Tuesday, July 18, 2006

70 Katyushas in Under an Hour; Only One Moderately Hurt

by Hillel Fendel

As the Katyushas fired at Israel pass the 1,000 mark - hundreds of other projectiles have also been fired - the IDF continues to bombard southern Lebanese villages from where the rockets are fired.

The IDF had earlier warned and requested the civilian population of several southern Lebanese villages, including Bint Jabel, A-Tiri, Bazuriya and others, to leave those areas for their own safety. Israel Air Force craft attacked some 50 targets in Lebanon over the night, including terrorist structures in Beirut and weapons storehouses.

In the course of the night, the IDF thwarted two attempts by terrorist cells to infiltrate northern Israel near Moshav Avivim. Israeli forces saw the figures, shot at them, and reported at least four hits. In May 1970, Palestinian terrorists who crossed the border from Lebanon near Avivim ambushed a school bus with a barrage of gunfire, murdering12 children and 3 adults, and leaving several others crippled.

Foreign Minister Tzippy Livny met this morning (Tuesday) with a United Nations delegation in Jerusalem on conditions for a ceasefire. Livny will present Israel's long-held positions: the release of the three kidnapped soldiers (one in Gaza and two in Lebanon); the deployment of the Lebanese Army in the south of the country instead of Hizbullah, in accordance with UN Resolution 1559 of the year 2004; and a cessation of all Katyusha fire.

Livny told reporters afterwards that a diplomatic initiative is beginning, alongside the ongoing military campaign. "A ceasefire for its own sake is not an objective," Livny said, "for what will we have accomplished if the threat is renewed at a later date?"

We will act to return our soldiers home," the Foreign Minister noted, "and we must also make sure that Hizbullah leaves southern Lebanon and is replaced by the Lebanese Army. We must make sure that Hizbullah is disarmed and that Iran and Syrian do not rearm Hizbullah. These are Israel's objectives, and we will work to implement them with the cooperation of the international community."

UN Middle East envoy Terje Larsen said that Israel is considering "proposals we brought to them from Lebanon, and we will continue with the dialogue between the two governments."

Among the Israeli communities and cities targeted in Monday night's Katyusha bombardment - the strongest one to date - were Kiryat Shmonah, Tzfat, Rosh Hanikra, Moshav Ben-Ami, Hatzor, and even Afula in the Jezreel Valley. Many people were reported treated for shock, and one person was listed as moderately wounded. All electricity outages caused by the rockets were fixed by the morning.

The UN delegation has proposed a compromise, whereby both sides would cease hostilities, the two abducted soldiers would be transferred to the Lebanese government, and Gilad Shalit would be given over to the custody of PA Chairman Abu Mazen. No mention was made of disarming Hizbullah.

Hizbullah has rejected the proposal, however. While its arch-terrorist leader Sheikh Nasrallah remains trapped under the ruins of a building for the fourth day, a spokesman for the group, Hussein Haj Hassan, said the ideas were rejected because they include Israeli demands. Israel must cease its fire unconditionally, Hassan said.

Nasrallah appeared on Lebanese television screens on Sunday in a pre-recorded speech, warning Israel of "more surprises."

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