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Summit Fails to Reach Truce Deal in Lebanon
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Summit Fails to Reach Truce Deal in Lebanon

Middle East

Summit Fails to Reach Truce Deal in Lebanon

Summit Fails to Reach Truce Deal in Lebanon
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Fighting continues between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon after Wednesday's international summit of leading nations in Rome failed to deliver a cease-fire agreement. Wednesday marked the deadliest day yet for Israeli soldiers.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY.

Our lead: the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants. I'm Alex Chadwick.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

And I'm Noah Adams. Coming up, we'll hear from different sides of the fight, an editor from Hezbollah's TV channel and a woman living in northern Israel.

CHADWICK: First, we are going to Lebanon and Beirut. More than 400 Lebanese have been killed since fighting began there more than two weeks ago. Approximately 50 Israelis have died in the conflict in northern Israel and southern Lebanon, most of them soldiers.

NPR's Ivan Watson is in Beirut.

Ivan, what is the latest on the fighting in southern Lebanon?

IVAN WATSON reporting:

Alex, Hezbollah rained rockets on northern Israel across the border, hitting a factory there and wounding at least four people. Israel has continued its artillery and aerial bombardment of southern Lebanon. They hit another building in the center of the coastal town of Tyre today.

There was intense ground fighting yesterday around the southern Lebanese border town of Bint Jbeil. Israel says it lost nine soldiers in that area with at least 25 wounded, these were the highest losses yet in a single day for the Israelis since this conflict began 16 days ago.

Meanwhile, Lebanon is looking at one-fifth of its population displaced. More than 400 killed, 400 civilians, and pockets of civilians still stranded in villages in southern Lebanon without fresh supplies of food and water and medicine.

CHADWICK: Ivan, what do you make of Hezbollah's strategy at this point?

WATSON: The leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, he pretty much spelled it out in a televised address earlier this week. He said Hezbollah is a guerrilla force. It will fight a guerrilla war. It cannot compete with Israeli air power, but the best way to hurt the Israelis, he said, is on the ground. So Hezbollah will not hold a classic defensive line, he said. It would give up territory to the Israelis and in doing so this would make Israeli soldiers and tanks more vulnerable to Hezbollah ambushes.

And I think that's what we saw in Bint Jbeil yesterday.

CHADWICK: I've read several accounts, Ivan, that quote Israeli sources as saying these Hezbollah fighters are the toughest they've ever faced.

WATSON: Well, if the Israelis are more accustomed to fighting the quite disorganized gunmen of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, then yes, Hezbollah is much more organized. It's been described by military analysts as the most organized, most disciplined fighting force in the Middle East after the Israeli defense force, and I think, again, we're seeing the result of that in this ground fighting in areas where Hezbollah has had years to prepare its trenches and fortifications and defense posture in anticipation of this Israeli ground incursion.

CHADWICK: What about Beirut where you are, Ivan? What's going on there?

WATSON: Well, this is one of the strange contradictions here. If you drive from southern Lebanon, even reaching the southern town of Sidon, immediately you start going from depopulated areas that are being hit daily by Israeli aircraft to areas where shops are open and people are driving on the streets.

Here in Beirut, you have traffic jams in the streets. The city was largely empty in the first week of this conflict, but now the shopping malls are working. Restaurants are working. The cinemas are showing movies again and the pool in my hotel has probably 80 people swimming and sunbathing. That's despite the fact that southern Beirut was bombed earlier this week. They seem to be compartmentalizing the threat factor. You have people jogging along the boardwalk here. They continued to jog even as Beirut was being bombed in the first week of this conflict.

CHADWICK: NPR's Ivan Watson in Beirut.

Ivan, thank you.

WATSON: You're welcome, Alex.

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