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Israeli Prime Minister Vows to Continue Attacks Until Two Soldiers are Freed

July 17, 2006 at 6:10 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: We begin our Middle East coverage tonight with two reports from Independent Television News correspondents. First, Tim Ewart in Beirut.

TIM EWART, ITV News Correspondent: This is the road into Haret Hreik, the bull’s eye on Israel’s target of southern Beirut. We chose what we hoped was a lull in the bombing and could only enter following a car carrying officials of Hezbollah.

And this, of course, is the worst nightmare of those now fleeing Beirut: the fear that somehow scenes like this in the Hezbollah heartland could be repeated across the city.

Well, this is a dangerous and a frightening place to be. And we’re not going to stay very long. We’re here right in the center of the area which has been bombed by the Israelis. And the problem is nobody here — any of the people who live here or us — know when that bombing might start again.

But who is still living here? There was not a soul to talk to in the ruined streets, no one to recount the horrors of the past few days.

Many from southern Beirut have come to camp in this park, ironically in the very part of the city which is home to many of the British residents now desperate to leave. They were hurrying to board helicopters for the journey out. They’re leaving everything behind. There’s a limit of one suitcase each.

These helicopters were bound for Cyprus, a first stop on the way to Britain. It’s an operation that will gather momentum in the days ahead.

Report from Haifa, Israel

JIM LEHRER: Next, a report from Israel. ITN correspondent Julian Manyon is in Haifa.

JULIAN MANYON, ITV News Correspondent: For the Israelis, this is a war fought at long range. While the world worries about the destruction in Lebanon, Israeli commanders say they are determined to change the rules of the game. They believe they can use artillery and air strikes to dismember Hezbollah.

General Shuki Shicker is directing operations at Israel's northern command. Today the general gave ITV News an exclusive insight into Israeli strategy. He says the Israeli forces have behaved with great restraint and could do far more.

GEN. SHUKI SHICKER, Deputy Commander, Israeli Northern Command: For example, Lebanon can suffer from totally darkness. We are not doing it. We can hit water. We can hit other sources. We are not doing it, because we don't want the Lebanese population to suffer because of the behavior of the Hezbollah.

JULIAN MANYON: But you're saying that you could do it if Hezbollah keeps firing long-range missiles?

GEN. SHUKI SHICKER: We can do it, if Hezbollah is shooting long-range missiles. We are ready to escalate if it will be needed to do it; we hope not.

JULIAN MANYON: The air campaign's objective, says the general, is to drive Hezbollah away from the border and force the return of the two captured soldiers. He told me that commando forces are already operating inside Lebanon and more ground troops are standing by.

GEN. SHUKI SHICKER: We are ready for any future actions we will have to take, if we will reach the conclusion that we need them.

JULIAN MANYON: The latest broadcast by Hezbollah leader Sheik Nasrallah has been examined by Israeli experts. They believe he looks severely rattled. Military sources claim they have him cornered in a bunker underneath the ruins of the Hezbollah headquarters in Beirut.

The Israeli army insists that its artillery and air campaign is succeeding. It says it's wiped out half of Hezbollah's missiles. And it claims that it's inflicted severe psychological blows on the Hezbollah leadership and is even ready to wipe them out. The coming days will tell if that optimism is justified.