Israel-Hezbollah Fighting Spreads

A Lebanese man walks past a destroyed apartment building, following an Israeli airstrike early Friday, among the rubble of other collapsed buildings, in the Hezbollah stronghold suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 11, 2006. Powerful explosions resounded across Beirut early Friday, and local media reports said Israeli jets were pounding Hezbollah strongholds in the southern Dahieh suburb.
Israeli jets and artillery pounded Hezbollah positions Friday in an attempt to gain command of strategic high ground and disrupt guerrilla rocket attacks across the border. In far north Lebanon, Israeli jets blasted a key bridge to Syria, killing at least 12 people.

The conflict for the first time touched the entire length of Lebanon — from skirmishes on the Israeli border in the south to the northern border about 100 miles away — and sent the message that no place was safe from the widening Israeli attacks.

But Hezbollah delivered a similar statement to northern Israel with another barrage of more than 40 rockets by midafternoon, Israeli police said. Rescue officials said seven people were hurt.

Hezbollah television reported Friday that guerrillas destroyed an Israeli gunboat off the coast of Tyre, killing or wounding the crew of 12. The Israeli military said it was not aware of a strike on any of its vessels, which have been enforcing a blockade of the Lebanese coast since fighting began 30 days ago.

In other developments:

  • The U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday singled out Israel for a second time this summer for its attacks on Arabs, this time ordering a commission of inquiry to go to Lebanon to investigate alleged abuses. By a 27-11 vote, the council approved a resolution proposed by Islamic countries.
  • With the U.S. and France working around the clock to break the deadlock for a United Nations Security Council resolution to end the fighting, the Russian Ambassador created a new twist in the diplomatic machinery on Thursday night by submitting a plan for a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire and calling for a vote on Friday, said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk at the U.N. U.S. ambassador John Bolton said a vote on a resolution was possible Friday. Israeli officials say they are inclined to accept an emerging U.N. cease-fire resolution, even though it does not call for Hezbollah to be disarmed, reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger.
  • Israeli planes dropped leaflets over west Beirut on Friday, telling Hezbollah members the group's leader was "cheating" them. The papers fluttered down mid-morning over an area along the capital city's Mediterranean coast, stretching from the commercial port to the upscale Raouche neighborhood of west Beirut.
  • A poll shows that public support for the war has dropped from 73 percent to 64 percent. The poll in the Yediot Aharonot newspaper also showed 37 percent of the 500 people questioned believed Israel would cripple Hezbollah, compared with 40 percent in a previous survey.
  • Israel won't comment on a New York Times report that it has asked the U.S. to speed delivery of anti-personnel rockets with cluster munitions, reports Berger. The rockets, which carry hundreds of grenade-like bomblets, would be used against Hezbollah, after Israeli artillery and warplanes have failed to stop rocket attacks. The Times says some U.S. officials oppose the sale because the weapon would increase civilian casualties.
    Israel has delayed a major new ground offensive to give diplomacy some room. But officials warned that they would unleash the fresh infantry forces if the talks fail.

    Lebanon has called for Israeli troops to start pulling out once hostilities end and Beirut sends 15,000 troops of its own to the south, while Israel has insisted on staying in southern Lebanon until a robust international force is deployed, which could take weeks or months.

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

    The most severe fighting continued around Marjayoun, an important hub just north of Israel's Galilee panhandle that juts into Lebanon. An Associated Press reporter briefly entered the embattled city and witnessed intense Israeli bombardment of dug-in Hezbollah fighters.

    The city, which is mostly Christian, is crucial because it gives Israeli gunners a view of the Litani River Valley and other areas used as launching grounds for Hezbollah rockets. Israeli tanks rolled into Marjayoun on Thursday after coming under sustained Hezbollah ambushes along the way.