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THE SEARCH FOR A MIDEAST TRUCE

Reservoir Bombed in South Lebanon; No Truce in Sight

April 24, 1996| From Associated Press

BEIRUT — Israeli jets on Tuesday demolished a reservoir that supplied water to 20 villages, crippling another economic target in an effort to force the Beirut government to strike at Iranian-backed guerrillas in southern Lebanon, security sources said.

There was no truce in sight after four days of shuttle diplomacy and 13 days of bloodletting.

Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, said the guerrillas would never sign an accord with Israel. "Hezbollah's ink is never going to be next to Israel's ink," he said on Lebanese television.

The hills and valleys of southern Lebanon echoed with air raids, artillery blasts and rocket fire, with the opposing forces having trouble hitting each other.

The Hezbollah guerrillas fired at least 45 more Katyusha rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, pushing the 13-day total to well over 500. The rockets have not killed a single Israeli soldier or civilian since the heavy fighting began April 11, although dozens of Israelis have been wounded.

The water reservoir destroyed early Tuesday by Israeli fighter-bombers was at Sultaniyeh, a village about 15 miles southeast of the port of Tyre, security sources said.

It was not immediately known whether the reservoir was deliberately targeted. Hezbollah guerrillas operate in the area but do not depend on the water.

The air strike deprived 20 villages of water, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity. Only 4,000 of the villages' original 22,000 inhabitants remain. The rest have fled to safer areas north.

Israeli gunboats sporadically shelled the coastal highway between Beirut and the south, reducing civilian traffic to a trickle and wounding at least four people, Lebanon's state-run television network reported.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government raised its estimate of displaced people from 400,000 to 500,000. No explanation was given for the new figure. There has been no major exodus from the south for several days, although refugees continue to head north away from the violence.

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