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IAF launches heaviest raids yet on southern Beirut
Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the Israel Defense Forces Saturday night to step up the rate of attacks against Lebanon. His orders were issued close to the time when Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora made a national address and called for an immediate cease-fire.
The United Nations Security Council on Saturday again rejected pleas that it call for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon after the United States objected, diplomats said.
Peretz said that the IDF must continue applying pressure on Hezbollah, giving the organization no room to breath, and continue expanding its bombing raids elsewhere.
Hours after the order was made, the Israel Air Force indeed launched a wave of bombing raids on the Lebanese capital's southern suburbs early Sunday, Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV and witnesses said.
A series of loud explosions, about 18 in total, shook the capital, much of which was plunged in darkness after warplanes struck power stations and fuel depots feeding them.
Al-Manar TV said Israeli warplanes bombed the Jiyeh power station early Sunday. The plant, which is located some 20 kilometers south of the
Lebanese capital, was in flames in the early hours of the morning, Al-Manar and other Lebanese TVs said.
The IDF denied this report.
The southern suburbs were repeatedly blasted by Israeli warplanes for most of Saturday, but the early Sunday raids were the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive Wednesday, following the killing of eight IDF soldiers and abduction of two others by Hezbollah guerillas.
Hezbollah's TV aired footage it said showed the new strikes. The pictures showed two long columns of smoke rising from buildings into the night sky.
The TV said a bridge linking the al-Hazmiyah district to the road that leads to the airport, south of the capital, was also targeted.
In Israel, the military confirmed that IAF jets were bombing the Hezbollah headquarters in south Beirut.
A heavy bombardment in the early hours of Sunday targetted Hezbollah's al-Manar television building, the IDF said.
The station's signal twice disappeared briefly before returning, and it was not immediately known if it was broadcasting from its original location.
Israeli raids have previously targeted al-Manar.
The extent of the damage caused to the suburbs could not be established because the area is deemed too dangerous for journalists to visit. Most of the raids target an area known as the "security square," where Hezbollah has its headquarters, reportedly destroyed in a Friday air strike, and where some of its leaders live.
Most residents of the suburbs, which is in reality a part of the Lebanese capital, have fled their homes for the relative safety of the Beka'a Valley, a mainly Shiite region to the east of Beirut.