BEIT HILLEL, Israel – Hezbollah fired a record number of more than 160 rockets at northern Israel on Wednesday, killing an Israeli fleeing on his bike toward shelter and hitting further south than ever before. A stray rocket struck the West Bank for the first time.
The barrage came despite claims by Israeli leaders and generals that they have considerably weakened Hezbollah's military capabilities. It followed a two-day lull in Hezbollah rocket attacks and came hours after Israeli commandos snatched what Israel said were five Hezbollah guerrillas deep inside Lebanon.
By afternoon, more than 150 rockets had rained down on northern Israel, killing one man and wounding 21 others, police said.
A 52-year-old Israeli was killed at the entrance to his home in Kibbutz Sa'ar near the town of Naharia when a rocket hit, local officils said. It brought the Israeli death toll in three weeks of fighting to 55. Nineteen of those killed were civilians.
At least 21 people were wounded in Wednesday's rocket attacks, said Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman said.
The dead man, who was not immediately identified, was riding toward for his home after a warning siren went off when the rocket fell, said Yehuda Shavit, a local government official.
At the scene police sappers were trying to remove the remains of the rocket from the crater it caused and an orange bulldozer was clearing away the rubble.
Throughout the past three weeks, Hezbollah has fired more than 100 rockets every day. The highest previous total was 157 earlier this week.
Rockets landed near the northern Israeli village of Beit Hillel just before Israel's army chief,Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, briefed reporters there. A ridge hit by a rocket burned behind Halutz.
However, Halutz said Israel has dealt the guerrilla group a damaging blow, including killing hundreds of guerrillas and hitting their supplies of medium and long-range rockets. Having significantly increased its ground operation in south Lebanon on Tuesday, Halutz said the army would also consider renewing its air strikes deep in Lebanon, including in Beirut.
"We will need to evaluate the air strikes in the depth of Lebanon, especially in Beirut," Halutz said. "I assume, the matter will come up for authorization in the next day or two."
Hezbollah's rockets landed near the Israeli town of Beit Shean, about 43 miles from the border. In the West Bank, the rockets landed near the town of Jenin, between the villages of Fakua and Jalboun, leaving a 6.6-foot crater, but causing no casualties.
Palestinians have staged daily support marches for Hezbollah. The guerrilla group is popular in the West Bank and Gaza because of Israel's apparent difficulties in subduing the group.
"We know that they did not intend to strike Palestinian territory. They intended to strike Israel," said Fahmi Zarer, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. "It was only a technical problem that made this rocket land here in the Palestinian territories."
Lebanese security officials said Hezbollah guerrillas fired more than 300 rockets into northern Israel on Wednesday. An Associated Press reporter in southeastern Lebanon reported seeing about two dozen of the rockets launched from that area alone.
Hezbollah's satellite TV network, Al-Manar, reported the guerrilla group used its longer-range Khaybar 2 missiles to hit Beit Shean. Hezbollah used the same rocket last week when it targeted the Israeli town of Afula.