Israel Accepts U.N. Deal

A man in a southern suburb of Beirut shouts for help from a building struck by an Israeli missile attack minutes after the cabinet endorsed a cease-fire.
A man in a southern suburb of Beirut shouts for help from a building struck by an Israeli missile attack minutes after the cabinet endorsed a cease-fire. (By Kevin Frayer -- Associated Press)
By Molly Moore and Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 14, 2006

JERUSALEM, Aug. 14 -- The Israeli cabinet voted Sunday to accept a U.N.-declared cease-fire, even as Israeli military forces and Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon launched some of their most intense barrages of the war in anticipation of the Monday morning deadline.

The Lebanese government and Hezbollah agreed to the cease-fire Saturday. Prospects for an immediate halt in the fighting appeared dim as Hezbollah's leader said his militia would keep fighting Israeli troops as long as they remained in southern Lebanon, and Israeli officials insisted they would not withdraw their soldiers until an international force and the Lebanese army took control of the border area. Assembling an international military force in Lebanon is expected to take at least two or three weeks.

Israel pummeled the southern suburbs of Beirut on Sunday with bombardments that rattled the city, while Hezbollah fired 220 rockets -- one of its largest volleys yet -- into Israel, killing an 83-year-old man and pelting the port city of Haifa with strikes. The ground combat in southern Lebanon was also some of the most violent of the 33-day war as Israeli forces struggled to dominate as much territory as possible before the cease-fire deadline at 8 a.m. Monday. At least 17 people were killed Sunday in Lebanon.

Early Monday, two more blasts cracked across Beirut, less than two hours before the cease-fire was scheduled to take hold, and the Associated Press reported an Israeli air raid overnight killed seven people in the village of Brital, near the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

[Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the Israeli army to begin abiding by the cease-fire as of 2 a.m., other than in cases of self-defense, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported on its Web site. The Israeli military dropped leaflets on central Beirut early Monday, warning it would retaliate against any attack launched on it from Lebanon, the Associated Press reported.

Israeli airstrikes went on well after 2 a.m., targeting areas in eastern Lebanon and near the southern city of Sidon, the Reuters news agency reported, citing Lebanese security sources. Fierce clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah were also reported early Monday.]

The Israeli cabinet debated the U.N. resolution for nearly five hours Sunday, with some members criticizing the government's decision to expand ground combat just before the cease-fire was set to begin.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters after the cabinet meeting that the U.N. resolution, if enacted, "will change the rules of the game." But, she added, "I am not naive. . . . This is the Middle East, and I know that not every resolution is implemented."

Israeli military officials were meeting with the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, "to fine-tune the details of the cease-fire," Defense Minister Amir Peretz said.

At a news briefing at the military's northern command headquarters in Safed near the Lebanese border, Peretz said even after the cease-fire deadline, "there is no situation in which Hezbollah fires at [Israeli] forces that we will not retaliate."

The U.N. resolution calls for 15,000 foreign troops and 15,000 Lebanese soldiers to be deployed in southern Lebanon.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem, said that at least 4,000 foreign troops could be ready to move into southern Lebanon "in a very, very short time," but he declined to pinpoint a timetable.

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