Israeli Warplanes Pummel Hezbollah Strongholds After Day of Deadly Rocket Attacks

Israeli warplanes launched fresh airstrikes on Beirut's southern suburbs and Lebanon's southern and eastern regions Monday, killing at least 15 people. The stepped up bombardment came a day after cross-border guerrilla rockets killed 15 Israelis.

In south Lebanon, Hezbollah claimed to have killed four Israeli soldiers in heavy ground fighting in Houla. But the Israeli army said only three were moderately wounded there. One Israeli soldier was killed and four were lightly wounded in Bint Jbail, where five Hezbollah gunmen were killed, the army said.

The air raids, particularly intense on the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of the capital, came hours before Arab foreign ministers were expected to arrive for an emergency meeting. The ministers left Cairo around 10:30 a.m. (0730GMT) and were expected to land at Beirut international airport in the southern end of the capital. The airport has been closed to commercial traffic since July 13 after Israel attacked its runways.

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The latest death brought to at least 606 the number of people killed in Lebanon. Ninety-three people have been killed in Israel.

Israel's Haaretz daily, quoting an unnamed general, reported Monday that Israel might hit Lebanese infrastructure and symbols of government in response to Hezbollah's rocket attacks. Israeli warplanes have repeatedly blasted Palestinian government buildings during a monthlong offensive in Gaza.

The sound of eight loud explosions in less than an hour rang out from the southern suburbs and the roar of raiding jets shook the Lebanese capital at daybreak. The missiles kicked up smoke and dust in the sky in neighborhoods that have been devastated by repeated Israeli strikes since fighting began July 12. Residents have long fled the area.

Warplanes carried out a series of air raids on southern Lebanon early Monday and through the morning.

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Seven people were killed when a missile hit a house in Qassmieh on the coast north of the port city of Tyre during bombardment of the area, said civil defense official Youssef Khairallah. Attacks also were carried out in Naqoura on the border and Ras al-Biyada, about half way between Naqoura and Tyre.

A woman and her daughter were killed in an attack near a Lebanese army checkpoint between the villages of Harouf and Dweir, security officials said. Four other people were killed in a raid on that destroyed a house in Kfar Tebnit.

Three air raids on the town of Ghaziyeh destroyed three buildings. At least one person was killed and 14 were wounded, according to hospital officials.

In the village of Ghassaniyeh, a building collapsed on its residents, and at least one body was retrieved from under the rubble. Witnesses and civil defense workers at the scene said six more people were buried under the rubble but that could not be confirmed. Two other people were wounded in damaged nearby houses.

Women wailed as a body was pulled from under the rubble. A villager who last saw the family Sunday night said there were seven in the building. He called their cell phone but there was no reply. About two dozen rescuers used sledgehammers and shovels to dig through the debris. A bulldozer was brought in the morning to clear the rubble to facilitate the search for bodies.

It was not known why the house was targeted.

Five air raids struck the market town of Nabatiyeh, targeting two office buildings, a house and one of the offices of Shiite Muslim Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. No casualties were reported there or in raids on the villages of Jibsheet and Toul.

Israeli warplanes targeted a northeastern region of Lebanon that is a symbol of Hezbollah power. Roads in the Bekaa Valley region were hit to render them unusable.

At least four explosions were heard around the Bekaa Valley city of Baalbek, 100 kilometers (63 miles) north of Israel's border, witnesses said. The Israeli military confirmed that it had hit several targets in the Baalbek area. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Hezbollah has many positions in the Baalbek area. Israeli commandos on Wednesday landed troops in the area, fought guerrillas and kidnapped several people before withdrawing. Sixteen Lebanese were killed in that raid.

Warplanes struck roads about 20 kilometers (13 miles) south of Baalbek. A large factory for construction materials was hit, and several trucks belonging to the plant were destroyed.

Jet fighters also attacked the Rashaya region farther south on the corridor linking southern regions with the Bekaa in the country's east, the witnesses said.

A road near the Beirut border post at Masnaa on the Beirut-Damascus highway, a frequent target of attack, was hit again early Monday.

The renewed airstrikes came as Hezbollah battled Israeli forces attempting to advance deeper into southern Lebanon early Monday.

Hezbollah engaged Israeli infantrymen attempting to advance on the border villages of Aita al-Shaab, Rub Thalatheen and Dibel, the guerrillas' TV station said. At Houla, guerrillas ambushed an advancing Israeli army unit and heavy fighting ensued. Intense shelling was reported in Naqoura, on the Mediterranean coast south of Tyre, and on villages surrounding Nabatiyeh. Towns along the Litani River were also hit by constant artillery.

In addition to repeated air raids for nearly a month, Israel has sent thousands of troops into southern Lebanon to try to stop Hezbollah rocket attacks that on Sunday killed 12 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in the deadliest such strikes.

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