Middle East

Israeli Attacks Blanket Lebanon from North to South

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Eleven people die in an Israeli attack on a bridge linking Lebanon to Syria in the country's north. Meanwhile, fierce fighting between Hezbollah guerrillas and Israeli soldiers centered on the town of Marjayoun in Lebanon's south.


And at the United Nations, diplomats continue to work at hammering out a resolution to end the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Key U.N. Security Council members hold more talks today, and while they talk, the fighting continues.

Israeli war planes bombed southern Beirut again overnight, as we can hear.

(Soundbite of bombing)

MONTAGNE: Israeli war planes also bombed a bridge in the north of the country, killing at least 11 people, according to reports on Lebanese TV. More than a thousand people in Lebanon have been killed since the war began four weeks ago.

NPR's Ivan Watson is in Beirut and joins us. Hello.

IVAN WATSON reporting:

Hello, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Tell us what you know about last night's bombing.

WATSON: Renee, at least a half-dozen thunderous explosions shook the city last night. Several buildings were flattened in the south of Beirut, including a building of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council, which was reportedly heavily damaged. But we're not getting reports of a large number of casualties. That could be in part because yesterday Israel scattered leaflets over several southern Beirut neighborhoods which were previously considered to be pretty safe. These leaflets warned residents of a painful and a strong response to Hezbollah attacks, and people took that threat seriously, especially after an Israeli air strike on Monday leveled a five-story apartment building, killing at least 41 people.

So late last night we saw hundreds of new refugees from these neighborhoods milling around in central Beirut. People are sleeping in schools in central Beirut. They're sleeping in parks. I've even seen families sleeping on the boardwalk, on the coast here, a family of five the other night, the kids all laid out on mattresses outside on the sidewalk.

MONTAGNE: There has also been fierce ground fighting in southern Lebanon. Tell us about the town that's being attacked.

WATSON: This is called Marja'yun. It's a largely Christian town, and it is the point of the furthest advance north of the Israeli military in four weeks of fighting. It's about five miles north of the Israeli border.

We've seen photos of two Israeli tanks burning outside that town. The Israeli army is believed to be inside Marja'yun now, and I've spoken with United Nations peacekeepers who say they're involved in negotiations with the Israeli military to secure the release of more than 300 Lebanese soldiers and police who were detained by Israeli troops in Marja'yun.

They are not currently engaged in the direct fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, though they have been targeted repeatedly by Israeli air strikes - that's the Lebanese army - and these are the same security forces that have been proposed by the Lebanese government as a cease fire proposal to deploy some 15,000 Lebanese soldiers in southern Lebanon to take over security there from Hezbollah guerrillas, accompanied by a United Nations peacekeeping force, and that is currently being negotiated at the United Nations.

MONTAGNE: And Ivan, you just mentioned Israel warning people in one part of Beirut that it was going to be attacked. Israel has been communicating with the Lebanese people by scattering leaflets across the country, and I gather you received a new delivery today. What did the leaflet say?

WATSON: Well, this is the latest example of the psychological warfare underway, Renee. These latest leaflets were written in Arabic, and they say that the leader of Hezbollah is lying to the people. He is hiding the casualty figures of Hezbollah guerrillas engaged in fighting in the south. And then it lists the names of more than 90 men.

Unlike the Israeli military, Hezbollah does not publish its casualty figures, so we don't know how many of its fighters have been killed and wounded over the past four weeks.

MONTAGNE: Ivan, thanks very much.

WATSON: You're welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ivan Watson in Beirut.

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