One dead in attack on Lebanon refugee camp

Israel’s military struck Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp early today, killing at least one person and wounding three others, officials said.

Israeli airstrikes levelled a two-storey building in the Bekka Valley town of Mashghara, east of Sidon, early today, trapping seven people from the same family under the rubble. Security officials said all seven are feared dead.

Although the father, Ahmed Ibrahim Sader, 80, survived with serious wounds, civil defence rescuers frantically searched for his wife, her sister, Sader’s two sons and their wives and a visiting relative.

Lebanese and Palestinian officials said an Israeli gunship shelled the Ein el-Hilweh camp, but Israel's military said the attack was an airstrike that targeted a house used by Hezbollah guerrillas.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV reported that two Palestinians were killed and eight others were wounded the attack, saying the victims’ bodies were pulled out from under the rubble of a house destroyed in the bombing.

The attack was the first against the camp since the fighting between the Jewish state and Hezbollah began more than four weeks ago.

Palestinian and Lebanese officials said Israeli gunboats fired two shells, one landing in the camp on the outskirts of the southern port city of Sidon and the other hitting the city’s amusement park.

The officials said the casualties in the camp came when the shell crashed into location manned by the Fatah militia, which used to train guerrillas there.

Ein el-Hilweh is the largest of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps and has witnessed years of bombings, assassinations and shootings as rival factions in the camp vie for control. The camp also is believed to be hide out for many fugitives wanted by Lebanese authorities and is a haven for militant groups.

The Lebanese army does not enter the camp but maintains positions at the camp’s entrances to keep the guerrillas in check.

The camp is home to about 75,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants who were displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Some 350,000 Palestinians live in refugee camps in Lebanon that have developed over the years into shanty towns.

Israeli warplanes also targeted roads and overpasses near the Lebanese-Syrian border in the northern province of Akkar in bombing runs today at dawn, security officials said.

Last week, Israeli jets blasted four highway bridges for the first time in the Christian heartland north of the capital, killing four civilians and a Lebanese soldier and wounding 19 other civilians.

Christian areas have largely been spared Israeli attacks since fighting erupted after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers July 12.

In addition to pounding Hezbollah positions, Israeli warplanes have also targeted Lebanese infrastructure, including bridges, roads, Beirut airport and ports.

Elsewhere, two Lebanese soldiers received minor injuries during a series of Israeli air raids late yesterday that struck main roads in several villages in the southern part of the eastern Bekaa Valley, a corridor that links Lebanon’s eastern region with the south, security officials said. The two soldiers were injured when a missile landed near an army checkpoint in the town of Mashghara, they said.

Israeli jets returned early today to same region of the Bekaa Valley and fired eight more missiles on suspected Hezbollah hideouts, the officials said. No casualties were reported.

Israel also struck Beirut’s southern suburbs – a Hezbollah stronghold that has been devastated by Israeli bombing – late yesterday, security officials said. No injuries were reported.

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