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Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - Page updated at 08:54 AM

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Israel, Hezbollah continue attacks

Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM — Israeli warplanes continued to blast targets in Lebanon Tuesday as a new wave of rockets fired by Hezbollah guerrillas fell across northern Israel.

The Israeli military said its targets included a convoy of trucks carrying weapons into Lebanon's Bekaa valley from Syria, part of what Israel maintains is a pattern of Syrian support for Hezbollah. The military said early today that it sent some troops into southern Lebanon in search of tunnels and weapons.

In Washington, President Bush accused Syria of trying to reassert its influence in Lebanon by supporting the guerrilla fighters.

"Listen, Syria is trying to get back into Lebanon, it looks like to me," Bush said. He added there were "suspicions that the instability created by the Hezbollian attacks will cause some in Lebanon to invite Syria back in."

Israel said it attacked more than 100 locations in Lebanon on Tuesday and at least 27 people were reported killed. Hezbollah kept up its assault by launching more than 130 rockets, according to an Israeli count, and one man was killed in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya, about 10 miles from the Lebanese border, when his home was hit.

Thirty Israelis were reported injured in various strikes. Five big explosions reverberated over Beirut early today, and missiles hit towns to the east and south of the city.

In Lebanon, the dead included 11 people killed in an air assault on a Lebanese army base. An airstrike on a house in Aitaroun killed up to nine people from the same family, including children, according to media reports.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said Israel is "opening the gates of hell and madness" on his country. He also urged Hezbollah to release two captured Israeli soldiers.

The current fighting began last week after Hezbollah guerrillas captured the soldiers during a cross-border raid into Israel that also left eight Israeli soldiers dead.

Top Israeli officials who met Tuesday with a United Nations delegation repeated Israel's demands for the return of the captured soldiers and called for the deployment of Lebanese troops along the border.

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert blamed Iran for sparking the clashes between Israel and Hezbollah, saying the country was trying to distract the world from the controversy about its nuclear program.

Israel's deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, said the country has not ruled out deploying "massive ground forces into Lebanon."

Israel, which has mainly limited itself to attacks from the air and sea, had been reluctant to send in ground troops because Hezbollah is far more familiar with the terrain and because of memories of Israel's ill-fated 18-year occupation of south Lebanon that ended in 2000.

But Kaplinsky said Israel had no intention of getting bogged down for a second time.

"We certainly won't reach months, and I hope it also won't be many more weeks," he told Israel Radio.

The fighting has left more than 230 dead in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and 25 dead in Israel, 13 of them civilians.

Some 500,000 people have been displaced in Lebanon by the violence, according to the U.N.'s most recent estimate.

Iran, meanwhile, showed its support for Hezbollah on Tuesday at a government-organized demonstration in Tehran, where thousands shouted "Down with Israel," and waved Lebanese and Hezbollah flags. Speaker of Parliament Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said no place in Israel was safe.

"The towns you have built for yourselves in northern Palestine are within the range of the brave Hezbollah children," he said.

In Washington, the White House press secretary said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's expected trip to the region would be delayed.

Rice "is going to go, but she's not even sure when," spokesman Tony Snow said at this daily briefing.

In Brussels, Belgium, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan fleshed out his plan for an international stabilization force that would give the Lebanese government a chance to regroup and disarm Hezbollah. The force would have greater authority to use force, Annan said, adding he expected European countries to contribute most of the troops.

U.N. troops are charged with maintaining the cease-fire along the Blue Line of withdrawal but are not authorized to use force.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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