Hezbollah Sharply Rejects Cease-Fire, Say It Will Continue Rocket Strikes

Published July 17, 2006

| FoxNews.com

Hezbollah sharply rejected talk of a cease-fire Monday, accusing international proposals for the end of violence a ploy to help Israel continue striking Lebanon.

"The international envoys have conveyed Israeli conditions. These conditions are rejected," said Hezbollah legislator Hussein Haj Hassan. "We accept what secures our country's interest and pride and dignity and not to submit to Israeli conditions," he said on al-Jazeera television.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar television said the envoys arriving in Lebanon are coming for a "clear-cut objective to give more time for enemy aircraft to carry out more destruction and devastation so that someone can raise the banner of surrender."

The guerrilla group remains that it wants an unconditional cease-fire. Al-Manar said it will continue to fire rockets on Israel, warning: "This is the beginning. Beware of our cyclone."

Earlier, a new round of rocket attacks showered several northern Israeli cities, hitting several targets including a hospital and shattering a brief lull in a day fraught with violence.

Guerrillas launched rockets from southern Lebanon striking near a hospital in Safed, the city of Haifa and the border town of Kiryat Shemona, according to Israeli security officials. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Earlier, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday the fighting in Lebanon would end when Hezbollah guerrillas freed two captured soldiers, rocket attacks on Israel stopped and the Lebanese army deployed along the border.

Elsewhere in the conflict:

• Tel Aviv residents are placed on alert.

• The father of an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Lebanese guerrillas pleads to his captors for a sign that his son is still alive.

• U.N. Security Council awaits return of U.N. mission to the region.

• German deputy foreign minister says Israel's attacks on Beirut reduce Lebanon's ability to reign in Hezbollah.

• Israeli warplanes bomb the Palestinian Foreign Ministry for a second time.

• World leaders consider international peacekeepers to address Middle East violence.

• The Iranian foreign minister says cease-fire, prisoner swap would be acceptable to end current conflict.

• The leaders of the Group of Eight call for the end to violence in the Middle East.

In his first address to the Knesset since the nation began an offensive against Hezbollah six days ago, Olmert pledged that Israel would "not be a hostage" to terrorists and the fight was one "for the right to live a normal life."

"When missiles are launched at our residents and our towns, our answer will be war waged at full strength, with all determination, courage and sacrifice," he said after a day of attacks on the Lebanese border, including a hail of Lebanese-fired rockets raining down on the northern Israeli city of Haifa.

"We are not looking for war or direct conflict, but if necessary we will not be frightened by it," he added.

An airstrike in Lebanon destroyed at least one long-range Iranian missile capable of hitting Tel Aviv, Israeli military officials said.

Israeli aircraft targeted a truck carrying the weapons before they could be launched, the officials said speaking on the condition of anonymity because of military regulations.

Earlier Israeli bulldozers protected by tanks entered Lebanon to knock out Hezbollah-controlled buildings and guerrilla holdouts, an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson said.

Three U.S. military helicopters were being used to transport Americans from Beirut to Cyprus, with more expected to arrive Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told FOX News. A Greek ship, the Orient Queen, was set to arrive Tuesday to ferry people from Lebanon to Cyprus; it will travel under U.S. Naval escort, if necessary, Whitman said.

Lebanese television broadcast video of what it said was an Israeli F-16 being shot out of the sky. But the IDF denied that any of their aircraft had been shot down.

Israel "is actually doing its work in the war against terror," Dan Gillerman told FOX News. Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., likened Hezbollah to a cancer in the body of Lebanon.

"If we succeed in removing Hezbollah and disarming Hezbollah, Lebanon will be better off, the region will be better off and the whole world will be better off," Gillerman said.

At least six people were injured, including one seriously, when Hezbollah rockets caused a building to partially collapse in Haifa, Israel's third-largest city.

Initially, medics feared other people could be trapped beneath the rubble. Holes were blown in the building's two top stories, and the inside was singed black by the rocket's blast.

More rockets also fell on the city of Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, and Safed and Acre.

Israeli missiles hit the Lebanese capital shortly after sunrise, as three loud explosions rocked the southern suburbs while another strike sparked a large fire in Beirut's port, witnesses said.

"It will lead to further despair, further extremism in the region," Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora told FOX News. "This is not the way to deal with the situation."

The strikes came as the Israeli military said a Hezbollah rocket had fallen south of Haifa, the southernmost point hit by the Lebanese guerrilla in six days of escalating conflict.

In Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanese TV showed columns of smoke rising from the Hezbollah stronghold, which was pummeled on Sunday after a Hezbollah rocket killed eight people in Haifa.

Israeli air raids had killed 13 people and wounded at least 53 throughout Lebanon on Monday. Eight of the dead were Lebanese soldiers killed when aircraft bombed a position at the country's northern border.

The Israeli army spokesman said there were about 60 Israeli strikes overnight, including aircraft and artillery, concentrated around the Baalbek area in the eastern Bekaa valley, where two people died.

CountryWatch: Israel | Lebanon | Syria | Iran

Get full coverage in the Mideast Center.

In Haifa, air-raid sirens sounded at daybreak Monday, a day after a Hezbollah rocket hit the port city and killed eight people. The sirens are supposed to give a one-minute warning before a rocket lands, but several minutes after the alert, there was no sign of a rocket in the area.

