Israel Bombs Beirut After 15 Killed by Hezbollah

Israel and Hezbollah appear to be hitting each other as hard as they can before a cease-fire resolution can be agreed upon by the the U.N. Security Council. Israeli jets have pounded Beirut, a day after Hezbollah rockets killed 15 in Israel.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Turning now to Beirut, public demonstrations have been banned and security tightened as Arab foreign ministers meet there today. The gathering is dominated by the controversy over the draft UN resolution produced by the Americans and the French in an attempt to end the war. It's been strongly criticized in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Arab world. At the same time, the fighting continues. The Lebanese death toll rose sharply overnight.

We're joined from Beirut by NPR's Philip Reeves. And Philip, bring us up to date on the latest fighting.

PHILIP REEVES reporting:

…abated. Lebanese security sources say that seven people were killed … missile hit a house in a village in South Lebanon, a place called Gazinea(ph) … shelling and fighting, particularly around Tyre, including an Israeli … cut off the city's road to the north, which Lebanese officials … supply line, at least for now. Aid agencies … and convoys of aid through to the multitude of people in need of help … convoy from the Mercy Corps carrying food had to … to Nabitea(ph), which is another town in the south, because … area, so it rerouted elsewhere. And there's been a … Lebanese security sources tell NPR … time yesterday to the same time today … were killed …

MONTAGNE: That - obviously we're having many problems getting through to NPR's Philip Reeves there in Beirut. Steve, we are going now to - we are going out to Linda - to NPR's Linda Gradstein. Linda, are you on the line there?

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

Yes, I am.

MONTAGNE: Tell us what you think - tell us about the latest rocket attacks. Now, Linda, you're on the line from…

GRADSTEIN: Yes. From Jerusalem.

MONTAGNE: …Jerusalem. Tell us about the latest rocket attacks there in Israel.

GRADSTEIN: There have been another sort of series of rocket attacks. It's become, you know, a daily occurrence now, where people are sent to the shelters. So far there are reports of some wounded, but there are no reports that anybody was killed in these rocket attacks. But the siren sounds and people are supposed to go into shelters.

Many more people have left the area. The number is up to more than a quarter of a million Israelis who have left northern Israel and just said that they just can't stay. At the beginning I think a lot of people thought it would only go on for a few days, maybe a week. I have friends who live up north, and after more than three weeks they just sent their children away. They're staying, but their kids are going to a week-long summer camp in the center of the country.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, we just now lost Philip Reeves, from Beirut, but -and we're talking about the foreign minister's meeting there today. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had talks today with defense officials to discuss broadening the air and ground attacks on Lebanon. What does he say, as of this moment, is Israel's overall objective?

GRADSTEIN: Well, he says the overall objective is to make sure that Hezbollah will never be able to hit Israel again. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in the year 2000 to the international border, and Israeli officials say that since that happened Hezbollah has built up a huge arsenal of rockets, which, you know, now Israelis have been living under rocket attacks for almost a month.

And there is a sense, certainly in the army and amongst some Israeli officials, that they don't want to stop the fighting. They want to broaden this swath of territory that my colleague, Eric Westervelt, just talked about. He talked about Israel now being in control of four to six miles. They want to broaden it all the way to the Litani River, which is something, if I'm not mistaken, about 13 miles. That would include Israel taking over the city of Tyre, which is a fairly large city in south Lebanon.

So Israel really is at a crossroads now, and they're really trying to decide what to do. What they do say is that Hezbollah obviously still does have a rocket capability, and that Israeli officials say they're not willing to go back to the situation of before, where Hezbollah could attack whenever they wanted.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Linda Gradstein in Jerusalem. Thank you, Linda.

GRADSTEIN: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: And we'll be going back to Eric Westervelt later in the show.

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