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Ten Israelis Killed in Hezbollah Rocket Attack

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Hezbollah fired a barrage of rockets at Israel today that lasted more than 15 minutes and killed at least 10 people, including nine Israeli soldiers. The attack was the largest of its kind since the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah began three and a half weeks ago.

Israel today also continued its ground and air attacks on Lebanon, killing at least 17 people. Earlier today, NPR's Eric Westervelt visited the scene of the Hezbollah attack on northern Israel.

ERIC WESTERVELT reporting:

Well, I've been up around Kfar Galadi, and it appears right now that there was a direct hit from a 122-millimeter Katyusha rocket on an area just inside the gate of this communal farm, Kibbutz Kfar Galadi. It appears 10 Israelis who were both in their cars and on mattresses relaxing outside in the parking lot area were struck and killed. Israeli media are reporting that they're security officers. We cannot confirm yet their identity, but it appears 10 dead, four seriously wounded.

It's one of the worst single rocket incidents of this three and half week-old war. And I've been covering this war up here on the border for most of that time, and this morning was probably the worst barrage of Katyusha rockets that I've witnessed. It was - it's very heavy, struck around Kiryat Shmona in this northern Israeli border area.

HANSEN: Where were you when all of this happened?

WESTERVELT: I was just a mile away when it happened and arrived on the scene shortly afterwards. There were helicopters that rushed into a nearby farm field, ferrying the wounded and injured out of the area, military and police officials trying to cordon off the area. There were fires burning all throughout the hillsides. Soon afterwards, planes began to drop air retardant to try to control some of the fires.

And then we went up to the entrance of the kibbutz, talked to some local officials, including a deputy mayor of the kibbutz. He described it as his worst day. And we asked him - he was one of the first on the scene - what happened? And he said I will never speak of it publicly. It was the worst image I could imagine.

HANSEN: Many residents of the northern border towns of Israel have actually gone to safer places. So who was remaining here where you are?

WESTERVELT: It appears, reportedly, they were security people and there was a warning siren, according to locals we talked to and an Israeli defense force major we spoke with. The warning sirens were sounded in time. And apparently, for whatever reason, it appears these people did not heed the warnings to take cover.

Israeli officials have told people repeatedly, when those sirens go off you need to not just get indoors, not just get into your hardened safe rooms, but to get into a bomb shelter, because these barrages of Katyusha rockets have a pretty wide kill radius with the shrapnel and the ball bearings that they spread around.

HANSEN: NPR's Eric Westervelt on the line from us from northern Israel.

Eric, thank you very much.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

HANSEN: NPR's Eric Westervelt on the line from us from northern Israel.

Eric, thank you very much.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.
Eric Westervelt
Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.