Lebanese defense minister: Army will fight ground invasion


By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Lebanon's army, which so far has sat on the sidelines of the violence raging in the country, will fight an Israeli ground invasion, Defense Minister Elias Murr said on Al-Jazeera television Thursday.

"The Lebanese army - and I stress - the Lebanese army will resist and defend and will prove that it is an army that deserves respect," he said.

In most of the previous Israeli attacks, including in 1978 and the 1982 invasion in which Beirut was occupied, the Lebanese army largely stayed out of the fighting.

Some 20 Lebanese soldiers have been killed in strikes on their bases during the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon.

Nasrallah: Hezbollah leadership intact
Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday that the group's leadership remains intact, appearing in an interview on Al-Jazeera TV a day after Israel claimed to have bombed a bunker where he may have been hiding.

"I can confirm without exaggerating or using psychological warfare, that we have not been harmed," he said. He denied claims by Israel to have destroyed half of Hezbollah's rocket arsenal.

Nasrallah also said there was "no way in the world" Hezbollah would release two Israel Defense Forces soldiers it kidnapped last week in a cross-border raid, except as part of a prisoner exchange brokered through indirect negotiations.

Nasrallah also denied claims by Israel to have destroyed half of Hezbollah's rocket arsenal, calling the claims "baseless."

On Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces said dozens of its aircrafts dropped 23 tons of explosives on the target in the Bourj al-Barajneh neighborhood of Beirut in the late evening.

Soon after, Hezbollah issued a statement saying that "no Hezbollah leaders or elements were killed in the strike," but a building under construction to be a mosque was hit.

"It seems that the enemy wants to cover up its military and security failures with lies and claims of imaginary achievements," said the statement the group faxed to The Associated Press.

Interviewed on CNN early Thursday, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, said Israel would not issue a statement about the attack until it is sure of all the facts. But he added, "I can assure you that we know exactly what we hit. ... This was no religious site. This was indeed the headquarters of the Hezbollah leadership."

There was no immediate word of casualties in the incident from Hezbollah or Lebanese officials. Hezbollah has a headquarters compound in Bourj al-Barajneh that is off limits to the Lebanese police and army, so security officials could not confirm the strike.