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Israeli Air Strikes Hit New Targets


Israel carried out some of its heaviest air strikes to date Friday in its 24-day air and ground campaign to push Hezbollah militants out of southern Lebanon and destroy the Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon.

Six Israeli soldiers were reportedly killed in Lebanon on Friday, as Israeli ground forces continue to encounter heavy resistance from Hezbollah militants.

For the first time, Israeli air strikes targeted Lebanon's Christian enclaves north of Beirut, destroying four bridges on Lebanon's main North-South Highway, and effectively closing Lebanon's remaining road links with Syria.

Israeli air strikes also repeatedly struck the predominately Shi'ite suburbs of southern Beirut.

On the ground, Israeli troops encountered heavy resistance in their bid to dislodge Hezbollah guerrillas from areas along Israel's border that Israel wants to turn into a 15-kilometer-wide security zone.

Israel's Defense Minister has reportedly requested approval to send Israeli forces even further north - to the Litani River - more than 20 kilometers inside Lebanon, in a bid to stop Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev says Israel's strategy is in part dictated by the desire not to occupy large areas of Lebanese territory, which it did for 18 years, until the year 2000.

"We have made a decision not to re-occupy Lebanon. As a result, our ground strategy is flexible and mobile. The idea is that Hezbollah terrorists never know exactly where an Israeli position is. We want to beat them at their own game which is guerrilla warfare. For that reason we are going in, and going out. We have this mobile strategy."

Meanwhile, Israeli troops backed by tanks and bulldozers kept up their ground operations in the Gaza Strip, where they carried out overnight searches of residences and clashed repeatedly with Palestinian militants.

At least three Palestinians were killed on Friday. Eight Palestinians, including a young boy were killed in clashes with Israeli troops on Thursday.

John Ging, the Director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, in Gaza says the cycle of violence shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

"There is a relentless firing of Qassam rockets out of Gaza into Israel. This has not stopped, in fact it has increased. The response on the Israeli side and the military operations goes on. In fact, it is very intensive. The civilian population here in Gaza, as those in range of the missiles going out, are living in mortal fear and many of them are being killed. Our big concern is that there does not seem to be any end in sight."

At least 175 Palestinians, including 40 children, have been killed in Gaza since the end of June, when Israeli troops re-entered the Gaza Strip in response to the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants.

Israel says it will withdraw from Gaza once its soldier is released and Palestinian militants stop firing rockets into Israel.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed to reopen the Egypt-Gaza border on Saturday and Sunday, to allow one-way traffic out of Gaza into Egypt.

Several weeks ago, the crossing was opened for a short period to allow people to pass from Egypt into Gaza.

Israel says it also opened a second crossing to allow 160 trucks carrying food, medical supplies and fuel to enter Gaza.

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