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Hizbullah offers to spare civilians if Israeli military does the same

Leila Hatoum / Lebanon Daily Star | August 4 2006

BEIRUT: Hizbullah's leader offered Thursday to stop pounding Israel's "northern settlements" if the Jewish state refrained from bombarding Lebanon's "cities and civilians." Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also issued a warning, however, in a televised speech: "Let my words be clear, any attack on Lebanon's capital, Beirut, will result in Hizbullah bombarding the Zionist entity's capital, Tel Aviv."

In an almost immediate response aired on Israeli public television, a senior military official said Israel would destroy all of Lebanon's infrastructure if Tel Aviv were hit.

"We are ready to keep the whole thing restricted to a military fight with the Israeli Army," Nasrallah said, "on the ground, fighters to fighters."

But Israel dropped leaflets over the southern suburb of Beirut, warning residents of Bir al-Abed, Hay Madi and Al-Ruweiss to evacuate their homes.

Nasrallah also refuted the Israeli claim that it had carved out a "security zone" by taking up positions "in or near 11 towns and villages in South Lebanon."

An Israeli Army spokesperson said Thursday Israel was creating a new defensive line estimated at 6 to 8 kilometers inside Lebanon. This new zone would be comparable to the area it held until the pullout from Lebanon in May 2000. Three weeks into the conflict, about 10,000 Israeli troops are believed to be inside Lebanon.

"Our fight with the Israeli Army is based on the tactic of street fights against an organized army. This means we hit and run without holding our positions," Nasrallah said. "The Israelis claimed they had heavy clashes with our fighters resulting in the taking over of a Hizbullah post in the southern town of al-Abbad. The truth is our fighters had left the post when the aggression first started three weeks ago. I don't know with whom the Israelis had heavy clashes there."

Nasrallah also described Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert as "an incompetent moron."

"In an attempt to identify himself with former Israeli leaders such as [Ariel] Sharon and [Yitzhak[ Rabin and [Menachem[ Began, he succeeded in matching their accomplishments in committing massacres and killing civilians, women and children, but failed miserably in proving himself as a political leader," Nasrallah said.

He also mocked the "stupid, massive and ignorant Israeli military machine."

The "clearest examples are the 300 rockets which we launched on Israel [Wednesday]," he said.

Hizbullah issued a statement earlier Thursday saying it had destroyed "three Israeli Merkava tanks and bulldozers" during Thursday's clashes in the South and "direct hits" had caused killed or wounded several Israeli troops.

Fierce ground fighting raged around the Southern village of Aita-Shaab, where an Israeli soldier was killed and four wounded, the Israeli military said. The Israeli Army said a tank had been lightly hit in clashes but there were no casualties or serious damage.

Nasrallah said the only solution to the crisis "is through a direct cease-fire, an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territories and ... a political remedy."

The resistance said four of its fighters died on Thursday.

Israeli police said three people were killed Thursday by rockets that hit the northern town of Maalot. Another four people were killed by a strike in the coastal city of Acre some 25 kilometers south of the border.

Addressing Israeli officials, Nasrallah said the Jewish state's losses on the ground have been "vast," but that an Israeli media blackout was not allowing the people to hear and see the truth.

Israeli attacks killed at least six Lebanese civilians Thursday.

An Israeli missile strike on a two-story home in the Southern town of Taibeh killed a man, his wife and his daughter, Lebanese security officials said.

At least 683 people have been killed in Lebanon, according to Reuters, while Lebanese Premier Fouad Siniora puts the death toll at over 900, with more than 3,500 wounded since Israel unleashed a concentrated attack on July 12 after the abduction of two of its soldiers.

The Israeli Air Force also pounded the southern suburbs of Beirut early Thursday for the first time in three days.

At least four blasts were heard in the area.

Lebanese television said the attacks targeted several buildings in Al-Ruweiss.

Israeli warplanes also fired more than a dozen missiles at roads and suspected Hizbullah targets in the southeastern town of Rashaya al-Fokhar, Lebanese security officials said.

Other strikes hit targets near Lebanon's Northern border with Syria late Wednesday, according to Lebanese radio.

In the Southern town of Nabatiyeh, Israeli warplanes bombed an ambulance working for a local Muslim group, Lebanese security officials said.

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