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
Europeans and Lebanese with foreign passports already have fled by the thousands.
In other developments:
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.