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Israelis said to fire on Hezbollah site

BEIRUT -- Israeli aircraft fired several rockets at a target in a Hezbollah stronghold in eastern Lebanon early this morning, a Lebanese security source said.

It was not immediately clear what the Israeli aircraft were firing at in the village of Bodai. An Israeli Army spokesman said the army was checking the report.

Such an attack would be the first since a United Nations truce ended 34 days of fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon. The war erupted after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.

In Qana yesterday, 29 people killed in an Israeli airstrike before the cease-fire were buried, as ground was opened in south Lebanon for funerals on the Muslim holy day.

Women in black robes, their heads hidden by black scarves, held pictures of the dead and threw rice and rose petals on the plywood caskets in the village, struck during the 34-day Israel-Hezbollah war. Twenty-six coffins were draped in the Lebanese flag and three in the yellow Hezbollah flag.

To the east, the Lebanese Army symbolically took control of a first border village from withdrawing Israeli forces, as two soldiers drove slowly through Kfar Kila in a jeep. And in a bid to prevent more arms from reaching Hezbollah fighters, the government vowed to take over all border crossings nationwide, including 60 known smuggling routes from Syria.

At a school in south Beirut's Bourj el-Barajneh neighborhood, Hezbollah started handing out crisp $100 bills to residents who lost homes in the Israeli bombing campaign -- $12,000 to each claimant. The stacks of bills were pulled out of a suitcase. Hezbollah is financed by oil-rich Iran.

The Higher Relief Council, the government agency that deals with disasters, said yesterday that the Lebanese government and UN agencies were undertaking assessments countrywide. While the government was still absent from the reconstruction effort, there were other offers of private help besides Hezbollah's direct payments.

Qana, about 6 miles southeast of the port city of Tyre, held the most elaborate of several funerals in southern Lebanon yesterday after residents decided it was finally safe and hospital morgues made sure all bodies could be claimed. A caravan of cars made its way from one service to the next.

``This is the day to bury our dead," said Shi'ite cleric Sheik Shoue Qatoon. ``It was decided that we would schedule the funerals so that we could all attend them all."

During the war, bodies were taken to the Tyre morgue and later buried in a shallow mass grave when refrigerated trucks holding the corpses became too crowded. Yesterday, the bodies were exhumed and taken to the home villages for burial. The coffins were marked with the names of the dead.

Funerals in northern Israeli towns proceeded throughout the fighting, though they were sometimes disrupted by rocket fire. But because of the war in Lebanon, it sometimes took more than 24 hours to take the bodies of soldiers to Israel for burial, the army said. Jewish law requires burial within 24 hours after death.

In the Lebanese village of Srifa, 12 miles east of Tyre, more than 20 people were buried in a mass grave yesterday.

In Qana, the dead were buried in individual graves one beside the other. Women broke into piercing screams as the 29 coffins were carried shoulder-high to the grave site, about a third of a mile from the two-story home blasted by an Israeli missile on July 30.

The dead were all from the Shaloub and Hashem families.

Throughout the day the hum of an Israeli drone could be heard.

Israeli drones and warplanes also crisscrossed the skies above Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley last night, near the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek, security officials said. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release information to reporters, said there had been antiaircraft fire but no weapons fired by the Israeli drones and jet fighters.

Near Israel's Galilee panhandle, the Lebanese Army's 10th Brigade set up camps within a mile of the border, a key step toward taking control of the whole country for the first time since 1968 and a key demand of the UN resolution that halted fighting on Monday.

The deployment marks the first time the Lebanese Army has moved in force to a region that was held by Palestinian guerrillas in the 1970s and by Hezbollah since Israeli troops withdrew from the area in 2000.

Lebanese troops also deployed in the town of Chebaa near the Israeli-occupied and disputed Chebaa Farms, which Lebanon claims but which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. It was the first time in 38 years that the Lebanese Army had been in Chebaa's Arqoub region, an area that between 1969 and 1982 was a launching pad for Palestinian attacks on Israel.

Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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