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Israel-Lebanon Fighting Broadens Middle East Conflict

Israeli troops continued attacks on Lebanon, targeting the Beirut airport and a Hezbollah television station. Hezbollah, in turn, fired over 120 rockets into northern Israel. Analysts look at the chances the violence can be de-escalated.

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    We begin our Middle East coverage with Independent Television News reports from Lebanon and Israel. Beginning from Beirut, correspondent Tim Ewart.

  • TIM EWART, ITV News Correspondent:

    Suddenly, Beirut is on the front line again. Israeli jets shattered the early morning calm as they swooped on the international airport, bombing the main runways.

    We had arrived on one of the last flights to land here, barely an hour earlier. There had seemed no reason for alarm.

    A mile away, there was panic, as an Israeli helicopter launched a missile attack on a TV station controlled by Hezbollah. Yesterday, it had broadcast the announcement that two Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped in southern Lebanon.

    It was in the south that Israel vented the worst of its furry. Lebanese officials said a series of air strikes killed 50 civilians, including 15 children, and wounded around 100 people.

    Back in Beirut meanwhile, people in Hezbollah-controlled areas were warned by the Israelis to leave their homes ahead of more air strikes. The bomb craters have closed the international airport, and raids on two military bases have now shut down all flights in and out of the country.

    The attack on the airport here is a severe blow to the new Beirut and its aspirations for a bright and prosperous future. It's also a throwback to a bitter and painful past.

    The scars of battle from years gone by are a reminder to affluent, modern Beirut of how fragile prosperity and peace can be. Lebanon should now be bustling with hundreds of thousands of summer tourists; instead, there are empty beaches, deserted cafes and restaurants, idle waiters, edgy soldiers, and angrily divided opinions.


    We are very strong, and we're not afraid from anything. We can stay here, and we can do anything when the enemy come here. We will fight him.


    What was done was so reckless from Hezbollah, and their claims, I don't really believe in it.


    Israeli bombs have shattered Lebanon's bridges and are threatening to destroy its road network.

    Fire breaks out after a Hezbollah rocket hits the Israeli town of Nahariya. Emergency workers rush to the scene, but fear that gas tanks could explode.

    There is a badly wounded man who needs urgent evacuation. He's rapidly carried out to a waiting ambulance and a high-speed ride to hospital. Moments later, more explosions. Two more rockets hit the town, and a woman who is sitting on her balcony is killed.

    Amir Bukabsa owns two shops which were hit by the first rocket and employs the man who was rushed to hospital. He says it's now time for Israel to go back into Lebanon with full force.


    I think that it is time to wake up and go inside.


    Go into Lebanon?


    Exactly, and to fix the mess, like we know how to do it.


    Further south, the town of Safed was also hit; 25 Israelis, including children, were hurt. The fear as this crisis escalates is that Hezbollah could use longer range rockets to attack cities further down the coast.

    The Israeli chief of staff issued a warning.

    DAN HALUTZ, Chief of Staff, Israeli Defense Forces: If rockets are launched towards Israeli cities, Beirut will be included among the targets.


    On the border, Israel is using its big guns to pound the Islamic guerrillas on the other side. Aerial surveillance has provided these gunners with the coordinates of suspected Hezbollah positions inside Lebanon, and now these 155-millimeter Howitzers are going into action.

    From time to time, Hezbollah is firing back. One of their rockets landed right next to an Israeli army base just about a quarter of a mile away. But overwhelmingly, the heavy firepower is coming from this side.

    Israel is striking at Lebanon with a full array of long-range weapons. The strategy is steadily mounting pressure, but the Islamic guerrillas are determined and well-organized, and no one yet knows how this crisis will end.


    Margaret Warner takes it from there.