. "It's very important to understand that we are not instilling world order."

    Americans wiped away tears, hugged relatives and grumbled about evacuation delays Wednesday before boarding the luxury ship that was to carry them from war-torn Lebanon.

    reports it was a much different scene at Beirut's port Wednesday: "It almost looks like an airport terminal, with a check-in area. There's a huge makeshift tent where people line up. They've got their small, little suitcases with them," Gillespie said.

    "In downtown Beirut today, the shops are closed, the streets are relatively empty, and there are hundreds of (Americans) standing around with suitcases," reports Gillespie. "It seems that they're waiting to be picked up, they're waiting to be evacuated."

    Many Americans expressed frustration that it had taken the U.S. government so long to get them out of Lebanon.

    "I can't believe the Americans," Danni Atiyeh, a 39-year-old civil engineer from Kansas City, Mo., said as he stood with his pregnant wife and sons Ali, 10, and Adrian, 6, while waiting for buses that were taking them to the ship. "Everybody else has gone home ... We're still here."

    The State Department said it had dropped a plan to make Americans reimburse the government for the trip.

    "We want to do everything we can to facilitate the departure of American citizens from Lebanon. Today's step removes one potential worry for our citizens at this difficult time," spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

    But Atiyeh said he and others were asked to sign promissory notes to pay for the trip before they could leave.

    An estimated 8,000 of the 25,000 Americans in Lebanon want to leave the country, and the Orient Queen only holds 900.

    "If your passport number is in the passenger manifest, you have a seat on the trip today," said Gillespie.