BEIRUT, Lebanon – Israel attacked a Lebanese army base and a radio relay station used by Lebanese state radio in Amsheet early Thursday, local media reported. Conflicting reports made it unclear whether the attack came via air or sea or if any casualties had been sustained.
The incident came a day after the Jewish state earned condemnation from many world leaders for the bombing of an United Nations observation post, which killed four peacekeepers.
In the wake of the heavy resistance, Gen. Udi Adam, head of the Israeli northern command, said the fighting in Lebanon would likely last several more weeks.
With its offensive entering a third week, Israeli officials detailed a plan to maintain a mile-wide security zone in southern Lebanon until a multinational force is deployed or Hezbollah is pushed back in a cease-fire agreement that also limits its supply of weapons.
Details of the security zone emerged as FOX News confirmed at least nine Israeli soldiers died in fierce fighting with Hezbollah militia in the town Bint Jbail. At least eight of those casualties came when Israeli soldiers were caught in an ambush the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said.
The IDF later said soldiers fighting Hezbollah guerrillas in the town of Maroun al-Ras suffered several casualties. Details of the fighting or the extent of the casualties were not revealed.
In Rome, U.S., European and Arab officials held crisis talks on Lebanon, but failed to agree on an immediate plan to force an end to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. (Full story)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave details of the security zone including its dimensions Wednesday during a closed-door meeting with parliament's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, according to participants who later briefed reporters.
Israeli troops would try to control the zone from a distance, with artillery fire and airstrikes, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said. Israel would not, he insisted, reoccupy any part of southern Lebanon permanently. The remarks were the first indication of the possibility of a longer Israeli involvement than previously had been raised by officials wary of public anger over its 18-year occupation of the area.
While FOX News confirmed the deaths of at least nine Israeli soldiers, Al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based satellite TV channel, said at least 14 Israeli soldiers had been killed in the fighting for control of Bint Jbail. The town has symbolic importance to the Shiite Islamic militant group as one of the centers of resistance to the 1982-2000 Israeli occupation.
A senior Hezbollah official, Mahmoud Komati, told The Associated Press Wednesday that Israeli forces had managed to seize a few points inside Bint Jbail, but had not yet taken the town center.
The IDF said several Hezbollah fighters had taken cover in a local mosque.
Despite two weeks of Israeli bombardment against Hezbollah rocket launchers and positions, the guerrillas fired one of their largest barrages in days into northern Israel — 125 rockets that wounded at least 31 people and damaged property.
Israeli warplanes, meanwhile, staged 15 airstrikes in southern Lebanon. An evening strike leveled an empty six-story building in the southern port city of Tyre, security officials and witnesses reported.
One person was killed in a strike that destroyed the headquarters of the Shiite Amal movement in the town of Zefta, officials said.
Since the fighting began, at least 422 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Lebanon, according to the Health Ministry. Up to 750,000 Lebanese have been driven from their homes. At least 42 Israelis have been killed, including 24 members of the military, according to authorities.
Four United Nations peacekeepers keeping post in southern Lebanon were killed Tuesday by an Israeli airstrike, officials confirmed Wednesday. Olmert expressed "deep regret" to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan Wednesday for the deaths. (Full story)
The last shipful of Americans trapped in Lebanon was expected to leave a Beirut port Wednesday for Cyprus. U.S. officials said they were worried that possibly hundreds of Americans were stranded in south Lebanon without safe passage to evacuation points in the capital, Beirut, and on the coast. (Full story)
As the Israeli incursion continued, the senior Hezbollah leader said the guerrillas had not expected such an onslaught when they killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others during a cross-border raid on July 12.
"The truth is — let me say this clearly — we didn't even expect [this] response ... that [Israel] would exploit this operation for this big war against us," Komati told the AP.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.