Battles rage in southern Lebanon
Updated: 2006-08-08 18:28
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Battles between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas
raged Tuesday across southern Lebanon as diplomats at the United Nations
struggled to keep a peace plan from collapsing over Arab demands for an
immediate Israeli withdrawal.
Military planners in Jerusalem, meanwhile, said they plan to push even deeper
into Lebanon to target rocket sites.
Israeli soldiers place
bags of gunpowder used for artillery shells at a position in northern
Israel, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006. Israel will press ahead with its war on
Hezbollah and is poised to occupy more areas of south Lebanon from which
rockets are fired, Israel's defense minister said Tuesday.
Attempts to negotiate a cease-fire have come down to a step-by-step proposal
backed by Washington and Lebanon's insistence - supported by Arab
nations - that nothing can happen before Israeli soldiers leave the
country. Arab diplomats and UN Security Council members were to meet later
Tuesday at the UN in New York to try to hammer out a compromise.
Lebanon has also put an offer on the table, pledging up to 15,000 troops to a
peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon after Israel pulls back. The plan had
added significance since it was backed by the two Hezbollah members on Lebanon's
Cabinet - apparently showing a willingness for a pact by the Islamic
militants and their main sponsors, Iran and Syria.
Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, on Tuesday called the proposed Lebanese
troop deployment "interesting" and said Israel would favor leaving southern
Lebanon once it considers that Hezbollah is no longer a direct threat.
But the rocky hills of southern Lebanon provided a different picture. Ground
fighting continued to rage in villages and strategic ridges near the Israeli
border, including sites used by Hezbollah for rocket barrages that have reached
deep into Israel.
Fierce skirmishes broke out around the village of Bint Jbail, a Hezbollah
stronghold that Israel has tried to control for weeks. An Israeli solider and 15
Hezbollah guerrillas were killed in the fighting, the army said. The militant
group was not immediately available for comment.
Hezbollah TV also reported pre-dawn attacks on Israeli forces near the
Mediterranean city of Naqoura, about 2 1/2 miles north of the border. The report
claimed there were Israeli casualties.
The Israeli army confirmed clashes and casualties in western Lebanon, but did
not say whether it or Hezbollah had suffered losses.
Israel also expanded airstrikes around Lebanon, including the Hezbollah
heartland in the Bekka Valley.