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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

srael Hits Suburbs of Beirut in Bomb Raid

BEIRUT -- Israeli helicopters and planes blasted Lebanon on Thursday, rocketing Beirut for the first time in 14 years as the Jewish state retaliated against Hezbollah guerrilla attacks.


Israel's northern front commander said he believed strikes against guerrilla targets would last several days. At least four people were killed and 15 wounded in Thursday's raids.


Syria -- the main military force in Lebanon -- warned Israel the attacks would damage Middle East peace prospects. The United States, co-sponsor of the region's peace talks, joined France in calling for restraint.


"What Israel did in Lebanon today has only one name. It is aggression," Syrian state-run radio said.


The Israeli commander, Major General Amiram Levine, asked by Israel Radio if his impression was that the operation would last several days at least, replied: "Correct."


The raids, seven weeks before Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres faces a general election, followed mounting anger in Israel at apparent lack of aggressive government reaction to cross-border attacks by pro-Iranian Hezbollah guerrillas.


"We always said we retained the right to respond how and where we saw fit," Israel's chief policymaker for Lebanon, Uri Lubrani, told Israeli army radio.


Two days earlier, Hezbollah had rained Soviet-designed Katyusha rockets into northern Thick smoke rose from Hezbollah's Shura (Consultative Council) building in the Lebanese capital's Haret Hreik district. A two-story building next door collapsed after hits from Israeli rockets.


It was the first attack on Beirut since Israel's 1982 invasion.


For the city's 1.5 million inhabitants it was a frightening throwback to the 1975-90 civil war whose memory had been slowly fading amid the noise, bustle and hopes of reconstruction.


A 60-year-old civilian man was killed in Beirut, and five people were wounded. The Lebanese army said a motorist also was killed and four people were wounded on a southern coastal road in attacks by Israeli helicopters.


Security sources said early two people were killed there by shells from warships. The army said warships were patrolling off Jiyyeh at the time of the attack which had caused the confusion.


A Lebanese soldier died and others were wounded when an Israeli helicopter attacked a checkpoint near the southern city of Tyre. And later in the day, Israeli helicopters launched two more raids, killing one person and wounding two by the village of Shehour, near Tyre, security sources said.


An Israeli army statement underscored that the attack was designed as a signal to the Lebanese government.


"The Lebanese government isn't able to or interested in enforcing the sovereignty or its authority in preventing attacks against Israel by the Hezbollah organization, which acts under the guidance of a foreign country, Iran," it said.


Lebanon condemns Israel for infringing its sovereignty in occupying a 15 kilometer wide zone in south Lebanon, set up in 1985 to protect Israel's northern border after it pulled back from Beirut.


Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri said Lebanon would not try to stop Hezbollah guerrillas attacking Israel while the Israelis occupied Lebanese territory.


"We will not clash with the resistance and Hezbollah as long as the occupation exists on our land," he said in Beirut.


Israeli aircraft also rocketed a Hezbollah position near Baalbek in the eastern Bekaa Valley and two other posts in south Lebanon. It was not known if casualties resulted.


Witnesses in Kiryat Shmona, where residents have spent nights in bomb shelters fearing Katyusha attacks, reported sonic booms from fast-flying aircraft.


In an appeal from Washington, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said: "We are urging all sides to exercise restraint, and we are urging those who have influence ... to use that influence to minimize the tension and violence."


In Paris, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said France, the former mandated power in Lebanon, offered help.


"France urges all sides to hold back ... and France hopes that negotiations will get underway as quickly as possible between Israel and Lebanon," spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt said.


But Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris Bouez, who said Lebanon was considering complaining about Israel to the Security Council, said in Beirut: "Violence only attracts counterviolence."