Jonathan Pearlman in Haifa, Israel
August 15, 2006
A CEASEFIRE to end a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah , in southern Lebanon.
"The Israeli Defence Forces identified a cell of armed gunmen a few metres away who were approaching and threatening the force," the spokesman said. "To defend themselves, the soldiers identified the gunmen and shot at them. but we will continue to defend our soldiers in southern Lebanon."
Israel has maintained its air and sea blockade of Lebanon and has warned it will renew attacks if Hezbollah does not honour the ceasefire. The army said the blockade would continue until the Lebanese Government was able to prevent arms transfers to Hezbollah.
Seven Israeli solders were killed and 25 injured as the army continued its advance in southern Lebanon on Sunday, the last full day of the war.
"We now have a framework for building a better Lebanon and for establishing better relations with Lebanon," said an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev.
"We have come out of this stronger, and destroyed Hezbollah's state within a state."
The Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was due to explain the United Nations resolution to the Knesset, but was expected to face criticism from the Opposition Leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Minister for Defence, Amir Peretz, has acknowledged the war would be followed by questions about intelligence failures and the home front's lack of readiness for the barrages of rockets fired by Hezbollah.
One minister, Shaul Mofaz, abstained during the cabinet's 24-0 vote to accept the UN ceasefire. Mr Mofaz said the ceasefire should have demanded the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers and was unlikely to be honoured by Hezbollah.
At 8am, as the wails from the air-raid sirens died out, residents in northern Israel waited to see if the silence would endure.
Judith Jakab, who dared to keep her 24-year-old Haifa cafe open throughout the fighting, said she would wait another day before removing signs directing customers to a bomb shelter.
"I don't like having the signs there," she said. "It worries people. I think I'll take them down tomorrow."
About a third of the 1 million people in the north of the country have fled to the south. Few were expected to return yesterday.
In Gaza, Palestinian militants fired missiles at the coastal city of Ashkelon. There were no injuries. Reuters reported that an Israeli air strike killed three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip shortly afterwards.