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Israelis clash with Hezbollah guerrillas |
By HUSSEIN DAKROUB, Associated Press Writer
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israeli troops clashed with Hezbollah guerrillas on the Lebanese side of the border Wednesday, while warplanes flattened buildings and killed at least 20 people overnight as fighting entered its second week with the U.S. signaling it will not push Israel toward a fast cease-fire.
In Beirut, Americans boarded a luxury ship to carry them from the country, with many complaining about the slow pace of the U.S. evacuation effort. Europeans and Lebanese with foreign passports already have fled by the thousands. Two Chinook transport helicopters also took 120 Americans to Larnaca in Cyprus and were to make at least one more trip later Wednesday.
Israeli bombers, which had been focusing on Hezbollah strongholds in southern Beirut, also hit a Christian suburb on the eastern side of the capital for the first time. The target was a truck-mounted machine used to drill for water but could have been mistaken for a missile launcher. The vehicle was destroyed, but nobody was hurt in that attack.
Military officials said Israeli troops crossed the border in search of tunnels and weapons. Hezbollah claimed to have "repelled" Israeli forces near the coastal border town of Naqoura. Casualties were reported on both sides.
The Israeli army confirmed there were clashes with Hezbollah in the border area and that some Israelis were among the casualties, but it would not elaborate. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television channel reported that two Israeli soldiers had been killed and three wounded, but that could not be confirmed. Hezbollah officials in south Lebanon added that one guerrilla had been killed.
Israel, which has mainly limited itself to attacks from the air and sea, 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.
Israel declared Tuesday it was ready to fight Hezbollah guerrillas for several more weeks, raising doubts about international efforts to broker an immediate cease-fire. The fighting has killed nearly 300 people and displaced 500,000.
Israel said its airstrikes had destroyed "about 50 percent" of Hezbollah's arsenal. "It will take us time to destroy what is left," Brig. Gen. Alon Friedman, a senior army commander, told Israeli Army Radio.