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Toll Grows in Israel-Hezbollah Fighting

A Lebanese fireman douses fire at a factory after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Bourj Shimali near Tyre.
Hassan Ammar
AFP/Getty Images
A Lebanese fireman douses fire at a factory after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Bourj Shimali near Tyre.

For a fifth straight day, the Israeli military and Hezbollah guerrillas operating in south Lebanon traded fierce missile attacks, leaving dead and wounded civilians on both sides of the border.

Early Sunday morning, Hezbollah launched more than two dozen rockets into Israel, hitting the northern Israeli cities of Haifa, Acre and Nahariyha. Late Sunday evening, Hezbollah rockets reached the northern Israeli cities of Upper Nazerath and Afula.

In Haifa, eight people were killed when a missile landed on a train depot. It was the deadliest attack carried out by Hezbollah on Israel in more than a decade. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Cabinet ministers the attack would have "far-reaching consequences."

Shortly after the Haifa strikes, Israeli warplanes bombed targets in Beirut's southern suburbs where the Shiite militia Hezbollah is headquartered. Israel also targeted seaports in Beirut and the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Parts of Beirut are now without electricity.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) also launched attacks at the port of Tyre in southern Lebanon. Initial reports say as many as 10 people were killed in the strike.

Since fighting began on July 12, after Hezbollah operatives launched a cross-border raid into Israel, nearly 120 Lebanese and 24 Israelis have died.

Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah appeared on the militia’s own television network, Al-Manar, on Sunday afternoon. Addressing Israel, Nasrallah warned that the Haifa bombing was “just the beginning” hinting his group has the capacity to strike deep into Israel.

“We promise [Israel] surprises,” Nasrallah said.

Meanwhile, leaders from the world’s most powerful industrialized nations meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia blamed the Middle East violence on “extremists” but called on Israel to “exercise the utmost restraint.” G8 leaders also demanded Hezbollah release two Israeli soldiers captured in the July 12 raid. Israel said it “welcomed” the G8 statement.

Saturday evening, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called for a U.N.-brokered cease-fire, pledging to disarm Hezbollah's militia. Israel's Cabinet rejected the call and demanded the release of two of its captured soldiers, now being held by Hezbollah and the complete disarmament of the Shiite militia.

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot is reporting that small teams of Israeli special forces units are operating in southern Lebanon. According to the Israeli Magen David Adom, nearly a million Israelis -- mainly in the northern part of the country -- are holed up in underground bomb shelters. The Israeli government has warned residents of Tel Aviv -- 80 miles from the Lebanon border -- to prepare for the possibility of missile strikes.

Meanwhile, the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference called for an immediate end to the fighting, warning the conflict could widen and fuel terrorism.

U.S. government security teams have now arrived in Beirut and are beginning to evacuate non-essential personnel from the embassy and American citizens with urgent medical needs. There are an estimated 25,000 Americans in Lebanon at the moment. Roads leading out of Lebanon were struck by Israeli warplanes leaving them out of commission, and Beirut's Rafik Hariri Airport is inoperable after repeated Israeli missile strikes damaged the runways.

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Guy Raz is an independent producer who has been described by the New York Times as "one of the most popular podcasters in history."