Israel's death toll in Lebanon rises to at least 450

Israel's air force has continued to pound Lebanon as its ground forces battle Hezbollah fighters in the country's south. Lebanese police said that Israel had carried out more than 130 air raids on Friday, killing at least 13 people and wounding many more.

“The flurry of air attacks came amid reports that Israeli troops were retreating from the town of Bint Jbeil near the Israeli border. The first Israeli bombs on Friday fell shortly after dawn, killing two people in their home in the village of Deir Aamiss south of the city of Tyre.

“A separate Israeli air raid destroyed a deserted four-storey building near the town, a local official said. The building housed a construction company owned by a Hezbollah member, the officials said. Hussam Abu Shamet, a Jordanian man in a nearby house, was killed by missile shrapnel in that attack.

“Others civilians died elsewhere across southern Lebanon and also in the Bekaa valley where Israel's air force struck at a suspected Hezbollah stockpile of long-range missiles.

"At least 450 Lebanese have now died in the 17-day conflict....

“Meanwhile, US officials said that Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, would return to the Middle East this weekend if needed. In London, the prime minister's spokesman said that Tony Blair would seek a UN resolution to end the violence next week.

“On Thursday, Lebanon's health minister estimated that as many as 600 civilians have been killed so far.”

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