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Last-minute talks in Lebanon amid fears of ground invasion
Last-minute talks were under way in Beirut last night in a desperate attempt to head off a major escalation in the six-day conflict between Israel and Lebanese Hizbullah militants.
The UN secretary general's special envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, and the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, arrived in Beirut to meet the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, in the hope of securing an agreement to curb the violence.
Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, warned of "far-reaching consequences" after eight civilian railway workers were killed and six seriously injured in a morning rocket strike in the city of Haifa, the deadliest strike in Israel since the conflict began last week. Some analysts now say a major ground invasion of southern Lebanon is being considered.
Last night Hizbullah rockets hit a village outside Nazareth, home to Israel's largest Arab community, and the town of Afula. At 50km (33 miles) from the Lebanese border, they are the southernmost targets to have been struck so far.
Israeli jets were reported to have struck Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city, and Beirut airport was hit again by Israeli naval vessels, setting fuel tanks alight.
Earlier, at least 16 civilians were killed after a bomb flattened a building near the southern Lebanese town of Tyre. Five members of one family were killed in a strike in Aitaroun. All were visiting expatriate Lebanese who held Canadian citizenship. Around 140 Lebanese civilians have been killed so far. At least 12 Israeli civilians have died as well as 12 soldiers and sailors. Two Israeli soldiers are still being held captive by Hizbullah.