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Israelis 'triple Lebanon force'
by BBC (reposted)
Saturday Aug 12th, 2006 8:51 AM
Israel says it has tripled the number of its troops in southern Lebanon in an expanded offensive, despite a United Nations vote backing a ceasefire.
The soldiers are moving towards the strategically significant Litani River, the military said.

Hezbollah's leader has said the group will abide by the UN Security Council resolution, which calls for a "full cessation of hostilities".

Israel's Cabinet will discuss the issue on Sunday.

It says it will only halt military action after taking a vote.

Lebanese ministers will discuss the UN plan on Saturday. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora indicated he would back the truce call, saying: "This resolution shows that the whole world stood by Lebanon."

Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said on the group's al-Manar TV channel on Saturday that it would abide by the plan.

But referring to Israel's insistence it has the right to continue military operations in Lebanon in self-defence, Sheikh Nasrallah said: "As long as there is Israeli aggression, it is our right to fight them and defend our land."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is asking his Cabinet to endorse the resolution, describing it as positive and acceptable.

More than 1,000 Lebanese and more than 120 Israelis have been killed in the conflict since Hezbollah militants captured two Israeli soldiers on 12 July in a cross-border raid.

Hilltop village

Israel's army chief, Lt Gen Dan Halutz, said Israeli troops would remain in Lebanon until the arrival of the UN peacekeeping force - expected to be 15,000-strong.

Gen Halutz did not give a figure for the new number of Israeli troops currently in Lebanon, but Israeli sources put it at about 30,000.

Israel radio said the troops had been ordered to seize ground as far as the Litani River, up to 30km (18 miles) from the Israeli border.

The Israeli army confirmed it had airlifted hundreds of troops by helicopter into positions in south Lebanon.

Full details of the new offensive are unclear but several sources confirm heavy clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters at the village of Ghandouriyeh, 11km inside Lebanon.

Ghandouriyeh is a key strategic point, a hilltop village overlooking Hezbollah positions that are just 2.5km from the Litani.

Israeli jets also raided the city of Sidon - north of the Litani - destroying facilities at a power station. It is only the second time Sidon has been hit in the conflict, which began more than four weeks ago.

According to Lebanese security sources, up to 15 people were killed in an Israeli air strike on the village of Rshaf in south Lebanon.

Israel has said it has killed more than 40 Hezbollah fighters in the past 24 hours.

Hezbollah has also fired more rockets into northern Israel, but Israeli sources say the number is far fewer than in recent days.

The UN special envoy to the Middle East, Alvaro de Soto, said he expected Israel to wind down its operations in the next couple of days.

No timetable has been agreed for a ceasefire.

UN Security Council resolution 1701 was passed unanimously in New York after an impassioned speech from Secretary General Kofi Annan.

by ALJ
Saturday Aug 12th, 2006 8:52 AM
At least 19 people have been killed as Israel launched a wider offensive against Hezbollah just hours after the UN passed a resolution to stop the fighting.

Backed by warplanes and tanks, Israeli ground troops pushed deeper into Lebanon on Saturday, reaching Ghanduriya, 11km north of the border.

The broad offensive comes despite a unanimous UN Security Council call for an end to the one-month old war. The offensive is expected to reach as far as the strategic Litani River, 20km from the border.

An Israeli army spokesman said: "In line with Wednesday's decision by the security cabinet, the army has launched a ground operation in south Lebanon which is expected to extend up to the Litani River."

Israel's top general, Dan Halutz, told reporters on Saturday that Israel "will continue to operate until we achieve our aims".

"In order to ensure a ceasefire you need two [parties]. Once the agreement will be completed in all the details, then we will be able to decide when the ceasefire will be implemented."

Continued offensive

Israeli combat jets were also in action across other parts of Lebanon, pounding northern roads leading to Syria and destroying a power plant in the major southern city of Sidon. The city is likely to be without power for 10 days.

Fifteen of the latest victims of the war were killed or injured when fighter-bombers hit a village near the southern port city of Tyre, police said.

by Haaretz (reposted)
Saturday Aug 12th, 2006 8:57 AM
Israel Air Force helicopters dropped a large number of Israel Defense Forces troops deep into Lebanese territory on Saturday, in the largest operation of its kind since 1973.

IDF troops were engaged in heavy exchanges of fire with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon on Saturday, as troops pushed northward to the Litani River under cover of intense artillery fire.

Israel has nearly tripled the number of forces in Lebanon as part of its expanded ground war in Lebanon, and expects to fight for another week, despite a United Nations cease-fire resolution, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz on Saturday.

Halutz said IDF troops would stay in Lebanon until an international force arrives.

"We have almost tripled our forces that are operating in Lebanon," Halutz told reporters.

UN Middle East envoy Alvaro de Soto told Reuters on Saturday the UN force could begin deploying in seven to 10 days, suggesting there is still some time before the "immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations," as called for in the resolution, actually comes into force.

Some 23 soldiers were hurt in the fighting Saturday, five of them moderately and the rest lightly, and were taken to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for treatment.

After the unanimous United Nations Security Council vote Friday on the cease-fire resolution, Israel launched an expanded ground offensive in south Lebanon. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will present the cease-fire resolution to the cabinet Sunday.

With the expansion of the ground offensive in Lebanon, four divisions were operating in south Lebanon and most of the activity was focused in areas from where Hezbollah has been firing short-range rockets into Israel. Sources in the IDF General Staff said 4-7 days would be needed to complete the occupation of the area, though it is unclear whether the operation will be completed, as the cabinet is scheduled to vote Sunday.

An IDF soldier was killed in clashes with Hezbollah in the village of Rashef in south Lebanon on Friday and another sustained moderate wounds. According to the IDF, at least ten Hezbollah militants were killed overnight.

IAF strikes and ground assaults kill at least 19 across Lebanon
Israel Air Force jets dropped leaflets over Beirut on Saturday with leaflets urging residents to "shake the destroyers of Lebanon off your shoulders," referring to Hezbollah.

IAF strikes and IDF ground attacks continued on Saturday, with missiles and artillery killing at least 19 people across Lebanon, mostly in the south.

The deadliest attack was on homes in the village of Rashef, some 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the Israeli border, where at least 15 civilians were killed, security officials said.

Israeli missiles also hit a vehicle in Kharayeb, a village in the Zahrani region about halfway between Beirut and the Israeli border, killing three people and wounding five, officials said.

A Lebanese soldier was killed overnight in an air raid near an army base in the western Bekaa Valley, the army said.

An IAF strike destroyed a road leading to the only remaining border crossing to Syria - Arida, on the northern coast - severing the last escape route for besieged Lebanese and for humanitarian aid entering the country.

AIF jets targeted the highway linking Arida with the northern city of Tripoli, at a point about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the border, officials said. The crossing remained open, but the road leading to it was impassable, and vehicles were spotted driving off-road through ditches early Saturday.

A separate raid destroyed a bridge linking the southern cities of Tyre and Nabatiyeh with Sidon.

Shrapnel from missiles fired on the village of Insariyeh, halfway between Sidon and Tyre, hit a vehicle carrying Lebanese journalists working for a Swedish television channel, and one of them was wounded, security officials said.

IAF jets struck an apartment buildings that house a Hezbollah charity organization in the heart of the eastern city of Baalbek, wounding three people. Another four people were injured in an airstrike on a house west of Baalbek, officials said.

Electricity was out in Tyre and Sidon, after IAF jets struck transformers at power plants in both coastal cities. An official at the power plan in Sidon, George Makhoul, said it could be 10 days before power was restored.

Security officials reported several air strikes in Akkar province, located about 97 kilometers (60 miles) north of Beirut.