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Israel Vows to Continue Its Attacks on Lebanon : Mideast: Hezbollah's offer to halt rocket barrage if Jerusalem withdraws from all of Lebanon is rebuffed.

July 31, 1993|From Times Wire Services

JERUSALEM — Israel vowed Friday to continue shelling and bombing southern Lebanon, rejecting an offer by Hezbollah to halt rocket attacks on northern Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from all of Lebanon.

Israeli warplanes struck a dozen targets in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley, naval gunboats shelled coastal towns and heavy artillery pounded south Lebanese villages for the sixth consecutive day.

Twenty-five more Katyusha rockets launched by Hezbollah, or Party of God--the Iranian-linked Lebanese Shiite Muslim group--fell on northern Israel and the 9-mile-wide "security zone" Israel occupies in southern Lebanon. No casualties were reported.

According to U.N. officials, 120 people have been killed and about 500 wounded, mostly Lebanese, since Israel last Sunday launched its most widespread aerial offensive in Lebanon in a decade. Three Israelis have been killed, including one soldier in the security zone. The Israeli attack was to avenge the deaths of seven soldiers this month by Hezbollah and Palestinian guerrillas.

Diplomatic sources said the United States was still attempting to quell the fighting in advance of Secretary of State Warren Christopher's planned visit to the region next week. For the first time Friday, there were signs of a possible movement toward a cease-fire.

In a statement issued in Beirut, Said Hasan Nasrallah, the general secretary of Hezbollah, offered, with conditions, to stop the rocket launchings.

"We announce . . . that halting rocket attacks on settlements in occupied northern Palestine (Israel) cannot be achieved but with the complete and permanent halt of aggression against villages and civilians . . . and the stopping of Israeli attacks from air, land and sea on all Lebanese territories," the statement said.

Israel has long maintained that it will only withdraw from the security zone--set up in 1985 in the aftermath of the Lebanon war--when it is convinced that the border is secure and can be kept that way by the Lebanese government.

The Hezbollah offer was rebuffed by Israel. After a Cabinet meeting Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv, Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Oded Ben-Ami announced that the government had not discussed the offer and would continue the offensive until the rocket attacks stop.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has won widespread public support for the offensive, according to a new nationwide poll of Israeli Jews published Friday. Ninety-three percent of those questioned said they approved of the action.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian group vowed to rocket northern Israel Friday night and threatened to attack U.S. targets in the Middle East starting Sunday night if the Israeli bombardment of southern Lebanon does not stop.

It was not clear from the statement whether the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine was aware of the offer by Hezbollah to stop firing rockets at Israel if Israel halted the 6-day-old blitz on southern Lebanon.

A Crude but Pesky Weapon

Pro-Iranian Hezbollah guerrillas blasted dozens of Katyusha rockets at Israel this week. Israel has vowed to keep up air and artillery attacks until the guerrillas silence the Katyushas.

Katyusha Fact Sheet

Range: 14 miles

Manufacturer: Former Soviet Union

Strengths: The rocky hills of south Lebanon are an easy place to hide the rockets, each with 43 pounds of explosives.

Weaknesses: The five-minute firing time, smoke trail and low trajectory allow pilotless drones, overhead radar systems or even alert pilots time to find them.

Rating: A crude, World War II-era weapon. "It's just a very large piece of fireworks," said David Kendall, a weapons specialist at Jane's Sentinel, a security assessment journal. "you could almost make a Katyusha in a back-street garage."

Sources: David Kendall, Jane's

Sentinel: Associated Press

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