Loudspeaker trucks instructed Haifa residents to enter bomb shelters.

Israel Radio reported that an hour earlier, Katyusha rockets fell near Israeli communities near the Lebanese border. No one was hurt.

An Israeli air force officer, Brig. Gen. Omri Tamir, told Israel Radio that a rocket exploded near an air force base in Israel's north, but he could not say whether guerrillas were aiming at the base. He did not name it or give its location, and said there was no damage.

• A brief history of the Lebanese-Israeli conflict.

The sirens followed Israeli airstrikes that took out what was left of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry in Gaza City early Monday morning, the second attack on the building in less than a week since the escalation of violence between the Jewish state and terrorists from Hamas and Hezbollah.

The bombing collapsed an eight-wing story of the already damaged ministry and shattered windows in at least 50 apartments surrounding the building. At least nine people were injured, rescue workers said.

Photo Essay: Mideast Borders on Meltdown

The ministry, which Israel says is being used by terrorists to stage attacks, was empty at the time of the 1:20 a.m. bombing. Israel first attacked the building Thursday, causing substantial damage.

The strike came shortly after Hezbollah guerrillas fired rockets from Lebanon into Nazareth and Afula. The towns lie roughly 25 miles from the Israeli-Lebanese border. No casualties were reported, but an earlier rocket attack on a train station in Haifa killed eight and wounded seven others.

Olmert vowed "far-reaching consequences" Sunday for the earlier attack, Hezbollah's deadliest strike on Israel ever.

The day's rocket attacks demonstrated remarkable range and security experts wonder whether cites like Tel Aviv could be at risk. So far, the exchanges of attacks have killed more than 200 on both sides, mostly civilian.

Meanwhile, planning and assessment teams arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Aukar to arrange the evacuations for any of the 25,000 Americans living or working in Lebanon who wish to leave.

"The arrival of the teams is an important first step in facilitating the safe departure of Americans who want to leave Lebanon," according to the U.S. Embassy Web site.

Marines already evacuated 21 American citizens with pre-existing medical conditions. They were being flown to Cyprus, where it was expected they would connect with commercial flights. The State Department, however, has issued a message to Americans in Lebanon, telling them to stay put as the avenues for egress had become too dangerous.

"It is too perilous to try to make your way out of Lebanon," the statement read, with one official pointing out that some routes would coincide with anti-American demonstrations planned for Monday in Syria, which supports Hezbollah.

"We have been told to stay in the hotel … and not to venture out into the street," Rev. Lawrence Biondi told FOX News from Lebanon, where he was to give a commencement speech with a fellow clergy member. "Now I know how terrible it is to be a hostage."

Maura Harty of the U.S. State Department told FOX News that the embassy is "not in evacuation status." "

"We are in there for the long haul," she said. "We are in there for American citizens.”

The French reportedly have ferries with the capacity for 1,000 people, but are only taking French nationals, New York City architect Naji Moujaes told FOX News. Moujaes was on a business trip but brought along his wife and infant child.

"If your wife is a French national and your son, then they will take you,” Moujaes said.

The U.S. State Department is asking all U.S. citizens in Lebanon to find an Internet connection and register for updates at http://travel.state.gov, but Moujaes said, "Internet access in Lebanon is very slow.”

Witnesses reported that waves of Israeli airstrikes had hit the Lebanese city of Tripoli and Hezbollah strongholds in eastern town of Baalbek. Barrages from gunboats killed four in a village south of Beirut. Three Lebanese army soldiers were killed and seven missing after an Israeli airstrike in the fishing village of Abdeh in northernmost Lebanon.

Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, said in a televised message that the group's terrorists were "in their full strength and power" and that their "missile stockpiles are still full."

"When the Zionists behave like there are no rules and no red lines and no limits to the confrontation, it is our right to behave in the same way," Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah tried to rally the Arab world around Hezbollah, saying the battle was an opportunity to deal a "historic defeat" to Israel. Iran and Syria are prime supporters of Hezbollah and Hamas, raising fears the sides could be drawn into a regional war.

Still, they denied Israel's claim that they had provided troops or advanced missile technology to Hezbollah.

The conflict erupted Wednesday after Hezbollah guerrillas penetrated Israel in brazen raid, killing eight soldiers and abducting another two. The fighting opened a second front for Israel, which was already fighting Hamas-linked terrorist in the Gaza Strip following the kidnapping of another Israeli soldier on June 25.

On Sunday, Israeli airstrikes closed down Beirut's international airport, which serves as the only air transport hub in or out of the city. Warplanes also bombed the main highway to neighboring Syria. Israel also imposed a naval blockade on Lebanese ports.

Israel unleashed a decimating attack on the terror group's headquarters in the Beirut suburbs. Much of the city was plunged into darkness Sunday night after an airstrike took out the Jiyeh power plant. Firefighters pleaded for help from residents after saying they didn't have enough water to put out the blaze.

The Israeli military warned residents of south Lebanon to flee, promising heavy retaliation after the Haifa assault.

"Nothing will deter us," Olmert said.

FOX News' C. Spencer Beggs, Matthew Ruiz, Sara Bonisteel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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