Israeli troops in southern Lebanon

As the sound of explosions echoed over the port city of Tyre and with Israeli helicopters and unmanned drones in the skies above

Israeli troops in southern Lebanon

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told  the ground troops are on a mission to destroy specific Hezbollah outposts.

The spokesman, speaking from Jerusalem, declined to say how many Israeli troops were involved in the operation. He also declined to say how far Israeli troops had gotten into southern Lebanon but said they were close to the border.

An Israeli diplomat said his country has no intention of staying in Lebanon.

"This is in no way an invasion of Lebanon," Dan Gillerman, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN. "We have no desire to enter Lebanon. We left it six years ago without any desire to go back.

"What we're doing is part of trying to make Hezbollah incapable of shelling our cities and our villages and to kill our citizens."

The IDF said a "small group" of Israeli troops has been traveling across the border near the border fence for a number of days. Their goal is to pinpoint, or identify, Hezbollah infrastructure, including mines and tunnels.

A CNN team in Tyre, a southern Lebanon port city, heard explosions, drones and the helicopters throughout the night. CNN's Karl Penhaul said there was more than one helicopter, but that in the dark he could not see how many there were. The helicopters appeared to fly to a point a few miles east and southeast of Tyre.

The city of Tyre is about 10 miles from the Israeli border. The IDF spokesman declined to say whether the helicopter movements near Tyre were linked to the ground operation.

As an eighth day of military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah -- a group with a stronghold in southern Lebanon -- dawned Wednesday, Israeli airstrikes pounded the southern suburbs of Beirut near the city's airport, triggering explosions that lit up the night.

From Lebanon, eight Katyusha rockets were launched into the northern Israeli city of Haifa Wednesday morning, according to the IDF. No casualties were reported.

Israel launched an extensive bombing campaign against Hezbollah after the Shiite Muslim militia abducted two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid into northern Israel. Lebanon's government has demanded a cease-fire, but Israel insisted it would keep up the attacks until its kidnapped soldiers are freed.

The fighting has killed at least 25 people, including 13 civilians, in northern Israel.

Lebanese Internal Security Forces said Wednesday that 202 people had been killed, including 11 soldiers, and 488 wounded since the start of hostilities on July 12.

Also Wednesday, Israeli troops moved into central Gaza and fierce clashes erupted there, according to Palestinian security sources.

Fighting in Gaza has been ongoing for weeks, since the June 25 kidnapping of Israeli army Cpl. Gilad Shalit by Hamas and two other  groups. Hamas has also kept up a steady barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and Israel has said it will keep up its offensive there until rockets stop and Shalit is returned safely.

'The most dangerous place'

Hezbollah officials gave CNN exclusive access into the southern suburbs of Beirut -- the area thought to house the organization's headquarters -- to show the damage inflicted on civilians there. They also wanted to show they do not house military stockpiles there, CNN's Nic Robertson reported.

The tour was given in a whirlwind fashion. "You never know when Israeli jet fighters come and hit any target in this area," said Hussein Nabulsi, Hezbollah press officer. "It is very, very dangerous. We are now at the most dangerous place at the most dangerous moment." (Watch a dangerous tour of the damage in Lebanon -- 4:46)

Pausing before an apartment building, Nabulsi said, "Look what happened to this building, inhabited by innocent civilians ... no military bases, nothing."

He expressed surprise that the United Nations and the international community had not expressed outrage at the damage inflicted on Lebanese. "Where is the international community? Where is the Security Council? Where's the United Nations? Where's the whole world? We are under fire."

Robertson noted he could not definitively confirm the group's claims about what was and was not housed in the area.

Israel peppered with rockets

In Israel, explosions thundered across the port city of Haifa and northward toward the cities of Akko and Nahariya as Hezbollah peppered the northern coast with rockets. At least one person died in Nahariya when a rocket struck a house, Israeli medical source said. (Watch a rocket attack's aftermath in Israel -- 2:53)

Entering Tyre, a poster of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah could be seen. A billboard adorned with Hezbollah militia fighters says, "We stay and fight."

Many in Tyre support this organization. Mohammed Swyel, 18, said he and his family evacuated their home near the Israeli border in order to allow Hezbollah rocket teams more space to maneuver and fire into Israel.

"Everybody in Lebanon needs Hezbollah," he said. "Of course, we need peace for this country, but not over our dignity. Our dignity is first."

But French Army Maj. Eric Minoli, who is commanding a United Nations contingent, told CNN he is sickened by what he has seen.

"The people are clearly terrorized. Many Lebanese are fleeing north," he said. "As a Frenchman and a United Nations soldier, I hope the diplomats work out a cease-fire."

The continuing violence is raising fears that others in the region would join the conflict. (Watch how Syrians are reacting to fighting in Lebanon -- 2:30)

Israel demands that Hezbollah disarm

In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters a diplomatic effort to end the conflict had begun even as the Israeli military campaign continued. Livni also met with a U.N delegation.

She said an agreement to end the fighting must include the freeing of three abducted Israeli soldiers -- one in Gaza and two in Lebanon -- as well as the disarming of Hezbollah.

"The common understanding is that Hezbollah bears responsibility for the escalation in the north, and that Hamas bears responsibility in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians," Livni said. "There is comprehensive agreement that a cease-fire alone is not enough, but also the unconditional return of the (abducted) soldiers and the full implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, in order to keep Hezbollah from establishing itself as the regional provocateur."

That resolution calls for the "disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias."

Bush: Lebanese government must survive

President Bush told reporters on Tuesday that Hezbollah is the root cause of the current situation and must be confronted. "I strongly believe every nation ought to be able to defend itself from terrorist attacks," he said.

But he urged that Israel be mindful of the new Lebanese government, saying its success is important after the international community had worked to free Lebanon from Syrian influence. "It's in our interest for Syria stay out of Lebanon," he said.

Bush also spoke to Saudi King Abdullah on Tuesday on the matter, calling the king at his request, according to a White House official. During the conversation the king expressed his concern about the humanitarian situation in Lebanon, and the two leaders agreed efforts should be made to assist displaced Lebanese who may be in need. King Abdullah will meet French President Jacques Chirac in Paris on Wednesday to focus on Lebanon.

Hezbollah has demanded that Israel exchange Lebanese prisoners in its jails for the captured soldiers, but Israel has rejected calls for a prisoner exchange.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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