Israel and Hezbollah Approve Middle East Cease-Fire
The Associated Press
Sunday 13 August 2006
Jerusalem - Israel's Cabinet approved the U.N. cease-fire plan Sunday, clearing a key hurdle to ending the month long Middle East war.
The 24-0 vote, with , came a day after the Lebanese government approved the agreement. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave his grudging consent but warned "the war has not ended."
The truce was to take effect on Monday morning, but the potential for new flareups remained high.
Israeli warplanes pounded targets across Lebanon on Sunday, killing at least five people, while Hezbollah guerrillas fired rockets at northern Israel, killing one person and injuring at least seven.
The cease-fire was to go into effect at 8 a.m. Beirut time Monday (1 a.m. EDT). Some 15,000 Lebanese troops and an equal number of U.N. forces are to deploy in coming days in south Lebanon and create a buffer zone between the border with Israel and the Litani River.
High Potential for More Clashes
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told ministers he met with the families of two Israeli soldiers whose July 12 capture by Hezbollah provoked the war, and said he hoped they would be freed.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres said that while Israel has to learn lessons from the war, "in my view, we came out of this with the upper hand, both politically and military."
Misgivings in Israel
Military experts and commentators said neither the Lebanese army nor U.N. forces could be counted on to challenge Hezbollah or force Iran-supplied guerrillas to disarm.
The deal buys a period of calm, at best, and sets the region up for the next war with Hezbollah, critics said. The truce will be "a time-out until the next confrontation, and maybe not even this," commentator Nahum Barnea wrote in Israel's Yediot Ahronot daily.
The Cabinet session was overshadowed by rising Israeli casualties.
Hezbollah appeared to be fighting as fiercely as ever. The guerrillas shot down an Israeli helicopter for the first time in the war, killing five crew members. Other troops were killed by Hezbollah anti-tank missiles. The army said it killed more than 50 Hezbollah fighters.
The violence has claimed more than 900 lives: at least . On Saturday, 19 Lebanese civilians were killed in Israeli air raids, one of which blasted a highway near the last open border crossing to Syria.
Lebanon's Cabinet said
An Israeli missile destroyed a building in the southern Lebanese coastal city of Tyre on Sunday, killing a woman, her three children and the family's housekeeper, security officials said.
Missile Kills One in Northern Israel
In northern Israel, a Hezbollah rocket hit a house in the town of Shlomi killing, killing one person and wounding two others. Five other people were hurt in rocket barrages throughout northern Israel, rescue services said.
President Bush had an 8-minute phone call Saturday with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to discuss the truce. The White House said it is determined to vanquish the hold of Hezbollah - and that of its Syrian and Iranian benefactors - on the south.
"These steps are designed to stop Hezbollah from acting as a state within a state, and put an end to Iran and Syria's efforts to hold the Lebanese people hostage to their own extremist agenda," Bush said.
The anti-Syrian Saniora, whose government was extremely weak when the fighting began, appears to have emerged from the crisis considerably strengthened.
Hezbollah Leader Agrees to Cease-Fire
By Bruce Wallace and Tracy Wilkinson
The Los Angeles Times
Saturday 12 August 2006
Beirut, Lebanon - Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and the Lebanese Cabinet agreed Saturday to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire aimed at stopping more than a month of fighting between Israel and the militant group. Israel also signaled it would accept the truce, even as it tripled the number of its combat forces inside Lebanon.
"This resistance is a reaction and whenever the hostile Israeli acts will stop, we will stop our retaliatory acts," Nasrallah said in a televised address on Hezbollah's TV network. But he also warned that the shooting won't stop: "We in Lebanon should be vigilant and not think that the war is over."
After a Cabinet meeting described by some participants as "heated," the Lebanese government said it reluctantly agreed to the resolution's provisions, which include a reinforced United Nations military presence in the country's south.
Israel's Cabinet will meet to vote on the resolution Sunday. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni predicted approval, saying, "The cease-fire is a U.N. decision, and Israel intends to agree to it."
**doesn't sound like they're leaving, does it?**
It was Israel's biggest troop airlift since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, with heavy fighting reported around the Lebanese cities of Tyre and Sidon, as well as smaller towns such as Marjayoun, which Israel previously said it controlled.
Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, the military chief of staff, said it would likely take at least a week to learn the operational details of the U.N. resolution -- especially how the existing 2,000-member U.N. observer force will be converted into a more robust 15,000-strong contingent that will have the authority to make southern Lebanon a weapons-free zone.
Troops from France, Italy and Turkey are expected to make up the backbone of the bolstered U.N. force. The Security Council wants the troops to support the 15,000 soldiers from the Lebanese army who will move into southern Lebanon as Israel withdraws.
"Until then, we have to stay," Halutz told reporters gathered under camouflage netting at an army base near the town of Rosh Pina. He said Israel would use the time to continue to attack Hezbollah rockets, rocket launchers and infrastructure.
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faces sharp criticism from many Israelis who argue that a halt to the fighting now leaves Hezbollah within rocket range of northern Israel. Hezbollah fired 65 rockets into northern Israeli border towns Saturday, although Israeli officers noted that was a lower daily count than usual and said the penetration of the strikes was not as deep.
The cross-border incursion continues to cost Israel steep casualties. An Israeli helicopter was shot down in southern Lebanon; the Israeli government did not reveal a death toll from the incident, but it acknowledged the deaths of seven other Israeli soldiers and 70 wounded in fighting Saturday.
The Israelis said their troops killed 40 Hezbollah fighters, a claim Hezbollah denied.
Israeli airstrikes also hit more than 80 targets across Lebanon, killing at least 20 people, Lebanese officials said. Fifteen people, many of them elderly, were killed when a house was destroyed in the town of Rshaf.
Israeli planes also continued to squeeze Lebanon's links with the outside world, bombing the last significant road connection to Syria. The bombing all but shut Lebanon off from major shipments from Syria, one of Hezbollah's primary backers.
Ambulances and trucks loaded with cargo languished on the Syrian side of the Arida border crossing. The already pockmarked two-lane road, leading south along the Mediterranean coast into northern Lebanon, was apparently struck by at least two missiles.
The deteriorating conditions were one factor pushing the Lebanese government toward accepting the U.N.'s conditions for a cease-fire. Lebanon's Cabinet, which includes two Hezbollah ministers, approved the truce despite bitterness over the continuing Israeli offensive and uncertainty about whether the resolution allowed for Hezbollah to maintain arms in southern Lebanon.
But others argue that having inflicted more damage on Israeli forces than expected, Hezbollah was strategically wise to halt the fighting at this stage.
"Yes, there has been support for Hezbollah during this crisis, but even if they don't say it, people blame Hezbollah, too, for some of the destruction," said Farid el Khazen, a Lebanese legislator. "It is the right decision to stop now. None of the parties has emerged from this war undamaged."
But there is also widespread agreement that Hezbollah's surprising performance against a vastly superior Israeli military machine has dramatically boosted Nasrallah's political standing in Lebanon.
"Nasrallah can stop now with the look and image of a hero," said Fadia Kiwan, a political scientist at Beirut's St. Joseph University. "Hezbollah has won this war because they resisted the Israeli machine longer than thought possible."
Wallace reported from Beirut and . Times staff writers Borzou Daragahi in Arida, Lebanon and Henry Chu in Jerusalem and special correspondent Maha Al Azar in Beirut contributed to this report.