- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

2:41 p.m.

BEIRUT — Israeli warplanes intensified air strikes and sent a new commando raid into southern Lebanon today, killing at least 23 persons in one of the heaviest tolls in days. Lebanon’s prime minister won strong support from Arab states to plead his case at the United Nations for a full Israeli withdrawal.

President Bush said he anticipates that Hezbollah and Israel won’t agree with all aspects of a Mideast cease-fire resolution but said “we all recognize that the violence must stop.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora choked back tears as he told a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Beirut that 40 persons had been killed by an Israeli air strike on the southern border village of Houla, but he later said only one person had been killed.

Mr. Siniora got strong backing from the foreign ministers, who warned the U.N. Security Council against adopting resolutions that don’t serve Lebanon’s interests. They decided to send a high-level delegation to New York to press Lebanon’s case.

Israeli warplanes repeatedly bombed Beirut’s southern suburbs and pounded other areas of Lebanon, killing 15 persons, Lebanese officials said. In northern Israel, scores of Hezbollah rockets wounded five persons, rescue workers said.

Seven persons were killed when a missile hit a house in Qasmieh on the coast north of Lebanon’s port city of Tyre, civil defense official Youssef Khairallah said.

Mr. Siniora backtracked on the death toll in the Houla air strike, saying that a search of the flattened building turned up only one death.

The Israeli army said one soldier was killed and four others were slightly wounded in fighting in the town of Bint Jbail. The soldiers killed five Hezbollah gunmen in the battle, the army said. Al Jazeera television said two Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting. Another three soldiers were wounded in Houla, the army said.

A new barrage of 83 rockets hit northern Israel, slightly wounding five Israelis, according to rescue services.

Ministers called for a meeting of Israel’s Security Cabinet later today to discuss whether to broaden the nearly four-week-old offensive.

One minister, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be seen as criticizing the military, said the army needed to send all available ground forces into Lebanon immediately to push Hezbollah and its rocket launchers out of the area south of the Litani River, about 18 miles from the border.

Hezbollah fired its deadliest rocket barrage on Israel on Sunday, killing 12 Israeli reservists and three civilians. That brought the Israeli death toll to 94, including 46 soldiers, the 12 reservists and 36 civilians.

Israel’s attacks on Lebanon have killed at least 607 persons, including 524 civilians, 29 Lebanese soldiers and at least 53 Hezbollah guerrillas.

After nightfall, three loud explosions rocked Beirut, and Lebanese security officials said Israeli naval artillery had fired on the southern suburbs from ships off the Mediterranean coast, where they also are enforcing a sea blockade.

In other violence, Israeli warplanes hit roads in the Bekaa Valley, a northeastern region of Lebanon that is a symbol of Hezbollahs power. At least four explosions were heard around the city of Baalbek, about 60 miles north of Israel’s border, witnesses said. The Israeli military confirmed it had hit several targets in the area.

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