Thursday, July 13, 2006

War with Lebanon

Defense/Middle East

Katyusha Missiles Strike Tzfat, Hizbullah Says Haifa Next
18:50 Jul 13, '06 / 17 Tammuz 5766
by Ezra HaLevi

Katyusha missiles slammed into the holy city of Tzfat Thursday afternoon, striking a college, mortally injuring one and wounding close to 20. Hizbullah: If Beirut is hit, Haifa will be next.

Seven 122mm Katyusha rockets struck Tzfat (Safed) around 3 PM Wednesday. One landed near a bus stop, one near an absorption center and the others in populated areas as well. At least 20 people are being treated for wounds. A 70-year-old woman was critically wounded, and another person remains in serious condition. The rest suffered light injuries from shrapnel and shock.

A rocket also struck the Arab village of Majd al-Krum near Carmiel this afternoon. Majd al-Krum has seen arrests and investigations due to widespread support for Hamas and Syria in the village. The Hizbullah-fired missiled injured five residents, including two in moderate condition. Another wave of rockets struck Kibbutz Snir and the Arab village of Rajar, but failed to injure anybody.

The fresh barrage of rockets came just hours after a wave of Katyushas struck a home in the coastal city of Nahariya, killing a Jewish woman and wounding 29 others, including several children. In total, more than 70 rockets have been fired on northern Israeli towns in the past 24 hours.

The Tzfat College, which was hit by one of the missiles, organized drills over the past two weeks, accustoming students to enter the local bomb shelters when necessary. The shelter itself, which doubles as the school’s library, was struck head-on by a missile – but was empty because students had been sent home just two hours earlier due to the war situation.

In another providential development, the three-day klezmer music festival, which saw Tzfat packed with tens of thousands of visitors, also came to a close less than 40 hours prior to the attack.

Avraham, a caller to IsraelNationalRadio, said he was sitting in his bomb shelter in Tzfat and refused to leave the holy city, despite offers from his son to pick him up and bring him out of range of the rocket fire. "I left New York for Tzfat because G-d told us this is where we are supposed to live," he said. "I am not going to leave because of some missiles."

Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah, responding to reports that the IDF is preparing to strike south of Beirut, said such a move would result in Hizbullah firing even longer-range missiles at the port-city of Haifa.

Asked earlier about the liklihood of such a scenario, Dr. Dan Shiftan of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa said, "I estimate that this is indeed a realistic scenario."

Dr. Shiftan added that Hizbullah's plans to strike Haifa existed from the get-go and had nothing to do with the scope of IDF raids in Lebanon. "A clear-cut connection exists between the authorities in the Gaza Strip and the two additional kidnappings of Israeli soldiers in South Lebanon," he said. "We aren't speaking about a one-time incident. This is an extensive military confrontation that in the final analysis will determine the rules of the game between Israel and elements at war with her, for example, in Lebanon and Syria."

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