No Let Up in Mideast Attacks During Cease-Fire Talks

Israeli warplanes repeatedly bomb Beirut's southern suburbs as both sides in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict appear to be hitting each other as hard as they can before a cease-fire resolution comes before the U.N. Security Council. On Sunday, Hezbollah launched its deadliest volley of rocket fire yet, killing 15 Israelis.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep, good morning.

Israel and Hezbollah appear to be hitting each other as hard as they can before they're made to stop. A cease-fire resolution is coming before the U.N. Security Council. As that debate approaches, Israeli warplanes repeatedly bombed Beirut's southern suburbs today. Israeli ground troops fought Hezbollah guerrillas. And yesterday, Hezbollah rockets killed 15 people in Israel. Today more rockets have sent people into bomb shelters again.

And we begin our coverage with NPR's Eric Westervelt, who's in an area where Israelis were sent to the shelters today. And Eric, what's happening where you are?

ERIC WESTERVELT reporting:

Well, sirens again sounded across northern Israel this morning, Steve, and many people were sent into shelters once again. There was about a 10-minute warning and another barrage of rockets fell across the north, hitting the towns and cities here, including Zefat, Kiryat Shemona and other areas. It just happened a few minutes ago, and reports are sketchy, but there are some casualties. It does not appear yet we can confirm anyone was killed, but once again, underscoring Hezbollah's continued military threat, they continue to fire short-range rockets into Israel every day, and they did again this morning.

INSKEEP: You said a 10-minute warning. I gather that's more warning than people sometimes have.

WESTERVELT: It is, absolutely. After nearly a month of fighting they've honed their warning system a lot more, and some towns and villages are now getting more adept and better able to sound the alarm and give those few who've remained - some farmers and other workers, those too poor or disabled to really leave the area - to give them a little extra time to try to get inside and take some cover.

INSKEEP: Now, the warning system did not save 15 people yesterday in one of the worst attacks. What happened?

WESTERVELT: That's right. These were a group of reservists, Steve, who had just been called up to go enter the fight in south Lebanon. They had just arrived in northern Israel the night before. As we understand it, they spent the night at a kibbutz - a communal farm - right on the border, and some were outdoors near their cars in a parking lot right near the entrance to the kibbutz. Rockets landed all around them. They did not seek shelter for whatever reason when the sirens sounded. People there confirmed the sirens to go inside did sound. Twelve were killed. Several others were wounded, some severely.

It was a grim and gruesome scene as helicopters landed, to try to rescue the wounded. There were fires everywhere from this massive barrage Hezbollah launched. Planes were swooping overhead to try to douse some of the fires. Firefighters had to come in and put out cars that were aflame as well. It was a difficult scene for many of those people up there on the kibbutz yesterday.

INSKEEP: Eric, the other news, as you know, over the weekend was that the United States had begun to agree with its allies over a cease-fire resolution. How has that diplomatic news affected the conflict at all?

WESTERVELT: Well, up here it doesn't appear to have. You talk to soldiers and they say they want to continue the fight against Hezbollah. I talked to a soldier yesterday who is from this area. He was on a brief period of R & R before probably going back into the fight. He was from a kibbutz around here. He was frustrated that he came home to burning fields and daily rocket fire. I interviewed him inside a bomb shelter, and that underscored for sure the continued threat and danger up here in his home area.

So the talk among soldiers and even locals up here is not necessarily about an imminent cease-fire. There's a consensus that they feel the conflict will go on for several more days, if not longer.

INSKEEP: Now, before we go to the other side of the border, to Lebanon, to Beirut in fact, let me just ask this. What do Israeli officials say that they have accomplished so far in four weeks of fighting?

WESTERVELT: Well, four weeks of fierce fighting inside south Lebanon, they claim they've cleared out a quasi-buffer zone four to six miles inside the border, a swath of territory in there that they hope to be eventually filled with an international force. Israel also said they've made a huge dent in some of the long-range and medium-range rockets fired by Hezbollah. But you know, clearly, given the attack on Haifa last night, shows that Hezbollah still has a medium-range rocket capability. And they haven't made much dent at all, commanders will concede, in the short-range rocket capability, underscored by the daily fire that continues up here.

INSKEEP: Okay, Eric, thanks very much.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Eric Westervelt in northern Israel.

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