HAIFA, Israel – Hezbollah rockets today rained on northern Israeli towns as the Jewish state’s warplanes carried out strategic strikes against the Hezbollah’s infrastructure and the Beirut International Airport. A total air and sea closure was imposed over Lebanon.
Hezbollah threatened to use longer range rockets against the major northern port city of Haifa, in which case military officials tell WND Israel would likely launch a major ground invasion inside Lebanon.
The fighting today was instigated by a well-orchestrated Hezbollah attack against Israel’s northern border yesterday in which two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and three others were killed.
The Hezbollah rocket fire into Israel today, which continues as of press time, so far killed two Israeli women and wounded dozens more. Katyushas landed in the Jewish towns of Sefad, Nahariya, Karmiel, Hatzor and other communities near the Lebanese border.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed several rockets landed about 10 miles south of the border with Lebanon – the furthest Hezbollah rockets have ever penetrated into Israel. Security officials say the rockets evidence more advanced features than others previously fired by Hezbollah.
Residents in northern Israeli towns have been directed into bomb shelters and security rooms, as more missiles are expected to be launched.
Hezbollah says it has over 10,000 rockets directed against Israel. Israeli officials say the Lebanese militia’s arsenal includes several kinds of Katyusha rockets, with a range of up to about 12 miles; Fajr-3 rockets that can travel about 25 miles; and Fajr-5′s that some say have a range of up to 40 miles, putting Haifa and other major Israeli population centers within Hezbollah’s firing zone. There have been reports Iran has updated Hezbollah’s missile arsenal with other kinds of rockets, possibly with ranges of 50 miles or more.
The Israeli government is working on the assumption that Hezbollah will use rockets with a longer range than it has previously used to strike civilian areas in Israel. Should that happen, military sources say the IDF will recommend sending ground troops into Lebanon to block rocket launch sites.
So far today the Israeli Air Force bombed dozens of strategic Hezbollah positions north and south of Beirut. The IAF confirmed strikes to disable Lebanon’s international airport, which Israeli officials say is used to transport weapons to Hezbollah. A total air and naval blockade has been imposed in Lebanon.
The IAF also bombed several Lebanese air force targets, including bases less than a mile from the Syrian border.
Israeli military officials tell WorldNetDaily the Jewish state has “completely neutralized the Lebanese air force.”
The air strikes in south Lebanon today killed at least 44 civilians, including more than 15 children, and wounded over 100 people, according to Lebanese officials.
The IAF is prepared to strike anywhere in Lebanon, including Beirut, if the Lebanese government fails to rein in Hezbollah guerrillas, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said today.
Halutz said senior Hezbollah leaders live and have offices in the southern Beirut neighborhood of Dahiya, which he said could be included among the targets if Hezbollah rockets continue to hit northern Israel.
“Nothing is safe [in Lebanon], as simple as that,” Halutz said.
But Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah warned any Israeli action in Beirut would result in missile fire against Haifa.
The Israeli-Lebanese violence started yesterday morning after the Hezbollah raid against Israel and the kidnapping and killing of Israeli troops
Four more Israeli soldiers were killed when their tank hit a mine two miles into Lebanese territory, apparently during an initial attempt to rescue the kidnapped soldiers. The IDF sent troops across the border to search for the missing soldiers, marking the first incursion into Lebanon since Israel withdrew from there in May 2000.
Immediately after yesterday’s attack, Nasrallah announced a prisoner exchange was the only way to secure the release of the soldiers, who he said were being held in a “secure and remote” location.
Nasrallah called on Israel to free thousands of security prisoners, and linked any prisoner deal to the release by Hamas of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped two weeks ago.
Nasrallah also warned Israel against attacking within Lebanese territory.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, meanwhile, declared the Hezbollah attack an act of war.
“It is an act of war by the state of Lebanon against the state of Israel in its sovereign territory,” Olmert told a news conference.
“There are elements, to the north and the south, that are threatening our stability and trying to test our determination,” Olmert said. “They will fail and pay a heavy price for their actions.”
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