Israel Bombs Beirut Airport, Television Station (Video)

Israel has escalated the war with Lebanon, bombing the Beirut airport and imposing a naval blockade in an attempt to destroy Hezbollah once and for all.

Israel Bombs Beirut Airport, Television Station Photo

Israel intensified its attacks against Lebanon on Thursday, blasting Beirut’s international airport and the southern part of the country in its heaviest air campaign against its neighbor in 24 years. Nearly three dozen civilians were killed, officials said. The strikes on the airport, which damaged three runways, came hours before Israel also imposed a naval blockade on Lebanon to cut off supply routes to Lebanese militants.

The shockwaves from the fighting began to be felt a day after Hezbollah snatched two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. The escalation of violence in the Middle East pushed crude oil prices to a new intraday record of $75.88 a barrel. Western countries, Russia and the United Nations called for restraint and demanded the soldiers be released. Israel said it was seeking to end once and for all Hezbollah’s presence on Lebanon’s southern border, while the guerrillas insisted they would only release the soldiers in exchange for Israel freeing Arab prisoners.

The airport, located in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut, was closed after the attacks and flights were diverted to nearby Cyprus. It was the first time since Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and occupation of Beirut that the airport was hit by Israel.

Israel also fired a missile at the building housing the studios of Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Thursday morning, the channel’s press officer Ibrahim Farhat told The Associated Press. One person was hurt, but the station continued to broadcast.

AP has video. As does CNN.

UPDATE: The rocket attacks have gone from threat to reality.

Rockets fired from Lebanon hit a number of towns and villages in Israel on Thursday, hours after Israeli aircraft bombed Beirut International Airport. The escalation in violence came as Israel expanded its military campaign against Hezbollah guerrillas who kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on Wednesday — bombing the airport and blocking naval traffic in Lebanese waters. Israel has said it holds the Lebanese government, of which Hezbollah is a part, responsible for the soldiers’ abduction.

Rockets fired from Lebanon hit the center of Safed Thursday, causing casualties, medical sources said. One man was in critical condition and at least 10 others suffered shock and minor injuries. Safed is about 20 kilometers (13 miles) inside the Israeli border with Lebanon. Police said several rockets hit the town, one of them striking a petrol station. Lebanese rockets also hit the Jewish town of Carmiel and adjacent Arab village of Majd el-Krum in northern Israel on Thursday, the army said, according to The Associated Press. The communities are about 20 kilometers (8 miles) south of the Lebanese border. Channel 10 TV, citing rescue service officials, said one person was moderately wounded in Majd el-Krum.

Hezbollah also threatened to launch a missile attack on the northern Israeli city of Haifa if Israel attacked Beirut, Hezbollah officials told CNN.

This will surely get uglier because it gets better.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.