No let-up in Lebanon war despite draft UN measure
By Alaa Shahine
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Israeli troops battled Hizbollah in
south Lebanon and eight civilians died in two of many Israeli
air strikes on Sunday as both sides spoke of fighting on, even
if the U.N. Security Council votes to end the violence.
A draft U.S.-French resolution calls for a “full cessation
of hostilities based upon…the immediate cessation by
Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel
of all offensive military operations” — implicitly giving
Israel the right to pursue “defensive” military operations.
The cessation of hostilities would also leave about 10,000
Israeli troops occupying a strip of southern Lebanon until an
international force and the Lebanese army eventually get there.
Lebanon objects to that, and Mohammed Fneish, a Hizbollah
minister in the government, said the group would fight until
Israel stopped bombing Lebanon and withdrew all its troops.
Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Israel would keep
attacking Hizbollah targets in Lebanon and its soldiers would
stay there until the international force arrived to take over.
He did not say if Israel accepted the draft U.N.
resolution. The Israeli cabinet was meeting. U.S. Assistant
Secretary of State David Welch was due to meet Israeli leaders
after talks in Beirut on Saturday.
“We must continue the fighting, continue to hit whoever we
can hit from Hizbollah,” Ramon told Army Radio.
Israel’s definition of Hizbollah targets has included more
than 70 bridges, as well as ports, airports, radar stations,
television and telephone masts, factories, farms and countless
homes pummelled into ruin by 26 days of bombing across Lebanon.
Hizbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has hit back
with rockets that fall indiscriminately in northern Israel.
More than 800 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, have been
killed in the conflict sparked by Hizbollah’s capture of two
Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.
Among the latest to die were five people in the Shi’ite
village of Ansar in south Lebanon, where 12 Israeli air strikes
from midnight to dawn flattened 15 buildings, residents said.
Rescuers said 10 people were wounded by the bombing.
Three civilians were killed in an air strike near the
southern village of Naqoura.
President George W. Bush, who sees Hizbollah as the common
enemy of Israel and the United States, was happy with the draft
U.N. measure which could be put to a vote on Monday or Tuesday.
Lebanon said the text was a “recipe for more confrontation”
because it failed to demand an Israeli pullout. Beirut would
circulate its own ideas among the 15-member Security Council, a
senior political source said on Sunday.
The Lebanese plan, endorsed by the cabinet which contains
five Hizbollah and allied ministers, calls for an immediate
ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces, the return of
displaced Lebanese, the deployment of U.N. and Lebanese forces
in the south and the eventual disarmament of Hizbollah.
A second U.N. resolution is envisaged a week or two after
the first is adopted, setting conditions for a permanent
ceasefire and authorising an international force in the area.
BEKAA VALLEY ISOLATED
The first draft is the result of negotiations between the
United States, Israel’s chief ally, and France, tipped to lead
the anticipated international force in south Lebanon.
Israeli jets bombed roads in the eastern Bekaa valley at
least eight times on Sunday, virtually isolating the region
from the rest of Lebanon and nearby Syria, security sources
Aircraft also hit positions held by a pro-Syrian
Palestinian guerrilla group, killing two of its members.
At the United Nations, Lebanese Foreign Ministry official
Nouhad Mahmoud said Beirut was unhappy the draft resolution did
not ask for the Shebaa Farms border area to be put under U.N.
control, as Lebanon had asked, while its fate was resolved.
The United Nations says it considers the tiny enclave to be
Israeli-occupied Syrian land, unless Lebanon, which claims it,
demarcates new borders with Syria, which has not happened.
Mahmoud said the draft must address the concerns of the
Lebanese people. “Otherwise it won’t fly,” he said.
The war coincides with an Israeli military offensive in the
southern Gaza Strip to recover another captured soldier.
An air strike killed one Palestinian in the strip on
Sunday, bringing to at least 167 the number of Palestinians
killed in the campaign, more than half of them civilians.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Israeli forces detained
Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Dweik, a Hamas leader.
(Additional reporting by Beirut, Jerusalem and United