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Israeli invasion force begins taking over towns and villages in southern Lebanon

Israel seizes south Lebanon town

Israeli troops have seized the southern Lebanese town of Marjayoun, a day after the cabinet decided to expand ground operations, eyewitnesses say.

Troops entered the town, 9km (5.5 miles) into Lebanon, as well as nearby villages overlooking the Litani river.

Forces also advanced on the town of Khiam, to quell Hezbollah rocket fire.

The army says the action is not the start of a broader offensive, which officials say has [supposedly] been delayed to give more time for diplomacy on the crisis.

Wednesday saw fierce fighting in southern Lebanon, with 15 Israeli soldiers killed in action - the highest number in a single day since the conflict began almost a month ago.

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

Threats and diplomacy

On Wednesday the Israeli cabinet backed a push towards the Litani river, which lies up to 30km (18 miles) from the border.

Speaking hours after the Israelis announced their expanded ground offensive, Hezbollah's leader said his guerrillas would turn southern Lebanon into a graveyard for Israeli soldiers.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah endorsed a government plan to send 15,000 Lebanese soldiers to the south.

But he repeated his opposition to the idea of sending international troops to the border region to disarm the Shia militia, as demanded by the Israelis and a draft UN resolution.

At the UN, diplomats are attempting to reword the draft calling for a ceasefire, to take in Lebanese and Arab League demands for an immediate Israeli withdrawal.

On Wednesday differences surfaced again between France and the US - which co-sponsored the original draft - leading some diplomats to express concerns that diplomacy could collapse.

But the BBC's Bridget Kendall at UN headquarters says that there is now a mood of cautious optimism.

The five permanent members of the Security Council held a late-night meeting focusing on the main sticking points - how to get agreement on a ceasefire and Israeli troops out of southern Lebanon, without allowing Hezbollah to rebuild their positions.

Correspondents say the members states are considering a French proposal to deploy Lebanese forces alongside the existing UN force, which would be strengthened, as the Israelis begin a phased withdrawal.

The US has yet to respond - so far it has insisted that any Israeli withdrawal can only follow the deployment of a new, robust multi-national force.

The new proposal is being discussed in members states' capitals before talks resume on Thursday.


BBC News, "Israel seizes south Lebanon town", 10 August 2006.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 10 August 2006.

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Tags: Israel, invasion, Lebanon, Israeli, troops, souther, Lebanon, expand, ground, operations, , conspiracy theories.

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