Israel resumes airstrikes in Lebanon By HUSSEIN DAKROUB, Associated Press Writer

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    Israel resumes airstrikes in Lebanon By HUSSEIN DAKROUB, Associated Press Writer
    58 minutes ago

    BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hezbollah guerrillas clashed with Israeli troops on the Lebanese side of the border for the second consecutive day Thursday, while Israeli warplanes renewed airstrikes against Lebanon in a ninth day of fighting.


    The USS Nashville anchored off the coast of Lebanon to evacuate some 1,200 Americans fleeing the fighting. Hundreds of people gathered on the beach just north of Beirut to board a landing craft that would ferry the passengers to the Navy ship.

    The luxury cruise liner Orient Queen arrived in Cyprus early Thursday with about 900 Americans aboard, completing the first trip in a massive operation to evacuate thousands of U.S. citizens.

    Hezbollah said in a statement that its guerrillas foiled a new Israeli attempt to stage a ground attack and destroyed two Israeli tanks as they tried to enter the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras early Thursday.

    The Israeli army said three Israeli soldiers were wounded in two separate clashes Thursday, but it wasn't immediately clear if either of those were at Maroun al-Ras, and the army didn't have an immediate comment on the claim of the two destroyed tanks.

    Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said in an interview published Thursday that Hezbollah has created a "state within a state" in Lebanon and must be disarmed.

    Saniora told Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera that the Shiite militia has been doing the bidding of Syria and Iran and that it can only be disarmed with the help of the international community and once a cease-fire has been achieved in the current Middle East fighting.

    On Wednesday, Israeli troops clashed with Hezbollah guerrillas on the Lebanese side of the border, near the coastal border town of Naqoura, after they crossed the border before dawn to look for guerrilla tunnels and weapons. The Israeli army said two soldiers had been killed and nine wounded in that fighting, while Hezbollah said one guerrilla was killed.

    Israeli warplanes on Wednesday flattened houses and buildings, including one thought to hold Hezbollah's top leaders. The attempt to wipe out the leadership was the most dramatic action on a day that saw the Lebanese prime minister say about 300 people in his country had died in the eight-day offensive.

    Reports of the death toll in Wednesday's violence ranged as high at 70, which would make it the single deadliest day since the fighting began. Voice of Lebanon state radio reported 70 dead, while other Lebanese media gave figures ranging from 57 to 64. No further breakdowns were provided.

    U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour criticized the growing death toll, saying the indiscriminate shelling of cities and of nearby military sites was invariably resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians.

    "International law demands accountability," Arbour said in Geneva. "The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control."

    Hezbollah fired rockets into the Israeli Arab town of Nazareth, where Jesus is said to have spent his boyhood, killing two Arab brothers, ages 3 and 9, as they played outdoors.

    Israel broadcast warnings into south Lebanon telling civilians to leave the region, a possible prelude to a larger Israeli ground operation.

    Israel has mainly limited itself to attacks from the air and sea in its offensive that was launched after Hezbollah launched a July 12 cross-border attack on an Israeli military patrol and captured two soldiers.

    It had been reluctant to send in ground troops because Hezbollah is far more familiar with the terrain and because of memories of Israel's ill-fated 18-year occupation of south Lebanon that ended in 2000.

    Israeli warplanes also launched new airstrikes on Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, shortly after daybreak Thursday, according to witnesses and Hezbollah's al-Manar TV.

    The reported attack on the Bir al-Abed neighborhood followed a relatively quiet night in the capital after the Wednesday evening attack by Israeli warplanes on what the military believed was a bunker used by senior Hezbollah leaders.

    The Israeli military said that aircraft dropped 23 tons of explosives on the target in the Bourj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Soon after, Hezbollah issued a statement saying "no Hezbollah leaders or elements were killed in the strike," but a building under construction to be a mosque was hit.

    Interviewed on CNN early Thursday, Israel's U.N. ambassador, Dan Gillerman, said Israel would not issue a statement about the attack until it is sure of all the facts. But he added, "I can assure you that we know exactly what we hit. ... This was no religious site. This was indeed the headquarters of the Hezbollah leadership."

    Hezbollah has a headquarters compound in Bourj al-Barajneh that is off limits to the Lebanese police and army, so security officials could not confirm the strike. Hezbollah media made no immediate mention of any attack.

    Israel has said that one of the objects of its offensive in Lebanon is to eliminate Hezbollah leaders.

    Lebanon's embattled Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said 300 people had been killed in his country as fighting entered its second week.

    Saniora issued an urgent appeal Wednesday for a cease-fire, saying his country "has been torn to shreds" by the devastating Israeli military offensive. He demanded compensation from Israel for "barbaric destruction" and "immeasurable loss."

    Saniora, whose weak government has been unable to fulfill a U.N. directive to disarm Hezbollah and put its army along the border with Israel, pointedly criticized the U.S. position that Israel acts in self-defense.

    "Is this what the international community calls self-defense?" a stern-looking Saniora asked a meeting of foreign diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. "Is this the price we pay for aspiring to build our democratic institutions?"

    The Lebanese leader's appeal came as international pressure mounted on Israel and the United States to agree to a cease-fire. The rising death toll and scope of the destruction deepened a rift between the U.S. and Europe, and humanitarian agencies were sounding the alarm over a pending catastrophe with a half million people displaced in Lebanon.

    Thousands of foreigners fled in one of the largest evacuation operations since World War II.

    The Bush administration is giving Israel a tacit green light to take the time it needs to neutralize Hezbollah, but the Europeans fear mounting civilian casualties will play into the hands of militants and weaken Lebanon's democratically elected government.

    Exhausted, drawn and shaken, the Americans — many of them of Lebanese origin — stood in line at a processing center on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, dragging their luggage and their children as they waited to be told where they would sleep and when they might leave.

    "This war is unfair. It's unfair if you see buildings fall and there are people inside," said Mona Kharbouche, a visibly upset mother of two who said she had left behind her mother, two sisters and a brother. "We have to talk first (before fighting). We can't do this."

    Many worried about their loved ones who had stayed in Lebanon.

    "I've got family. Parents that are stuck without food, no water, no one can get there," said Wajiha Chahine. "Nobody can help."