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Israeli Attacks Blanket Lebanon from North to South

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And at the United Nations, diplomats continue to work at hammering out a resolution to end the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Key U.N. Security Council members hold more talks today, and while they talk, the fighting continues.

Israeli war planes bombed southern Beirut again overnight, as we can hear.

(Soundbite of bombing)

MONTAGNE: Israeli war planes also bombed a bridge in the north of the country, killing at least 11 people, according to reports on Lebanese TV. More than a thousand people in Lebanon have been killed since the war began four weeks ago.

NPR's Ivan Watson is in Beirut and joins us. Hello.

IVAN WATSON reporting:

Hello, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Tell us what you know about last night's bombing.

WATSON: Renee, at least a half-dozen thunderous explosions shook the city last night. Several buildings were flattened in the south of Beirut, including a building of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council, which was reportedly heavily damaged. But we're not getting reports of a large number of casualties. That could be in part because yesterday Israel scattered leaflets over several southern Beirut neighborhoods which were previously considered to be pretty safe. These leaflets warned residents of a painful and a strong response to Hezbollah attacks and people took that threat seriously, especially after an Israeli air strike on Monday leveled a five-story apartment building, killing at least 41 people.

So late last night, we saw hundreds of new refugees from these neighborhoods milling around in central Beirut. People are sleeping in schools in central Beirut. They're sleeping in parks. I've even seen families sleeping on the boardwalk, on the coast here, a family of five the other night, the kids all laid out on mattresses outside on the sidewalk.

MONTAGNE: There has also been fierce ground fighting in southern Lebanon. Tell us about the town that's being attacked.

WATSON: Marja'yun marks the furthest point that the Israelis have advanced in four weeks of fighting. It's about five miles north of the Israeli border. Now, yesterday, United Nations peacekeepers say yesterday afternoon Israeli military forces captured the joint Lebanese army and police headquarters in Marja'yun. And in doing so they captured some 350 Lebanese police and army soldiers. So far the Lebanese army has not joined in the fight against Israeli along side Hezbollah guerillas, though Lebanese army bases have repeatedly been the target of lethal Israeli airstrikes.

The United Nations peacekeepers say they want permission from the Israeli military to escort the Lebanese police and soldiers out of Marja'yun, but all of the roads leading out have been destroyed by Israeli artillery and airstrikes. So the U.N. are waiting for equipment to arrive to help clear those roads. In the meantime, they say they have reports of hundreds of civilian vehicles gathering near the U.N. convoy loaded with refugees also hoping to piggy back with that convoy out of the town.

Now, the Lebanese army are part of a proposal from the Lebanese government to deploy some 15,000 soldiers along the southern frontier with Israel. That is part of the Lebanese government's cease-fire proposal, that they would go their along side U.N. peacekeepers, and that proposal is currently under negotiations at the United Nations.

MONTAGNE: And Ivan, you just mentioned Israel warning people in one part of Beirut that it was going to be attacked. Israel has been communicating with the Lebanese people by scattering leaflets across the country, and I gather you received a new delivery today. What did the leaflet say?

WATSON: Well, this is the latest example of the psychological warfare underway, Renee. These latest leaflets were written in Arabic, and they say that the leader of Hezbollah is lying to the people. He is hiding the casualty figures of Hezbollah guerrillas engaged in fighting in the south. And then it lists the names of more than 90 men.

Unlike the Israeli military, Hezbollah does not publish its casualty figures, so we don't know how many of its fighters have been killed and wounded over the past four weeks.

MONTAGNE: Ivan, thanks very much.

WATSON: You're welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ivan Watson in Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.