Israel said " it was determined to beat Hezbollah back and deny the militant fighters positions they have held along the border since 2000. Hezbollah began the current conflict Wednesday with a cross-border raid that captured two of Israel's soldiers.
On Thursday Israel imposed a full naval blockade on Lebanon, bombed a main artery and put the airport out of commission, effectively sealing off the country. The assault came after scores of Hezbollah rockets that rained down on Israel and reached as far as Haifa, its third-largest city, for the first time.
The sudden burst of violence sent shock waves through a region already traumatized byand the ongoing battles in the between Israel and Hamas. It shattered the relative calm in Lebanon that followed Israel's pullout from its occupied zone in south Lebanon in 2000 and the withdrawal of Syrian forces last year.
Fears mounted among Arab and European governments that violence in Lebanon could spiral out of control.
The Lebanese government, caught in the middle, pleaded for a cease-fire. The government has no control over Hezbollah, which has a free hand in southern Lebanon and also holds seats in parliament. Any attempt to disarm Hezbollah by force could lead to sectarian conflict.
Widening their campaign, Israeli warplanes struck overpasses, intersections and residential buildings around Hezbollah's security headquarters in south Beirut on Friday. Wall and balconies crashed onto parked cars, but they missed the headquarters, their apparent target.
Lebanese television stations showed broken glass and debris covering streets and a young man with bloodied face and chest walking from a damaged apartment.
Israeli planes also set fire to fuel storage tanks at Beirut airport and at the Jiye power station south of Beirut. They blasted the highway between Beirut and the Syrian capital at several places, forcing people to take mountain side roads to Damascus. Israeli planes also hit TV transmission towers in the eastern Bekaa Valley, a Hezbollah stronghold.
Beirut airport officials said one of their three runways was hit by two Israeli missiles. The airport had been closed since warplanes struck its runways early Thursday, trapping tourists.
Israeli warships, meanwhile, shelled the highway north of the coastal city of Sidon, witnesses said. Israeli planes also hit TV transmission towers in the eastern Bekaa Valley, a Hezbollah stronghold.
Hezbollah fired rockets at four settlements and towns in northern Israel, causing no casualties. Some 220,000 Israelis had sought refuge in bomb shelters.
Friday morning's violence came hours after Israel dropped leaflets in the area warning residents to avoid areas where Hezbollah operates.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora saidhad promised him in a phone call to press Israel to halt its attacks. There was no immediate confirmation of that from the White House.
On Thursday, Bush said backed Israel's right to defend itself and denounced Hezbollah as "a group of terrorists who want to stop the advance of peace."
But he also expressed worries the Israeli assault could cause the fall of Lebanon's anti-Syrian government. "We're concerned about the fragile democracy in Lebanon," Bush said in Germany.
Israeli analysts warned that Syria, which supports Hezbollah and plays host to Hamas' political leader Khaled Mashaal, could be Israel's next target.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said any Israeli attack against Syria would be an aggression on the whole Islamic world and warned of a harsh reaction, the official Iranian news agency reported Friday.
The agency said Ahmadinejad made the comments in a telephone call to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Israel's offensive was among its heaviest in Lebanon since it invaded the neighboring country and occupied its capital 24 years ago. Two days of Israeli bombings killed 48 Lebanese and two Kuwaitis and wounded 103. Two Israeli civilians and eight Israeli soldiers have also been killed, the military's highest death toll in four years.
Israel said its attacks were to prevent the movement of the captured soldiers and hamper Hezbollah's military capacity. It said it had information Hezbollah was trying to take the two soldiers to its ally,— an allegation denied by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Israel launched an offensive in Gaza against Hamas, whose fighters are holding another Israeli soldier captured two weeks ago.
Early Friday, Israeli aircraft struck targets in several parts of Gaza and a Palestinian was killed when an Israeli tank shell struck his truck, officials said.
At the, the United States blocked an Arab-backed resolution that would have demanded Israel halt its military offensive in the Gaza Strip, the first veto in nearly two years.
The shockwaves from the fighting on two fronts began to be felt as oil prices surged to above $78 a barrel in world markets, also agitated by the threat of supply disruptions in the Middle East and beyond.
The Arab League called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned that Israel's Lebanon offensive "is raising our fears of a new regional war."
Egypt launched a diplomatic bid to resolve the crisis, amid apparent frustration among moderate Arab nations that Hezbollah — and by implication its top ally Syria — had started the fight with Israel.
Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's political heavyweight and economic powerhouse, accused Hezbollah — without naming them — of "uncalculated adventures" that precipitated the latest Middle East crisis.
"The kingdom sees that it is time for those elements to alone shoulder the full responsibility for this irresponsible behavior and that the burden of ending the crisis falls on them alone," according to a Saudi official quoted by the Saudi Press Agency.
Among the Lebanese dead were a family of 10 and another family of seven, killed when strikes hit their homes in the southern village of Dweir.
"It's a massacre," said Abu Talal, a 48-year-old resident who joined scores of Hezbollah supporters and townspeople at the funeral of Shiite cleric Sheik Adel Akkash, who was killed along with his wife and eight children, ages 3 months to 15 years.
"This is the (Israeli) arrogance. The raids aim to terrorize us, but morale is high."
The last time Israeli strikes targeted Beirut was in 2000, when warplanes hit a power station in the hills above the city after a Hezbollah attack killed Israeli soldiers.Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16