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Bombs pound Beirut for second night

Hezbollah threatens to attack Tel Aviv as payback for airstrikes


Middle East

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Israel launched a second straight night of airstrikes on the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital on Friday, targeting an area known as a stronghold of Hezbollah militants.

Most of the targets were in the Oozaee area, a Hezbollah power base and also the location of several Palestinian refugee camps.

Late Thursday, Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets over several neighborhoods in the area warning residents to leave "for your own safety."

The leaflets warned of an expansion of the Israeli campaign in Beirut because Hezbollah continues to fire rockets into Israel and because of statements made Thursday by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. (Watch as the leaflets are dropped on the neighborhoods -- :43)

"The expansion of terrorist operations by Hezbollah will lead to a painful and harsh response and the results will be painful not only for Hassan's gang and its criminals," the leaflets read.

On Thursday, Nasrallah vowed to strike Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israel's bombardment of the Lebanese capital.

"If you hit Beirut, the Islamic resistance will hit Tel Aviv and is able to do that with God's help," Nasrallah said in a televised address. (Watch the hunt for the Hezbollah leader -- 2:04)

It was unclear if Nasrallah's address was live or taped. It came on the same day Israel resumed airstrikes on Beirut's suburbs and shortly after Israel dropped leaflets warning residents of some areas of Beirut to evacuate. (See photos of a Beirut neighborhood before and after Israeli airstrikes)

Israeli military sources told CNN that if Hezbollah did strike Tel Aviv, Israel would target the Lebanese infrastructure. A spokesman for Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz declined comment.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CNN that Israelis "have their own capabilities to deal with these threats."

"The international community needs to say to Hezbollah that these kinds of threats are also not helpful at a time when the international community, the Lebanese people, the Israeli people, all want an end to the hostility," she told "Larry King Live" in a taped interview to be broadcast Thursday night.

Nasrallah also offered an olive branch in his lengthy statement, saying Hezbollah would stop rocket attacks on Israel if Israel stops its attacks in Lebanon.

"You attack our cities, our villages, our civilians, our capital, we will react," he said. "At any time you decide to stop your aggressions on our villages and towns and cities and our civilians, we will not hit any settlement or any Israeli city."

His comments came shortly after media reports that Israel's defense minister has ordered generals to prepare to push up to 18 miles into Lebanon, up to the Litani River, The Associated Press reported.

Cabinet approval would be needed for the advance, Israeli media reported.

Israeli forces are now stationed across 11 villages in southern Lebanon, according to the IDF, trying to clear Hezbollah from a five-mile-wide security zone before any international peacekeepers are deployed, AP reported.

Hezbollah pounded northern Israel with more than 200 rockets Thursday, killing eight people and injuring several, Israeli police said, after Israel resumed airstrikes on Beirut's suburbs.

Four were killed in Akko, Israel, just north of Haifa, and three died in the Maalot area, which is closer to the Lebanese border, police said. (Watch the aftermath of missile attack on Akko -- 2:04)

Nasrallah said in his TV address that his forces were inflicting "maximum casualties" on Israeli ground troops.

Lebanese officials reported four civilian deaths Thursday from Israeli missile strikes in south Lebanon, according to the AP.

As of mid-Thursday, 642 Lebanese civilians and soldiers have died and 2,303 have been wounded in the three-week-old Israeli military offensive against the Hezbollah militia, according to Lebanon's Internal Security Forces.

As of the same time, Israel has reported 68 deaths, including 27 civilians.

Overnight, the Israel Defense Forces said it pounded Hezbollah targets across Lebanon with 120 airstrikes, a day after the militant group fired 230 rockets into northern Israel. (Watch how fighting is going deeper into each country -- 3:07)

Three Israeli soldiers were killed in Thursday's fighting in southern Lebanon, the IDF said.

The IDF said its ground forces killed four Hezbollah fighters in the western part of southern Lebanon on Thursday. (Watch one of 'the most dangerous places' on the border -- 3:40)

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said more than 1 million people, a quarter of Lebanon's population, have been displaced, according to AP.

Truce talks

On the diplomatic front, France circulated a revised draft resolution for the United Nations Security Council on Thursday calling for an immediate halt to Israeli-Hezbollah fighting and spelling out conditions for a permanent cease-fire in Lebanon.

The U.S. State Department said it hoped for a cease-fire resolution by Friday, but U.S. diplomats were prepared to work into the weekend to achieve a deal.

A sticking point has been the timing of a cease-fire. France and other European countries support Lebanon's call for an immediate cease-fire. The United States and Britain have said an immediate cease-fire would not eliminate the long-term threat that Hezbollah imposes on Israel. (Watch how diplomacy must overcome obstacles -- 1:45)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said earlier Thursday that an agreement on a cease-fire resolution could come within days. (Full story)

U.N. diplomats are discussing a two-pronged solution to ending the conflict. The first step would be the cessation of hostilities followed by the deployment of a rapid-reaction force to southern Lebanon, according to U.N. and diplomatic sources speaking on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing.

Then, a more expanded group of peacekeepers would be deployed with a mandate to enforce a more permanent cease-fire and establish a buffer zone, the sources said.

Israel began its operation after Hezbollah militants crossed into northern Israel, kidnapped two soldiers and killed three others July 12.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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