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Israel begins full-scale invasion of Lebanon



Israel approves deeper offensive

The Israeli cabinet has approved an army plan to push deeper into Lebanon, to try to take control of areas used by Hezbollah to launch rockets on Israel.

An extra 30,000 troops could be needed for the advance, which aims to reach the Litani river, up to 30km (18 miles) from the Israeli border.

The meeting came as French and US diplomats at the UN began re-drafting their plan to end the crisis.

Arab League officials are calling for an immediate Israeli withdrawal.

Its representations to the UN Security Council came after Lebanon said it found aspects of the draft resolution unacceptable.

France and the US do not want major changes to their text and diplomats say prospects for an early vote are fading.

But French President Jacques Chirac said a workable resolution was essential and called for an immediate ceasefire.

"Our objective is to achieve cessation of hostilities so that ... the thousands of deaths, suffering and destruction should be put to an end. This is our absolute priority," he said.

Veto-wielding Russia earlier said it would not vote for any resolution which did not have the backing of Lebanon.

As discussions continued in New York, US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch held talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. No details have been released of the meeting.

The Israeli cabinet decision to push further into Lebanon came a day after Israel imposed an open-ended curfew on all residents south of the Litani River.

Nine ministers voted in favour of the new offensive, and three abstained, news agencies reported.

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz backed the deeper offensive, but reports in the Israeli media had suggested doubts on the part of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was said to fear heavy Israeli casualties.

Earlier, the Israeli military announced that it was sending one of its most senior generals, Maj-Gen Moshe Kaplinsky, to co-ordinate the offensive.

Israeli media say this is a response to growing criticism of the conduct of the campaign.

Meanwhile Israel's campaign continued, with 120 air strikes overnight and clashes with Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, as the militant group continued rocket attacks.

At least six people were killed when a two-storey building in the town of Mashghara in the eastern Bekaa Valley was hit and collapsed on top of them.

Medical sources told Reuters news agency a local Hezbollah official lived there.

In other developments:

* Israel struck Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, Ein al-Hilweh, near the port city of Sidon, killing two people. The Israeli army said it was targeting a house there belonging to a Hezbollah member

* The death toll from an Israeli air strike on a residential building in southern Beirut on Monday went up to 41 after more bodies were found in the rubble

* Al-Arabiya TV reported that four Israeli soldiers had been killed in a rocket attack in southern Lebanon. There is no confirmation from Israeli sources

* At least five Hezbollah rockets landed in a border area of the West Bank. No-one was hurt

* UN environment experts said an oil slick from a bombed Lebanese power plant had now reached Syria

* The UN Human Rights Council will meet on Friday to discuss the conflict, after a request from 16 states led by Tunisia

Nearly 1,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict, the Lebanese government has said. More than 100 Israelis, most of them soldiers, have also been killed.


SOURCE

BBC News, "Israel approves deeper offensive", 9 August 2006.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4775689.stm


FURTHER READING

The Independent, "Security fears force UN to suspend aid", 9 August 2006.
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article1217841.ece
    [The term "Security fears" used in this headline is an exceptional euphemism for a situation in which international aid agency personnel are unable to help the victims of a major disaster because a they risk being killed by a powerful military regime if they do so, a regime which is routinely portrayed by politicians and the mass media in the west as an ally and a force for good in the region.]
    The United Nations was forced to halt all attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to the thousands of civilians stranded in southern Lebanon last night, despite repeated Israeli assurances of secure corridors. The move, echoed by major aid agencies, followed Israeli threats to destroy any vehicle operating south of the Litani river.
    Jack Redden, from the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said: "In many places, particularly in the far south, it is completely impossible to get anything into that area."
    The head of Médecins Sans Frontières' (MSF) mission in Lebanon, Chris topher Stokes, described Israeli assurances of protected aid corridors as delusional. "For many days, the concept of humanitarian corridors has been used to mask the reality," he said. "It is impossible to get safe access to the villages in the south."
    ...


The Independent, "Robert Fisk: What do you say to a man whose family is buried under the rubble?", 9 August 2006.
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/fisk/article1217826.ece
    There were bulldozers turning over the tons of rubble, a cloud of dust and smoke a mile high over the smashed slums of Beirut's southern suburbs and a tall man in a grey T-shirt - a Brooklyn taxi driver, no less - standing on the verge of tears, staring at what may well be the grave of his grandfather, his uncle and aunt. Half the family home had been torn away and the entire block of civilian apartments next door had been smashed to the ground a few hours earlier by the two missiles that exploded in Asaad al-Assad Street.
    What do you say to a man whose family is buried under the rubble? The last corpse had been a man whose face appeared etched in dust before the muck was removed and he turned out to be paper-thin - so perfectly had the falling concrete crushed him. Mohamed al-Husseini had left New York for a holiday with his young wife and infant child - they were safe in the centre of Beirut - because he wanted to see his family home and talk to the relatives he grew up with.
    ...

"The Insider" mailing list article, 09 August 2006.

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, invasion, deeper, territory, tani river, pictures, video, , conspiracy theories.

 
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