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Israel: Iran Aided Hezbollah In Attack

A senior Israeli intelligence official said Saturday that 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. The warship returned to its home port in Haifa on Saturday, according to Israeli TV footage.

The army would not confirm if the ship was arriving, but the Saar 5-class missile ship, named the "Spear," could clearly be seen on television sailing into port.

The intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said about 100 Iranian soldiers are in Lebanon and helped fire the Iranian-made, radar-guided C-102 at the ship that killed one and left three missing.

Initially, it was thought that Hezbollah used a drone to attack the ship. The Israeli intelligence official did say that Hezbollah does have drones and warned that they are more accurate than missiles.

"We can confirm that it was hit by an Iranian-made missile launched by Hezbollah. We see this as very profound fingerprint of Iranian involvement in Hezbollah," Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Another Hezbollah missile also hit and sank a nearby civilian merchant ship at around the same time, Nehushtan said. He said that ship apparently was Egyptian, but he had no other information about it.

Nehushtan said the body of one of the four Israeli soldiers left missing by the attack on the warship was found aboard it, but other Israeli military officials said two bodies had been found.

Israeli officials warned Saturday 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.

"They may hit Tel Aviv," the official said, adding that Israeli intelligence officials were not sure why Hezbollah has not used the missiles since it started firing rockets at Israel on Wednesday.

An army spokesman said that since Wednesday, more than 350 Katyusha rockets have been fired into Israel, including 40 on Saturday, and have killed four people and injured about 60.

In other developments:

  • Israeli gunships attacked central Beirut for the first time in Israel's four-day-old assault on Lebanon, striking a lighthouse and the city's seaport, witnesses said. A helicopter gunship flew into the Lebanese capital from over the Mediterranean and fired a missile at the lighthouse, located at the tip of the city in the Ras Beirut district, witnesses said. Police said 106 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Lebanon.
  • At the G-8 conference in St. Petersburg, Russia Saturday, President Bush blamed Hezbollah alone for the escalating violence in the Middle East, putting himself at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was more critical of Israel. "In my judgment, the best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place," Mr. Bush said. "And that's because Hezbollah has been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel and because Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers."
  • The United States is working on a plan to evacuate American citizens from Lebanon to the neighboring island of Cyprus, the U.S. Embassy said Saturday. "We are looking at how we might transport Americans to Cyprus. Once in Cyprus, Americans can then board commercial aircraft for onward travel," an embassy statement said. The U.S. estimates 25,000 Americans live or work in Lebanon, but U.S. officials assume that far fewer would choose to leave if they could.
  • Foreign ministers of 18 Arab countries held an emergency summit in Cairo over Israel's expanding assault on Lebanon, but squabbles over the legitimacy of Hezbollah's attacks on Israel appeared likely to keep participants from reaching a consensus. The Saudi foreign minister lead a group of nations criticizing the guerrilla group's actions, and the Syrian representative lead another group defending Hezbollah's actions.
  • 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).
  • 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."

    Witnesses reported Saturday that Israeli helicopter gunships fired rockets toward the port area in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli.

    Also, Israeli warplanes repeatedly blasted Beirut's southern suburbs, causing a series of huge blasts, Hezbollah's Al Manar television reported.

    The TV's correspondent said Israeli airstrikes targeted the Hezbollah stronghold of Haret Hreik, which has been attacked by Israeli jets for two days straight. Two major explosions echoed from the Haret Hreik neighborhood and reverberated across Beirut.

    Earlier, at least 27 people were killed in South Lebanon when several cars were hit in Israeli air strikes. In northern Israel, rockets fell on the city of Tiberias, reports Berger.

    Israel radio reported that tourists were leaving the city after the attack. Israel's Channel 2 television said that police with megaphones were going beach by beach urging bathers to seek shelter.

    It was believed to be the first time since the 1973 Mideast War that Tiberias was hit by a missile. It is 22 miles south of the border with Lebanon.

    Israeli medics said a second round of Hezbollah rockets hit Tiberias.

    Israel launched its offensive after Hezbollah guerrillas crossed the Israel-Lebanon border on Wednesday and captured two Israeli soldiers. Israel has bombarded Lebanon's airport and main roads in the most intensive offensive against the country in 24 years, while Hezbollah has launched hundreds of rockets into Israel.

    The intense fighting has sent shock waves through a region already traumatized by Israel's battle against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. With Israeli officials pointing fingers at Hezbollah's close allies, Syria and Iran, the crisis could soon spread even further.