No Cease-Fire Soon, Israeli Leader Says
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
JERUSALEM, Aug. 1 -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Monday that there "will be no cease-fire in the coming days," and his top security officials unanimously approved a widening of Israel's military operations on the ground in southern Lebanon after a four-hour meeting that ended early Tuesday morning, government officials said.
The decision followed Israel's agreement Sunday to suspend air attacks on south Lebanon for 48 hours. About 12 hours after the suspension took effect, Israeli planes launched strikes in support of ground operations near Taibe. Israeli officials said they reserved the right to continue attacks to prevent an immediate threat. [Israel launched airstrikes against southern Lebanese border villages early Tuesday, hitting Bayyada and Mansoureh, the Reuters news agency reported, citing Lebanese security sources.] Hezbollah launched only four rockets into northern Israel on Monday, police and military officials said, a day after firing more than 150.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returned to Washington Monday evening after vowing to push for a U.N. Security Council resolution this week aimed at ending the fighting. State Department officials traveling with her said the resolution would include a cease-fire and the "nearly simultaneous" deployment of international troops to a buffer zone in southern Lebanon.
Since an Israeli airstrike Sunday killed more than 50 civilians, most of them children, in the Lebanese village of Qana, Arab and European pressure for an immediate cease-fire has increased, diplomats at the Security Council said.
President Bush on Monday called the Qana deaths "awful" and promised to work for a durable cease-fire plan that would extend Lebanese control over Hezbollah's stronghold in the south, deploy an international force along the Israel-Lebanon border and pressure Iran and Syria to stop backing Hezbollah.
In a Monday evening speech to Israeli mayors in Tel Aviv, Olmert apologized for the Qana attack but said the three-week-long offensive, which began after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in a July 12 cross-border raid, would end only "when the threat over our heads is removed, when our kidnapped soldiers return to their homes and when we can live in security."
"Many days of fighting still await us," he said.
Israel says it is investigating the Qana incident. But Lebanon's acting foreign minister, Tarek Mitri, urged the U.N. Security Council to demand an immediate cease-fire and launch an investigation into the Israeli strike.
Fighting continued in Lebanese towns north of the Israeli village of Metulla and in Maroun al-Ras, where Israeli soldiers began their ground incursion more than two weeks ago. Three Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded near the Lebanese town of Taibe on Monday when a Hezbollah missile struck an armored vehicle and an Israeli tank that arrived to help was also fired upon.
"On the ground, it's not a cease-fire at all, just a limitation of planes shooting toward buildings and villages," said Maj. Svika Golan, a spokesman for the Israeli army's Northern Command. "If you see a terrorist moving around a village, you cannot shoot him from the air. But the ground forces carry on working."
Air attacks from both sides were down sharply Monday. Citing an Israeli military source, Israel Radio and other local media outlets reported that as much as two-thirds of Hezbollah's Iranian-provided supply of longer-range missiles had been destroyed.
"We are only attacking in cases when we need to protect our forces or civilians," an Israeli military spokesman said. "We are firing on open areas to prevent armed cells approaching our forces."