Israel unleashed more air strikes on Lebanon and Hezbollah fired rockets at Haifa yesterday as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed for the troubled region.
Civilians have taken the brunt of the 12-day war that has cost 365 lives in Lebanon and killed 37 Israelis.
Rice, leaving for the Middle East later in the day, has said she will pursue a lasting solution, not an immediate ceasefire. Washington blames Hezbollah and its allies, Syria and Iran, for the conflict.
Israel's army said it had yet to decide whether to invade Lebanon, while the defence minister said Israel could accept a new NATO-led force in the south to keep Hezbollah at bay.
Syria called for an immediate ceasefire, followed by diplomacy to end the conflict. Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad said Syria was ready for dialogue with the United States.
Israeli warplanes bombed targets in Beirut and east and south Lebanon, killing at least six civilians and wounding about 80, many of them in the southern port of Tyre.
Blasts echoed across Beirut during night-time air strikes on Shi'ite suburbs. Warplanes also destroyed a Shi'ite religious centre in the southern city of Sidon, wounding four people.
A dozen Israeli air raids on the eastern Bekaa Valley killed at least one civilian and wounding seven. Two civilians died in a raid on a southern village. Israeli warplanes also targeted a communications mast near the southern town of Jezzine.
Hezbollah confirmed the Israelis had taken Maroun al-Ras after fighting in which three guerrillas died, but said the battles had shown that Israel's army was "defeated and useless."
Two people were killed and 15 wounded when Hezbollah rockets slammed into apartments and vehicles in Haifa, Israel's third largest city, which lies 35 kilometers south of the border. Hezbollah said it had hit Haifa with Raad (Thunder) 2 rockets, which are short-range Iranian-made missiles.
(China Daily July 24, 2006)