Saturday, July 15, 2006
Middle East Crisis
Israel Vows to Rout Hezbollah
Pierre Bou Karam/Associated Press
A Lebanese soldier stood next to a crater produced by an Israeli airstrike in Beirut Friday. Hezbollah fired more than 100 rockets into Israel.
By STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: July 15, 2006
JERUSALEM, Saturday, July 15 — The face-off between Israel and the Lebanese group Hezbollah escalated sharply on Friday as Israeli jets hit its Beirut headquarters and southern strongholds and Israeli news reports said a Hezbollah drone aircraft packed with explosives struck an Israeli naval vessel, causing severe damage.
The Israeli military later reported four sailors were missing. Leaders of the two sides threatened a still more intense war as a barrage of more than 100 Hezbollah rockets flew into Israel, which said it would destroy the power of Hezbollah and drive it from Israel’s border.
Smoke billowed across Beirut’s southern skyline as the capital found itself the new front line of the conflict. With Beirut under siege and the Lebanese government largely out of sight, many Lebanese grew resigned to a crisis that was largely in the hands of foreign powers.
Israeli officials said a defeat of Hezbollah, a radical Shiite militia with strong ties to Syria and Iran, would send an important message to the region and would help Israel in its efforts to undermine the power of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. They argued it would also help the weak Lebanese government assert control over the entire country.