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Eight Israelis Killed in Rocket Attacks on Haifa

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Fighting continued for a fifth day in Israel and Lebanon. This evening, an Israeli warship off the Lebanese coast fired missiles at the Beirut airport.

Also today, Israeli war planes struck the city of Tyre, killing at least nine, and hit other targets in southern Lebanon. The Canadian foreign minister said eight Canadians of Lebanese descent were killed.

Eight Israelis were killed today when Hezbollah fired rockets at the northern port city of Haifa.

Tonight, we start with two reports. First, NPR's Linda Gradstein in Haifa.

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

A rocket scored a direct hit on a train depot in the Haifa Bay, killing the eight Israelis. Israeli officials said it was an Iranian-made Fajar missile with a range of 25 miles.

Near the train depot, another building was heavily damaged. Hamudi(ph), an Israeli Arab who didn't want to give his last name, said he and four members of his family were supposed to be at work in the building when the rocket hit. But he was running late after he took his sister for a blood test.

HAMUDI (Israel Resident): Well, I think, you want to know one thing, if my time is finished, I will be dead. But I think I have more to go (unintelligible).

GRADSTEIN: You should kiss your sister for making you late.

HAMUDI: I should say thank God first before I kiss my sister, because everything belong to God.

GRADSTEIN: At the train repair depot, Haifa police chief Nir Mariaj(ph) said that despite Hezbollah warnings that Haifa could be a target, many found it hard to believe.

Mr. NIR MARIAJ (Police Chief, Haifa): Yesterday night, I rode the street and people were sitting in cafes and restaurants until very late hour. So by now everybody knows that Haifa is a target and everybody knows that they have to change their behavior.

GRADSTEIN: Changing their behavior means staying in bomb shelters or sealed rooms, as close to a million Israelis are now doing.

Israeli officials say Hezbollah has the ability to fire rockets even as far south as Israel's largest city of Tel Aviv. Residents of Tel Aviv were told that if a siren sounds, meaning a long range rocket is on the way, they are to take cover as quickly as possible.

Israel's air force chief said Israel had hit dozens of targets in Lebanon. In a televised news conference, he showed black and white films of Israeli jets dropping bombs on bridges, roads, and what he said were Hezbollah weapon stores.

Israel's Defense Minister Amir Peretz also talked tough when he visited the train repair depot in Haifa, directly threatening Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

Mr. AMIR PERETZ (Israeli Defense Minister): (Foreign language spoken)

GRADSTEIN: Did he think for a moment that he could threaten Haifa and he and all of his friends in that terrorist center he built in Lebanon would be out of danger in Beirut? Peretz asked. Absolutely not. Now he knows that even when he uses innocent families as shields, it won't help him.

Israeli officials say Hezbollah has fired more than 1000 rockets at Israel since the fighting between Israel and Lebanon began five days ago. Israel has bombed hundreds of targets in Lebanon, and they say they won't stop until Hezbollah is disarmed.

Linda Gradstein, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Gradstein
Linda Gradstein has been the Israel correspondent for NPR since 1990. She is a member of the team that received the Overseas Press Club award for her coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the team that received Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for her coverage of the Gulf War. Linda spent 1998-9 as a Knight Journalist Fellow at Stanford University.