Saturday, August 05, 2006

U.S., France OK U.N. Mideast Truce Pact

U.S., France OK U.N. Mideast Truce Pact

By Robin Wright, Column Lynch and Molly Moore
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 5, 2006; 1:00 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 5 -- The United States and France reached agreement on a draft resolution Saturday calling for "a full cessation of hostilities" between Israel and Hezbollah and setting the terms for a possible negotiated settlement of the war and deployment of a U.N.-mandated international force in the region.

After days of diplomatic deadlock, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton confirmed the first hopeful development in the 25-day conflict. The Security Council is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. to discuss the proposed terms.

"We are prepared to move as quickly as other members of the council want to move," he told reporters in New York Saturday morning. "We are prepared to continue to work tomorrow to make progress."

"This is the first step of a great result," said a French envoy speaking on condition of anonymity because of ongoing diplomacy.

Dan Gillerman, the Israel ambassador to the United Nations, said Israel is "studying" the deal and will give its formal reaction later this afternoon.

In a sign of the challenges ahead, a Hezbollah cabinet minister said Saturday that the Shiite militia would not stop fighting until Israelis soldiers had left Lebanon.

"We will abide by it on condition that no Israeli soldier remains inside Lebanese land. If they stay, we will not abide by it,"
said Mohammed Fneish, the Hezbollah cabinet Minister, who holds the energy portfolio.

The resolution is expected to be the first of at least two to deal with the bloodshed that has claimed more than 450 Lebanese civilians and about 75 Israeli civilians and soldiers. A second resolution would deal with terms for a lasting end to hostilities.

In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday that he expected a ceasefire within days.

"This is a first step. There is still much to be done. But there is no reason why this resolution should not be adopted now and we have the cessation of hostilities literally within the next couple of days," he said in a statement broadcast on television.

Fighting continued early Saturday morning as Israeli navy commandos attacked the second floor of a five-story building searching for what an Israeli military official said were Hezbollah leaders. The Shiite militia had fired long-range rockets at the western coastal city of Hadera on Friday, its deepest strike into Israel since the fighting began.

During a gunfight in the building, Israeli soldiers killed two or three Hezbollah fighters, according to a military spokesman.

As the Israeli commandos left the site, Hezbollah fighters began shooting from surrounding streets, the military officials said. Israeli soldiers killed another six or seven Hezbollah members, the official said.

One Israeli soldier was killed Saturday morning during fighting in southern Lebanon just across the border from the northern Israeli town of Metula, according to an Israeli Defense Forces spokesman. The soldier was inside an engineering vehicle when it was hit by a mortar, the spokesman said. Nine soldiers were injured in the incident, he said.

Israeli military officials said troops were continuing to operate in about 20 villages just inside Lebanon.

Israeli aircraft conducted 70 attacks in Lebanon on Friday night and early Saturday morning, according to the IDF. Much of the bombardment occurred in southern Beirut, where Israeli forces bombed what officials described as an underground Hezbollah operations base, the offices of a Hezbollah newspaper, a weapons storage facility and Hezbollah offices and command posts.

Hezbollah fired 160 rockets into northern Israel on Saturday, 120 of them in a one-hour barrage between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., according to police officials.

A woman and her two daughters were killed when a Katyusha rocket slammed into their house in the Israeli Arab village of Arab al-Aramshe near Israel's northern border in the western Galilee, officials said.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops continued operations near the southern town of Rafah, killing four Palestinians, including two teenage siblings.

Kiffah al-Nuri, 15, and her 17-year-old brother were killed by a missile fired from an Israeli drone as they ran from an Israeli tank near their house, according to Palestinian medical officials.

Two other Palestinians, one a member of Hamas and the other a member of Islamic Jihad, were killed in separate airstrikes, Palestinian officials said.

The IDF said in a statement that in one incident its troops fired at "four gunmen armed with anti-tank missiles who were identified as moving towards the forces." In another incident, Israeli forces targeted three armed men, the statement said.

Lynch reported from the United Nations. Wright reported from Washington. Moore reported from Jerusalem.
**military censor**
© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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