BEIRUT, Lebanon – Warplanes on Sunday hit a minibus carrying Lebanese from border villages they were told by the Israeli military to flee, killing three and wounding 13, Lebanese security forces said. Hezbollah guerrillas fired rockets into northern Israel, killing at least two people.
Israeli troops continued to hold a Lebanese border village that they battled their way into the day before, but did not appear to be advancing, Lebanese security officials said. But warplanes and artillery were heavily battering areas across the south.
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that the 12-day-old offensive in Lebanon would continue as Israel tries to push Hezbollah guerrillas away from the border.
"We are continuing with the operation, and the goal is to create a situation in which we have as broad a space for diplomatic movement as possible," Peretz said after meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "The goals we set for ourselves will be achieved. We certainly see a combination of a military operation that is fulfilling its role plus broad international activity to complete the process."
The minibus was carrying 16 people fleeing the village of Tairi, working their way through the mountains for the southern port city of Tyre. A missile hit the bus near the village of Yaatar, killing three and wounding the rest, security officials said. The wounded were taken to hospitals in Tyre.
Meanwhile, an Israeli newspaper reported Sunday that Lebanese foreign minister Fawzi Salloukh told an Iranian news agency that the two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, are in good health.
On Saturday, the Israeli military told residents of Tairi and 12 other nearby villages to evacuate by 4 p.m.
At least four other people were killed by strikes in the south, Lebanese television said but the deaths were not confirmed by security officials. About 45 people were wounded in Israeli air raids that targeted villages and towns around Tyre on Sunday, security and hospital officials said.
The three deaths in the minibus bring to at least 375 the official death toll provided by Lebanese authorities.
Israel's death toll stands at 36, with 17 people killed by Hezbollah rockets and 19 soldiers killed in fighting.
The U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland inspected firsthand the destruction wrought by Israeli air raids on south Beirut as he began a relief mission to war-ravaged Lebanon.
Making his way around piles of rubble, he stressed the need for a halt to the hostilities.
"If it continues like this, there will be more and more civilian casualties," he told reporters.
Egeland also planned to travel to Israel for further coordination on opening aid corridors. The number of displaced people has grown to 600,000, according to the World Health Organization.
His tour of south Beirut came just hours after Israeli warplanes again targeted Hezbollah strongholds in the area. The impact of five massive strikes reverberated through the city overnight.
Israel also hit inside the southern port of Sidon for the first time in its campaign, destroying a religious complex linked to Hezbollah and wounding four people. More than 35,000 people streaming north from the heart of the war zone had swamped the city, which is teetering under the weight of refugees.
Israel also bombed a textile factory in the border town of al-Manara, killing one person and wounding two, Mayor Ali Rahal told The Associated Press.
Warplanes and helicopters bombed Nabi Sheet, in the hills near the eastern Bekaa Valley town of Baalbek, wounding at least five people, witnesses said. In Baalbek, strikes leveled an agricultural compound belonging to Hezbollah. Raids also targeted a factory producing prefab houses near the main highway that links Beirut to the Syrian capital of Damascus, witnesses said.
Two civilians died in early morning air raids that hit villages along the border, witnesses said. A 15-year-old boy was killed at Meis al-Jabal, and a man was killed at Blida.
Fuel, food and some medicines were already tight for Sidon's own population of 100,000 and nearly impossible to replenish.
"There are no supplies reaching us, not from other nations, nor from the Lebanese government," said Mayor Abdul-Rahman al-Bizri, whose city was so packed that Palestinian refugees were taking in Lebanese refugees.
Sidon was only one face of the mounting humanitarian crisis across Lebanon amid an Israeli blockade and bombardment that has made roads unusable or too dangerous to distribute supplies to the south, where Israel is battling Hezbollah guerrillas.
The Israeli military has announced that humanitarian aid could enter through Beirut's port and determined a coastal to Tripoli as a land corridor for aid. But it did not define a safe passage route to the south — where the bombardment is heaviest.
Aid supplies arrived on Friday and Saturday on ships that were picking up Europeans fleeing the country. The exodus of foreigners continues, with tens of thousands — including 7,500 Americans — taken out by sea the past week.