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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 04:09 GMT 05:09 UK
Israeli jets in new Lebanon raids
Smoke rises from an Israeli strike in Beirut on 17 July 2006
Israel says it will keep up its bombardment in southern Lebanon
Israel has carried out fresh air strikes on Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon overnight.

The Israeli military said it had struck the militants' Beirut HQ again, as well as a weapons depot and rocket-laden trucks in the eastern town of Baalbek.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah fired a barrage of missiles into northern Israel.

The UN's emergency relief co-ordinator has warned of a humanitarian disaster in southern Lebanon as people abandon their homes to flee the violence.

More than 200 Lebanese citizens have been killed in six days of Israeli strikes. Twenty-four Israelis have died - 12 as a result of Hezbollah rocket attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the attacks would not cease until two of the country's soldiers - captured by Hezbollah last week in a cross-border raid - were freed.

He also insisted that Hezbollah guerrillas should be disarmed, and that the Lebanese army should take control southern Lebanon. "We are not looking for war or direct conflict, but if necessary we will not be frightened by it," he said in a televised address.

Roads clogged

At least 10 Lebanese civilians were reported to have been killed in the overnight Israeli air strikes.

The bodies of six people were pulled from the rubble of a family home in the border village of Aitaroun, local officials said.

Map of Lebanon

And a woman and her two daughters, along with their Sri Lankan maid, were killed in an Israeli air strike in the coastal city of Tyre, police said.

Lebanese army barracks near Beirut were also reportedly targeted.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army says 15 towns and cities in northern Israel were hit by a late night barrage of rockets by Hezbollah.

No-one was killed, but military officials say five people were injured when a missile hit a synagogue.

With the violence continuing, many thousands of people in southern Lebanon and in northern Israel have been abandoning their homes.

The BBC's Jim Muir in southern Lebanon said the roads were clogged with packed vehicles. Many of the displaced, he said, appeared exhausted and bewildered.

Many were living in fear that Israeli jets cruising overhead would target them after several incidents in which travellers were hit by Israeli missiles, he said.

'Threat to peace'

The UN's top humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, said air strikes on roads and bridges were hampering relief teams from reaching the displaced.

"It's already very bad, and it is deteriorating by the hour," he told the BBC.

"Now it seems we are headed for another scenario where we will have to do a lot of rebuilding, a lot of humanitarian relief, a lot of life-saving relief".

Hezbollah, Syria and Iran are using our country as a battleground against Israel
Nayef, Beirut

Meanwhile, several countries have begun removing their nationals from Lebanon - sending ships because the country's air and land routes have been destroyed in the Israeli bombardment.

An Italian naval vessel carried about 400 European evacuees from Beirut to neighbouring Cyprus on Monday, and was followed early on Tuesday by a ship chartered by the French government.

The British government is sending six warships to rescue more than 22,000 people in what Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells called "the biggest evacuation since Dunkirk" - referring to the rescue by sea of some 330,000 soldiers from France in 1940.

The European Union has called on both sides to end the hostilities, saying they "poses a serious threat to peace and security in the region".

The 15-member UN Security Council again met to discuss the crisis, but decided to await the return of a team of UN envoys from the Middle East later in the week before making any move.

Meanwhile, the US says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to the Middle East on a peace mission, but has not said when she will go.

Watch a clip of Ehud Olmert's speech

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