August 12, 2006

Israeli troops push toward Lebanon’s Litani river

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli army said on Saturday it
had started broadening its ground offensive in south Lebanon
and its forces were pushing toward the Litani river.

Troops were carrying out orders issued by Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, the army said
after the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution calling
for an end to the month-old war between Israel and Hizbollah.

Israeli officials had said before Friday's U.N. vote that
the army would press ahead with its military campaign to quell
Hizbollah cross-border rocket fire, at least until Olmert's
cabinet met on Sunday.

They said Olmert would urge his cabinet to approve the U.N.
resolution, which authorizes 15,000 U.N. troops to be deployed
to monitor a phased Israeli withdrawal and to help the Lebanese
army deploy in southern Lebanon, now controlled by Hizbollah.

But for now, the Israeli army was moving forward.

The army said in a brief statement that its forces
overnight "began broadening ground operations in Lebanon to
areas in the direction of the Litani river." There was no
immediate word on the level of resistance they faced.

The Litani lies up to 20 km (13 miles) from the Israeli
border, where thousands of Israeli troops had already been
carving out a "buffer" zone.

Fighting erupted on July 12 after Hizbollah guerillas
abducted two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. Israel
launched an air and ground campaign, and Hizbollah started
firing rocket barrages into northern Israel.