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IAF fighter jets bombarded Beirut on Tuesday afternoon, the first strikes in the city for nearly two days. A series of at least five heavy blasts were heard in the capital and a cloud billowed up from the southern district, a Hizbullah stronghold that has been heavily bombarded in the past.
The IDF confirmed it had destroyed 10 buildings in the Lebanese capital including a vital target, but would not say what the target was.
The quick succession of blasts set off car alarms in central Beirut, kilometers from the southern neighborhood of Dahiyah, and sirens were heard. More, smaller explosions followed, then came a fifth powerful blast. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Al-Jazeera television said 20 IAF rockets hit Dahiyah.
Earlier, IAF aircraft destroyed the Hizbullah Katyusha launcher that fired 16 rockets at Haifa less than an hour before, wounding 23 people. The strike was the latest in a series of IAF offensives against Hizbullah targets on Tuesday morning.
In the first few hours of daylight, the IAF struck 15 Katyusha launch sites in south Lebanon. In addition, the IDF destroyed 18 Hizbullah buildings in Tyre, six weapons warehouses throughout Lebanon and two cars suspected of carrying Hizbullah operatives near Tyre.
Earlier Tuesday morning, four IDF soldiers were lightly wounded in a gun battle with Hizbullah operatives in southern Lebanon.
All four were evacuated to a hospital in Nahariya, Israel Radio reported.
Meanwhile, the IAF revealed that it had prevented a potentially serious disaster on the previous day when it stopped fire from an IDF unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at IDF troops.
A senior Air Force officer said that the UAV opened fire on ground troops operating in the south-central Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil after receiving incorrect coordinates from Golani soldiers on the ground. The fire was stopped when the IAF realized the mistake. No one was hurt in the incident.
The army also reported that at least two Hizbullah operatives were killed and several were wounded when two IDF infantry brigades, along with armored and engineering corps units, entered the outskirts of Hizbullah's regional capital of Bint Jbeil, in the framework of continuing operations in southern Lebanon. No IDF troops were hurt in the battle.
A senior IDF officer said that the operation was to be extended to neighboring towns.
On Monday, IDF ground troops pushed deeper into Lebanon, entering the town amid heavy fighting that left two soldiers dead and at least 20 others wounded.
According to IDF commanders in the field, close to 40 Hizbullah gunmen were also killed in clashes that erupted as troops from the Golani and Paratroopers brigades took up positions in homes and surrounded the town's marketplace.
In Bint Jbeil, St.-Sgt. Kobi Smilg, 20, of Rehovot, was killed when a large bomb exploded under his Merkava 4 tank, which flipped over as a result. A battalion commander was wounded in the attack. A few hours later, 21-year-old Lt. Lotan Slavin from Kibbutz Hazeva was killed when his tank was hit - this time by an anti-tank missile.
Five Golani soldiers were wounded when they were struck by friendly fire from an aircraft hovering over the town.
On Monday night, Defense Minister Amir Peretz expanded the areas of the North that fell under the terms of an emergency situation order that he issued last week, allowing the IDF to close workplaces and give orders to the public.
Near the border, gunfire and explosions could be heard coming from southern Lebanon through the day, and large plumes of gray smoke rose over the area. Hizbullah gunmen fired mortars into northern Israel and anti-tank missiles at IDF forces, the army said.
Senior IDF officers told The Jerusalem Post
that 100 to 200 Hizbullah fighters were believed to be in Bint Jbeil, home to 20,000 Shi'ites who, the military said, had mostly fled north. One IDF commander whose men were fighting in the town said Hizbullah appeared to be determined to hold on to the town.
The IDF, the commander said, was not surprised by the fierce Hizbullah resistance. The organization's fighting tactics, he said, were familiar from years of combat during Israel's 18-year presence in southern Lebanon, which ended in 2000. "We know this enemy very well," an officer said from his command post just south of the town.
OC Operations Directorate Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said soldiers fighting in the town had discovered Iranian involvement in the fighting. He said that the operation was proving to be effective and that the troops were succeeding in destroying rocket launchers and in drawing terrorists out of their hiding places and killing them.
The IDF, Eizenkot said, did not plan to reoccupy Lebanon. "We are going inside, taking over the area, conquering it for a defined period and then, after completing the operation, we move on to conquer another place," he said, adding that Syrian weapons were being used by Hizbullah in Bint Jbeil.
"The fighting is not easy but we are operating with our full determination," he said.
Touring an army induction base in the center of Israel, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said there was still concern Hizbullah rockets could strike deep into Israel, hitting Tel Aviv. The IDF said that during the past 24 hours its planes had hit more than 270 targets across Lebanon, including 21 missile launchers, more than 50 Hizbullah buildings, and communication lines.
The army said it had captured two Hizbullah gunmen, the first it had taken into custody during the fighting. "When the enemy surrenders, we take them prisoner. The two prisoners are located in Israel and will be held here with the aim of interrogating them," said Brig.-Gen. Alon Friedman, deputy commander of the Northern Command.
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