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Reporters Share Latest from Lebanon, Israel

July 21, 2006 at 6:10 PM EDT

JULIAN MANYON, ITV News Correspondent: The roads we took were deserted and dangerous. In normal times, Tyre is an hour’s drive from Beirut, but now virtually all the bridges are smashed by the Israeli air force and we had to make a detour deep into the mountains.

As we drove further south, the roads emptied. Not far away, a cloud of smoke rose from an Israeli air strike. Normally bustling Nabitir (ph) was a ghost town. No one was traveling in our direction. But as we approached Tyre, car loads of refugees were flooding out.

At the entrance to Tyre, a giant bomb crater almost severed the road. Beyond it, a city under siege by the Israeli air force. Columns of smoke rise from attacks on nearby villages, and one of the city’s largest buildings has been blasted by an Israeli bomb.

Today, the Lebanese authorities took drastic steps to deal with the number of corpses overwhelming the city’s morgue. Army lories brought some 80 dead to a hastily dug mass grave. The normal tradition of family burial could not be observed, though each coffin was marked with the victim’s name so the bodies can be recovered and reburied later. The small coffins were those of children.

Every day, the human cost of this Israeli operation is becoming more apparent. The Israelis insist that they choose their targets carefully, but the dead and injured are overwhelmingly civilians.

At the city’s hospitals, doctors are struggling to deal with casualties streaming in from the surrounding areas.

DR. BASSAM MTREK, Jabal Amal Hospital (through translator): I’ve seen just civilians, children and women, most of them children and women, around 60, 65 persons are children.

JULIAN MANYON: Overcome by grief, a woman whose husband was killed in an air strike. She has not yet found the courage to tell her children that their father is dead.

The Israeli air force is dropping bombs just outside the city of Tyre, but it’s also dropping leaflets like this one, warning local people to leave their homes and go beyond the Litani River to the north over there.

They say that their homes and villages here in the south are being used as staging areas for terrorist attacks; they say their lives are in danger. The leaflet is signed quite simply, “The state of Israel.”

Many have fled, but some are refusing to leave. In a bomb shelter in Tyre, 40 people from seven different families hide together in stifling heat with no running water and no toilet. Normal life is breaking down in this city. And with the Israeli forces striking ever fiercer blows, no one knows what the future will bring.

Removing the Hezbollah threat

JIM LEHRER: Next, an ITN report from Israel from Juliet Bremner.

JULIET BREMNER, ITV News Correspondent: Israel can't stop the damage being inflicted on it by Hezbollah. Another volley of Katyusha rockets lands in Haifa. Another 19 of its people are injured, a clear signal from the militant fighters that they're still a force to be reckoned with.

The Israeli response was to put its impressive military machine into top gear. Columns of tanks headed to the border. Thousands of reservists are being called up, all indications they're getting ready for a big push on the ground.

Even for a country used to defending itself, Israel feels particularly under siege at the moment, being attacked from all sides. Its security forces are having to fight off Hezbollah in the north, Hamas on the Gaza Strip, and trying to stop suicide bombers coming in from the West Bank.

The funerals of six soldiers lost in the last three days are a stark reminder of the cost of fighting on all fronts. The men were killed as they tried to destroy Hezbollah bunkers across the border. There will be more mourning like this if they push further into Lebanese territory.

The Israeli government is anxious to stress incursions into Lebanon don't amount to an invasion.

MARK REGEV, Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Israel: No one in Israel wants to reoccupy Lebanon. No one in Israel claims an inch of Lebanese soil. On the contrary, we want to be surgical. We want to deal with the terrorist threat posed by Hezbollah, and then we want to leave.

JULIET BREMNER: Opinion polls show that a staggering 95 percent back the response to Hezbollah's attacks. I discussed the crisis with lawyer Sefi Melamed and his friends in a liberal suburb of Tel Aviv.

KARIN MELAMED, Tel Aviv Citizen: So we're going to fight until the end. I have three boys. I have two boys and another one, and I want to finish it. I want not to going to be a war in this country. It needs to finish.

SEFI MELAMED, Tel Aviv Citizen: Of course it's right, because the situation right now is not very good for us, and we have to put an end for it for once and for all.

JULIET BREMNER: Politicians must hope their people stay as resolute if more coffins start to return from the frontline.