Lebanon drawn into Gaza fight

Lebanon drawn into Gaza fight

Rockets fired from Lebanon hit Israel; Gaza casualties mount

GAZA CITY - Rockets fired into northern Israel from Lebanon on Thursday jolted efforts to end the brutal Israeli onslaught in Gaza, where Israeli jets carried out mass strikes. The Israelis maintain the strikes were against smuggling tunnels.

Three rockets fired at the northern Israeli town of Nahariya wounded two women as Israel sent an envoy to Cairo to discuss an Egyptian plan to end the war on the Hamas movement that has left at least 704 dead in Gaza - most of them civilians.

The Israeli army fired shells into Lebanon at the district where the rockets came from. Hamas denied it had fired the rockets, and the Lebanese government said Hezbollah - the Shiite Lebanese militants who were the target of an Israeli war in 2006 -  had also made it clear they were not involved.

The Israeli government made no immediate comment on the strikes. But media cited military sources as saying the rockets were probably fired by Lebanon-based Palestinian radicals angered by the offensive in the Gaza Strip.

With the military onslaught in its 13th day, Israeli jets pounded zones near the border with Egypt, where Israel says there are hundreds of underground tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle in arms.

Witnesses said Israeli tanks had also entered southern Gaza. Israeli planes dropped tens of thousands of leaflets on the Rafah area near the border warning people to leave their houses or face attacks.

There are up to 500 underground passages around Rafah, used to smuggle supplies and arms from Egypt into Gaza.

Death toll surpasses 700

Gaza medics said 704 people have now been killed and more than 3,100 injured since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27.

New hopes have been raised by a truce plan proposed by Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.

A top Israeli envoy went to Cairo on Thursday for talks on the ceasefire proposal, which aims to halt the conflict by bolstering security on the Gaza-Egypt frontier to end the smuggling.

Amos Gilad, an adviser to Defence Minister Ehud Barak, was to hold talks with Egyptian officials on the plan. AFP

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