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New York Post | July 17, 2006

Hezbollah rockets yesterday killed eight Israelis in the strategic northern city of Haifa - amid new fears that the next round of missiles could be headed for Tel Aviv.

Officials believe Hezbollah is plotting to hit the country's second-biggest city, and worked through the night to install upgraded radar and radio systems that could detect an attack.

"They [Hezbollah] have got the missiles that can reach Tel Aviv," a senior defense official told The Post last night.

Defense sources believe that Hezbollah has long-range Zalzal missiles, which can reach Tel Aviv and deliver 132 pounds of explosives in each warhead. Tel Aviv, which has a population of 379,000, is about 120 miles south of the Lebanese border, just within the Zalzal's range.

The attacks on Haifa brought the Israeli death toll from Hezbollah attacks to at least 15.

"There is no intention at the moment to urge the residents of Tel Aviv to enter into bomb shelters or secure areas - but there is an intention to increase the awareness among residents," army spokeswoman Miri Regev said.

Fears of a Tel Aviv attack grew out of the Haifa assault, the deadliest against Israel since the five-day conflict with Hezbollah broke out along the Lebanese border last week.

In other developments:

* The attack on Haifa drew a fierce Israeli response.

Early this morning, missiles struck the port of Beirut, causing a large fire. Another missile strike, aimed at Hezbollah television missed its mark, killing four people and wounding 10 in south Beirut's Kharroub region.

Bombers also attacked the southern port of Tyre, blowing off the top of a 12-story building and killing nine people.

* Airstrikes early this morning hit areas in northern Lebanon and the Hezbollah stronghold in the town of Baalbek, where two people were killed. The strikes destroyed two army posts on the northern coast. Eight Lebanese soldiers were killed and 12 were wounded in the village of Abdeh, while eight other soldiers were wounded in the city of Tripoli.

* Seven vacationing Canadians of Lebanese origin, all members of the same family - including four children, ages 1 to 8 - were killed by an Israeli strike on the border village of Aitaroun, according to Canadian officials. The Israeli army said it warned people to stay out of the area, and blamed Hezbollah for the deaths, but apologized to Canada.

* U.S. planners arrived in Lebanon to organize the evacuation of 25,000 Americans trying to get out. Marine helicopters airlifted 21 U.S. citizens, most with medical conditions, to Cyprus yesterday. France, Britain, Italy and other countries also scrambled to aid their stranded citizens by moving hired cruise ships, military planes or warships into the region.

* The Israeli campaign in Gaza also continued. Warplanes flattened the Palestinian Foreign Ministry in Gaza City early today, injuring nine. The jets also hit a home in Gaza City, killing two Palestinians.

* World leaders at the G8 economic summit condemned the new violence, which broke out when Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on Wednesday. They issued a statement, saying, "Extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict."

The attack on Haifa, Israel's third-largest city and the hub of its petroleum industry, came despite the deployment of U.S.-made Patriot missiles, which are not effective against the smaller rockets used in the barrage.

"I packed my bags and grabbed a cab to get out of here!" resident Noga Westerlund said.

The city appeared deserted as stores and offices closed.

Haifa residents who stayed put stocked up on food and other supplies.

"I'm scared, too," grocer Fitam Khurasani told The Washington Post. "I stayed open because where else would people buy these things?"

"It's a war, it's an emergency situation and it will get worse," said Sharon Goldstein, 34, a security guard.

"We woke up with shock, real shock," Hashem Diab, 49, told the Los Angeles Times. "I realized that war is here in Haifa."

All of those killed in Haifa, 18 miles south of Lebanon, were rail workers. They were at the train depot during the early-morning rush hour at the beginning of the Israeli work week. Rail technician Moshe Yisrael, who escaped injury, said the dead and injured were lying on the blood-soaked depot floor.

"I wanted to help them, but there was nobody else around to help," Yisrael said.

Supervisor David Ben-Zaken told the L.A. Times, "I saw people here on the floor - workers, friends. They died in my arms."

Yona Isakov, a maintenance worker at the depot, was in a warehouse during the attack.

"It was awful. It was terrifying. There were explosions in all directions," he said.

Smoke rose over the city and Orthodox rescue workers gathered flesh and drops of blood for burial.

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, the one-time defense chief, toured the train station and picked through the shrapnel. He pointed an accusatory finger at Hezbollah and the group's supporters in Syria.

"I know this missile . . . It is a Syrian-made missile," Mofaz said. "This is a Syrian arm."

Hezbollah also fired rockets into the northern Israeli towns of Upper Nazareth and Afula. Last night, officials were combing the area for any casualties.

Upper Nazareth is the next city over from the boyhood home of Jesus Christ, and comprises a diverse population of Muslims and Christian Arabs.

The Israeli attacks in and around Tyre also included destruction of five launching pads used for the Haifa bombings, according to Air Force Commander Elyezer Shkedy.

"We are fighting 24 hours around the clock, three weeks already in Gaza and five days now in Lebanon," said Shkedy, who estimated that Israeli warplanes have launched more than 1,000 attacks against Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon since Wednesday.

"We succeeded in hitting Hezbollah rockets in the opening moves of our offensive Wednesday, but they have many rockets of all kinds. They still have thousands of rockets that were not taken care of."

An Israeli warship off the Lebanese coast late last night shelled Beirut's airport with four missiles, setting a fuel tank ablaze, Lebanese officials said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert remained resolute.

"We have no intention of giving in to these threats," he said before his weekly Cabinet meeting. "Our enemies are trying to disturb daily life. They will fail." With Post Wire Services



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