Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Israel opts to expand war

Yahoo! News
Israel opts to expand war

By Matt Spetalnick

Israel decided on Wednesday to expand its ground offensive in Lebanon despite U.N. diplomacy to end the four-week-old war.

Israeli troops thrust deeper into Lebanon and 11 Israeli soldiers were reported killed in fierce clashes with Hizbollah.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet ordered the move to send troops further into Lebanon, possibly as far as the Litani river, up to 20 km (13 miles) from the border, to strike at Hizbollah and halt its rocket attacks into Israel.

"The security cabinet approved the recommendations of the defense establishment for the continuation of operations in Lebanon," a statement from Olmert's office said.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz had proposed the expansion. Israeli media had said Olmert feared it might entail heavy casualties. Nine ministers approved the move. Three abstained.

Israel already has about 10,000 troops in southern Lebanon, and it was not immediately clear how many more would join them. Olmert's office said further details would be released later.

Israeli media reports said the army believed it would take another 30 days to accomplish its mission against Hizbollah. The security cabinet gave Olmert and Peretz the power to decide the parameters of the expanded offensive.

The Israeli move could complicate U.N. diplomacy to halt the fighting, though Western diplomats said Israeli officials had assured them the army was prepared to halt the wider campaign within days if an agreement was reached at the United Nations.

Diplomats are still working on a revised resolution and no Security Council vote was expected before Thursday.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch held talks in Beirut as part of efforts to persuade Lebanon and Israel to agree on its terms, but appeared to have made little headway.

"All he is carrying is cosmetics for what remains a very ugly resolution," Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a key Shi'ite politician and Hizbollah ally, said after talks with Welch, who also met Prime Minister Fouad Siniora twice.


Israeli forces pushed deeper into parts of Lebanon despite fierce Hizbollah resistance, Lebanese security sources said.

Al Arabiya television reported four Israeli soldiers had been killed in a rocket attack in the village of Aita al-Shaab.

The security sources said they believed several Israeli soldiers were also killed when Hizbollah blew up a booby-trapped house near the village of Debel, 5 km (3 miles) from the border.

Al Jazeera television said a total of 11 Israeli soldiers had been killed. The Israeli army had no immediate comment.

The security sources said at least three Hizbollah fighters had been killed in the clashes.

Israeli forces pushed west from Taibeh, some 5 km (3 miles) from the border, toward the village of Qantara and north toward the village of Qlaiah villages, the sources said. Fighting also raged near Bint Jbeil and Aita al-Shaab.

Israeli planes bombed targets across Lebanon. Five people died in a raid that hit the home of a local Hizbollah official in the Bekaa Valley town of Mashghara, medics said.

Two people, including an 11-year-old boy, were killed in air strikes on the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near the coastal city of Sidon, a U.N. spokesman said.

The death toll from an air raid on a south Beirut suburb on Monday rose to 41 from 30, police said. Sixty-one people were also wounded in the strike on the mainly Shi'ite Shiyah area.

More rockets hit northern Israel and four landed in the occupied West Bank. No casualties were reported.

At least 1,005 people in Lebanon and 101 Israelis have been killed
in four weeks of bloodshed sparked when Hizbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.


The United Nations has yet to act to halt the conflict.

Lebanon wants an immediate ceasefire and a quick pullout of Israeli troops from the south, where it says 15,000 Lebanese soldiers backed by U.N. peacekeepers can move in.

Israel says it will only withdraw out when a foreign force and the Lebanese army take over to keep Hizbollah at bay.

France and the United States are now revising their draft. They are debating what kind of an international force should be formed to back the Lebanese army and when it should deploy.

U.S. officials say the army is too weak to subdue Hizbollah.

French President Jacques Chirac said he believed U.S. "reservations" to an amended draft resolution, put forward by Paris to take Arab concerns into account, could be overcome.

"I can't imagine that there would be no solution because that would mean, which would be the most immoral result, that we accept the current situation and that we abandon an immediate ceasefire," Chirac told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Jerusalem, United Nations and Paris bureaux)

No comments: