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French Version


Senior Israeli commander expects offensive to end 'within a few weeks'

Israel's deputy army chief said Tuesday that the offensive against Lebanon would end within a few weeks, as the Jewish state needed more time to complete "very clear goals." Israel also agreed to arrangements with several Western governments for a major evacuation of foreign nationals from Lebanon Wednesday, a senior army commander told Agence France Presse.

"Twenty boats are going to be able to leave Lebanon Wednesday against seven on Tuesday and just two on Monday," the commander said, asking not to be identified.

Major General Moshe Kaplinsky told Israel's Army Radio that "the fighting in Lebanon will end within a few weeks. We will not take months."

"We need more time to complete our very clear goals. When we fight terror it is a war that needs to be very accurate, very schematic and it takes time," he said.

Israel has been demanding Hizbullah's disarmament and the deployment of the Lebanese Army along the border.

Israel first launched the offensive one week ago after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a cross-border clash.

Israel's army said Tuesday that Hizbullah was smuggling weapons from Syria but added it did not regard Syria as a target for attack.

"In the last few days, the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Lebanon has continued," Major General Gadi Eisenkot of the Israeli Army Command told a news conference.

"We don't see Syria or the Lebanese Army as a target but at the same time we see the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Lebanon to be used in attacks against Israeli civilians," he said.

The Israeli military has said it was a Syrian-made rocket that killed eight Israelis in the northern city of Haifa on Sunday. Hizbullah claimed responsibility for that attack.

"The [army] is using enormous force against Hizbullah and we have hurt it ... but the organization has many more rockets," Eisenkot said. "They are still capable of firing rockets at Israel."

The military also said its air force had destroyed four trucks traveling from Syria Tuesday with weapons and munitions destined for Hizbullah fighters in the Bekaa Valley.

An Israeli military source confirmed that it was not the first attack of this nature, describing the latest raid as "nothing out of the ordinary," pointing out that it was conducted on Lebanese territory.

"We do not consider Syria and the Lebanese Army as targets [but] we do consider weapons smuggling between Syria and Lebanon with the utmost seriousness," General Gadi Eisenkot said.

Since Israel started its offensive in Lebanon last Wednesday, all of the main roads connecting Syria and Lebanon have been attacked.

Eisenkot said that since the start of the operation Israel had attacked "more than 1,000 terrorist targets," including 180 places he said were used to fire rockets into the Jewish state.

"We will continue our systematic destruction of all Hizbullah positions within a

1-kilometer band the length of the border," he said, vowing that operations would go on "without time limit."

Lebanese security reported Tuesday that two convoys had been destroyed by air strikes in Byblos and the Bekaa.

The trucks destroyed in the Bekaa were delivering medications donated by the United Arab Emirates, while those in Byblos were tour buses.

In an early morning attack, 11 Lebanese Army soldiers were killed and 40 wounded Tuesday as Israeli fighter jets raided an army base in the town of Jamhour, overlooking Beirut's southern suburbs.

At least 12 army personnel were killed and several others wounded late Sunday during Israeli air strikes on army bases in the North Lebanon towns of Tripoli and Al-Abdeh.

Over 230 Lebanese civilians have been killed and more than 300 wounded in the Israeli offensive against Lebanon, according to security reports and relief organizations.

About five Hizbullah fighters have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces along the southern border since the crisis broke out last week, including a guerrilla killed Tuesday and identified by Hizbullah as Hussein Khalil Hotait, 25.

An Israeli government source has said Israel may step up attacks in the coming days, mindful that its main ally, the US, may not resist international pressure for a cease-fire indefinitely.

The seventh day of the mounting crisis saw Israeli attacks against factories, dams and more civilians with internationally banned weapons.

The Israeli attacks were mainly concentrated on the Bekaa district, as Israeli warplanes launched missiles at the towns of Zahle, Baalbek, Rachaya al-Fokhar and others.

The St. Gregorius Church in Rachaya al-Fokhar suffered a direct hit, as did the Lake Qaraoun Dam and the ambulance donated by the Emirates in Dahr al-Baydar. Dozens of civilians were killed and wounded in the attacks.

Over 30 civilians were killed in Israeli air strikes against Lebanon on Tuesday.

Ten civilians who had taken refuge inside the Greek Orthodox Church in Rachaya al-Fokhar were wounded in an attack. Lebanese security sources said Israel had used phosphorous missiles in the attack, an internationally banned weapon.

Meanwhile, Hizbullah continued to launch rockets at Israel Tuesday, targeting Safad, Tiberius and Haifa with Raad I and III missiles and other Israeli settlements with Katyusha rockets, according to a statement released by the party.

Hizbullah shells killed one person and wounded at least 12 others.

Beirut 19-07-2006
Redaction
The Daily Star



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