Israeli troops move into Lebanon after Hezbollah attacks soldiers
EightIsraeli soldiers were killed and two others capturedfollowing a cross-border raid on Wednesday by the militant group Hezbollah — a move that triggered Israeli troops to move into Lebanon.
Early Thursday morning Israeli warplanes struck Beirut's international airport.
Warplanes, tanks and gunboats have all been used to strikeroads and bridges in southern Lebanon in an apparent attempt to block escape routes, and sent ground troops across the border to search for the abducted soldiers, government officials said.
Lebanese security officials said Israeli warplanes attacked a Palestinian guerrilla baseabout 16 kilometressouth of Beirut.
Themilitary also planned to call up thousands of reservists. Residents of Israeli towns on the border with Lebanon were ordered to seek cover in underground bomb shelters.
The Israeli military confirmed that three of its soldiers were killed in the raid and that four others were killed when their tank, which was part of the ground invasion,went over a land mine in southern Lebanon. An eighth soldier was killed as an Israeli force tried to get to the tank.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmertsaid the raid was "an act of war" and was set tomeet with his cabinet to approve more military action in Lebanon.
Hezbollah released a statement saying the captured soldiers had been "transferred to a safe place," but offered no information about their condition.
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said they would be released only as part of aswap of prisoners currently held in Israeli jails.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan called for the immediate release of the Israeli soldiers and condemned Israel's retaliation in southern Lebanon.
The abduction followed a rocket exchange along the border. At least two rockets fired from south Lebanon exploded near the Israeli town of Shlomi.
In the first official U.S. response to the outbreak on the Israel-Lebanon border, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a statement calling for restraint and urging Syria "to use its influence to support a positive outcome."
Frederick Jones, spokesman with the White House National Security Council,later blamed Syria and Iran for the attacks.
"We call for immediate and unconditional release of the two soldiers," he said."We also hold Syria and Iran, which directly support Hezbollah, responsible for this attack and for the ensuing violence."
At least 6 killed in Gaza attack
Earlier, Israel had stepped up its pressure on Palestinian militants holding a soldier in Gaza,and an Israeli planebombed a homein an attempt to killHamas bomb maker Mohammad Deif.
The225-kg bomb levelled a residential building at about 2:30 a.m. local time, as Israel launched an offensive in thecentral Gaza Strip.
Israel has already come under international criticism for its response tothe June 25 abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
The overnight bombing killed at least six people, but not the intended target.
Israel said it had wounded Deif,who has been on Israel's most wanted list for several years.Hamas denied Deif was in the building.
It is believed to be at least the fourth attempt on Deif's life by the Israeli military.
Hamas militants have indicated they would be willing to negotiate Shalit's handover in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, somethingOlmert has repeatedly refused.
With files from the Associated Press