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Breaking News

Israeli Warplanes Attack Hezbollah Targets in Southern Lebanon

Aired February 7, 2000 - 6:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: This breaking story out of the Middle East. Israeli warplanes at this hour are attacking Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.

And for more on the story let's go live now to Jerusalem and to CNN's Jerrold Kessel -- Jerrold.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, tension has been building dramatically along the Israeli-Lebanese border and inside Lebanon over the last 24 hours in the wake of the series of deadly attacks by Hezbollah guerrillas against Israeli soldiers in their Israel so-called security zone in south Lebanon. And the tension reaching a peak in the last couple of hours, and just minutes ago the Israeli army confirming and announcing that its air force -- its warplanes had struck at four targets inside southern Lebanon and inside eastern Lebanon.

Three power stations were hit, according to the Israeli army, and a headquarters of the Hezbollah guerrillas in the Bau Bek (ph), that's in the southeastern part of Lebanon close to Lebanon's border with Syria. According to the Israeli army, all those aircraft returned safely to base. And reports out of Lebanon say that, that area around Bau Bek, which was the main target hit, has been plunged into darkness after that transforming station, electricity transforming station was hit in this Israeli attack.

The tension had been building after Prime Minister Ehud Barak had convened his security cabinet here in Jerusalem for several hours today to consider the options for Israel to strike against targets inside Lebanon after those deadly attacks launched by Hezbollah during the last week, which had cost the lives of four Israeli soldiers and one of Israel's chief allies in the south Lebanon army inside south Lebanon over the last week.

Mr. Barak emerged from that cabinet meeting to tell Israelis in very straight and in no uncertain terms that they could expect the situation to deteriorate. He put it this way, he said that the Israeli army was there to defend Israelis inside Israel and its soldiers inside south Lebanon at this stage, and it would strike back against the Hezbollah, against those, he said, who carry out these attacks and those who sent them.

Mr. Barak then went up north to the people living in northern Israel, told them that they should go down into the shelters, and they have been from about 10:00, that's about three hours ago, in bomb shelters all along Israel's northern border with Lebanon, expecting a possible retaliation from the Hezbollah in the wake of that.

Many people have also left those northern towns, but for the moment the Israeli army says its warplanes have struck, sending a message to the Lebanese government, also to Syria, also to Hezbollah, that Hezbollah must rein in, or there will be more attacks.

That for the moment, however, is where the Israelis say the situation stands, their planes having struck at those targets inside south and eastern Lebanon and waiting to see what materializes now.

Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jerrold Kessel, and that is the story from inside Israel from Jerusalem.

Now we want to go by telephone to Beirut, Lebanon, and to CNN's Brent Sadler.

Brent, can you tell us what the perspective is from there?

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, (AUDIO GAP) ... warplanes having indeed attacked a number of targets, principally around Bau Bek and the Bekar (ph) Valley, a Hezbollah stronghold. Residents there report that power has gone out. Hezbollah's own television station, Lighthouse TV MNR (ph), say that the Israelis struck the power plant there and a number of other unspecified targets.

We are also getting unconfirmed officially reports from Hezbollah that a power station, an installation has been hit outside Beirut. We heard a short time ago anti-aircraft fire coinciding with heavy aircraft activity clearly heard over the skies, over the center of Beirut, the capitol of Lebanon. And these air raids, retaliatory strikes against Hezbollah appear to be continuing, we don't know for how long.

Hezbollah has said all along that if Israel attacked Lebanese infrastructure and if the war over the occupation of south Lebanon spilled into the civilian life of the Lebanese, Hezbollah could well respond by firing Petutia (ph) rockets as they have done in the past against northern Israel. That is why Prime Minister Ehud Barak advised residents of northern Israel to take to the shelters about three hours ago -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's Brent Sadler joining us by telephone from Beirut.

Again, Israeli warplanes have been striking Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.

We've heard from both Jerrold Kessel in Israel, and just now from Brent Sadler in Beirut.

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