New Rocket Attacks, More Casualties in Mideast

At least two people were killed and 15 injured in the latest Hezbollah attack, as rockets hit the northern Israeli city of Haifa on Sunday. Israeli forces struck targets in Lebanon in the second day of significant ground operations by Israel along its northern border. Three Lebanese civilians were reported killed Sunday.

DON GONYEA, host:

Hezbollah rockets hit the northern Israeli city of Haifa again today. At least two people were killed and 15 injured in the latest attacks from sites in Lebanon. Israeli forces also struck targets in southern Lebanon today from the air and on the ground. It is the second day of significant ground operations by Israel along its northern border. Three Lebanese civilians were reported killed today.

NPR's Ivan Watson is in the Lebanese port city of Tyre. In a conversation recording earlier this morning, he tells of bombing victims taken to a local hospital.

IVAN WATSON reporting:

Well, I just returned from the Najim Hospital on the outskirts of Tyre, where doctors said they were treating members of three separate families who were fleeing in this direction from coastal villages south of here in vehicles, when each of them was bombed from the air by Israeli aircraft. We can take a listen to some of the sound of the chaos in the hospital today.

(Soundbite of baby crying)

WATSON: Now, that's the sound of Mariam Sarur(ph), an eight-month-old baby crying in a hospital bed with a splint on her arm, iodine spread all over her body. She had been burned. Next to her lay her 14-year-old brother, Mahmoud, who is much more severely burned. He had severe burns on his face, on his eyes, around his torso. His jaw was shaking as he lay there silently in shock and pain. He could not see. That was one of the vehicles that was hit.

Another vehicle, a station wagon, was hit from the air by bombs just 30 feet from the hospital entrance, and it contained the Zabat(ph) family. The car was still smoking when we arrived at the hospital. Spoke with the father of the vehicle, he said the car was driving with - he had it loaded with his children. He was trying to come here to Tyre because he heard that there was some way to get safe passage to northern Lebanon. The Israeli military has ordered the civilian population to evacuate southern Lebanon.

GONYEA: They've dropped leaflets and broadcast warnings to that effect, telling civilians to leave southern Lebanon. But it sounds like it's a very difficult thing to do.

WATSON: As you can see, it is a very dangerous proposition because the Israeli warplanes continue to bomb, not only the highways leading out and to the north and the roads, but they also seem to be targeting vehicles themselves. Now, the fleeing evacuees, they try to wave white flags, makeshift rags out the windows, tie them to the roofs of their cars, but we're still seeing, day after day, cases being reported to us of families hit from the sky by Israeli aircraft.

GONYEA: So, Ivan, you're telling us here about civilians who have been bombed. Is there any sign of Hezbollah in this area?

WATSON: This is very hard to get a hold of because we're confined, in large part, to Tyre itself. I have not seen a single armed Hezbollah militant on the streets since I got here four days ago. I did at one point. While trying to approach a mosque to try to interview a local cleric, several men in plain clothes came up, asked me who I was, which organization I worked with, and told me to leave for my own safety.

And locals later said those were Hezbollah members. They keep a very low profile here inside the town. But they are a presence here. They are keeping an eye out and seem to be very concerned about the possibility of spies. There have been people arrested in Beirut, and down here, accused of finding targets for the Israeli warplanes.

GONYEA: NPR's Ivan Watson in a conversation recorded earlier from the southern Lebanese town of Tyre.

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