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Israel presses on with offensive despite deal
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert endorsed last night's ceasefire deal at the United Nations but its military campaign in Lebanon will continue until he has put the terms to a cabinet meeting tomorrow.
That was made clear by officials after a day of brinkmanship in which, hours before the UN was due to vote, Mr Olmert formally authorised the Israeli army to begin the ground operation the cabinet had authorised on Wednesday.
Gideon Meir, the deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry, said that Mr Olmert would recommend the deal to his fellow ministers at the regular meeting of the cabinet. As attacks on Hizbollah positions continued last night, it was not immediately clear whether fresh forces would be deployed in the next 48 hours.
Mr Olmert's precipitate order to expand the military operation had come as the first concrete signs of his political vulnerability as a war leader began to emerge. An opinion poll suggested almost 75 per cent of Israelis think the conflict is either a "draw" or is being won by Hizbollah.
The findings also showed that Mr Olmert's personal ratings had slipped from an early wartime peak to under 50 per cent, along with that of his Defence Minister, Amir Peretz, who won the approval of less than 40 per cent of electors.
Although the personal popularity findings were contradicted by those in a rival poll which shows Mr Olmert's ratings for conducting the war at 66 per cent they coincided with a sharpening media and political debate which underlines the prime minister's potential to be attacked from left or right, depending on the war's outcome.
The Peace Now group, a trio of the country's leading novelists and some of the country's most eminent commentators, had urged Mr Olmert to seek a quick diplomatic way out of the conflict. But another prominent columnist, Ari Shavit, writing in Ha'aretz, said if Mr Olmert "runs away from the war he initiated" he should resign immediately.