Lebanese Defence Minister Elias Murr yesterday pledged that the Lebanese army will stand and fight against an Israeli invasion.
Murr warned: ‘The Lebanese army will resist and defend the country and prove that it is an army worthy of respect.
‘The balance of forces is changing and if there is an invasion of Lebanon – we are waiting for them.’
Explaining that the Lebanese army was made up of Shia, Sunni, Druze and Christians, he said: ‘Today we have a Lebanese army that has decided to defend its territory and the bond of blood is stronger than that of confessions, religions or doctrines.’
Units of the Lebanese army are expected to take their places alongside Hezbollah to meet any Israeli invasion.
Hezbollah Political Bureau member Gahlib Abu-Zaynab said: ‘We believe we can win this ground battle because we are fully prepared for it.’
Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah confirmed that ‘the command structure of Hezbollah has not been harmed’.
Nasrallah pledged that ‘if the whole universe comes, it will not be able to take back the two Israeli soldiers except through indirect negotiation and exchange of prisoners’.
Israel launched new military strikes inside Lebanon yesterday and called up thousands of reserve troops as armour massed near to the border.
Already 1,000 Israeli troops have been sent into southern Lebanon to try to uncover and destroy underground bunkers, tunnels and strong points, which they were unable to destroy from the air.
These Israeli troops have been met head to head and hand to hand by Hezbollah fighters who have destroyed Israeli tanks and killed Israeli troops.
Israel dropped leaflets in southern Lebanon yesterday urging residents to leave their homes and move north of the Litani River, 25 miles from the Israeli-Lebanese border.
At the same time, anything that moved on the roads was rocketed and machinegunned by Israeli planes – including entire columns of vehicles stuck in traffic jams or held up by destroyed bridges.
The city of Tyre was mercilessly bombed and strafed.
Two Israeli soldiers were confirmed dead Friday after battling Hezbollah fighters on Thursday.
Lebanese security forces said on Thursday that 350 civilians have been killed and thousands injured.
Newly reported deaths in southern Lebanon bring the number of confirmed Israeli military fatalities to 19, with another 15 civilians reported killed.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian militant and four others died in an attack on a Gaza City home yesterday, Palestinians reported.
Earlier, Israeli tanks and troops withdrew from the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza after a deadly two-day raid, the Israeli army announced.
Some 19 Palestinians have been killed since Tuesday, according to Palestinians.
Hezbollah is being praised all over the Arab world and regimes, such as the Saudi regime, which opposed their action in capturing two Israeli soldiers are being cursed.
The attitude of the Arab street is that Hezbollah has worked wonders for Arab unity and dealt a mighty blow against those who are trying to sow sectarian division in Iraq and elsewhere.
• Second news story
US KILLS SIX IN BAQUBA RAID
US troops killed six civilians in an anti-insurgent raid in Iraq yesterday, local police said, but the US military claimed its forces killed one suspected ‘terrorist’ and wounded several people.
However, Puppet Iraqi police said the dead in the raid near Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, included two women and a young girl, and that 20 people were wounded.
Pictures taken in the aftermath of the raid showed six bodies of civilians, including that of a young child.
Local resident Mohammed Omar said that local guards had opened fire on the US soldiers thinking they were insurgents.
The US military said those wounded in the dawn operation against alleged Al-Qaeda members were treated on the spot and at coalition medical facilities.
Ahmed Humam, another resident, said at least 20 people had been wounded.
The US military maintained that before attacking the buildings with a combination of ‘aerial and ground fire’ three calls were made for civilians to leave.
‘We regret that civilians are hurt or killed while coalition forces search to rid Iraq of terrorism,’ added the US military, without confirming the civilian fatalities.