Report: IAF raids kill 57 in s. Lebanon

IDF denies attacks took place, saying "IAF had no targets in those villages."

August 4, 2006 16:30
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IAF airstrikes on two villages in south Lebanon on Friday flattened two houses, and 57 people were reported buried in the rubble, security officials and the state news agency reported. The number of dead was not immediately known. The warplanes hit Taibeh, about 5 kilometers from the Israeli border, destroying a house where 7 people had taken refuge. The second attack reportedly flattened a building in Aita al-Shaab, 2 kilometers inside Lebanon. Fifty people were reported covered in the rubble there. The number of dead could not yet be independently verified. Earlier this week, it was initially reported that 57 people were killed by an IAF bomb in the village of Kana, but later the Lebanese Health Ministry said the death toll stood at 27. IDF spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal denied the attacks took place, saying "the air force had no targets in those villages." Earlier, Four Israeli missiles hit a warehouse where farm workers were loading vegetables near the Lebanon-Syria border on Friday, killing at least 28 people, according to officials at the Syrian hospitals where the dead and wounded were taken. At least 12 other workers were wounded in the attack. The attack occurred about two miles inside the border when five Syrian refrigerator trucks arrived at a vegetable warehouse to load peaches and apples for the Syrian market, said drivers and witnesses. They said there were about 150 people at the warehouse when the attack occurred. The toll of dead and injured was provided by the emergencies services at the al-Qusair National Hospital on the Lebanese-Syrian border and the National Hospital in the Syrian city of Homs. IDF spokesman Dallal said it was suspected that the building was used for arms storage, because a truck believed to be carrying weapons went into the warehouse from the Syrian side. IAF missiles also targeted bridges in the Christian heartland north of Beirut for the first time. A top UN aid official said air strikes on the main north-south highway risked cutting off Lebanon's "umbilical cord" to the world. Four civilians were killed and 10 wounded in the air raid, the Lebanese Red Cross said. A Lebanese soldier and four civilians were also killed in air raids near Beirut's airport and southern suburbs, security officials and witnesses said. The broadened bombing came as Hizbullah hammered Israel with more than 130 rockets Friday, killing two people. Israel's United Nations ambassador, Dan Gillerman, said that Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's offer of a truce was "a sign of weakness ... and he may be looking for a way out." Gillerman warned against Hezbollah threats to launch rockets on Israel's commercial center of Tel Aviv. "We are ready for it, and I am sure that he (Nasrallah), as well as his sponsors, realize the consequences of doing something as unimaginable and crazy as that," the Israeli ambassador told CNN. The destruction of four bridges on the main north-south coastal highway linking Beirut to Syria contributed to further seal Lebanon from the outside world Friday, as the Israeli naval blockade - along with earlier strikes against the road to the eastern boarder and the capital's international airport - have largely closed off other access points. The strikes against the northern highway hindered means of bringing relief supplies into Lebanon, international aid agencies said Friday. "This is Lebanon's umbilical cord," Christiane Berthiaume of the World Food Program told AP. "This (road) has been the only way for us to bring in aid." A convoy that was meant to carry supplies and emergency personnel to Beirut on Friday is now stuck, she said, and UN teams have so far been refused permission to assess the damage caused by the bombing. She added that UN trucks might be able to take secondary roads, but this would slow down aid shipments. An IDF spokesman, Capt. Jacob Dallal, said Israel targeted the bridges to stop the flow of weapons from Syria. "Our attacks last night were aimed at stopping the flow of weapons to Hezbollah," Dallal said.

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