Israel Wants Lebanon Buffer Zone, Peacekeepers
Israel says it will hold onto a narrow "buffer zone" in southern Lebanon until a multinational force is deployed to prevent Hezbollah guerrillas from attacking the Jewish state.
Israel has welcomed European and American proposals for the installation of an international peacekeeping force. But so far, no country has volunteered its soldiers for the mission.
Some European leaders are reluctant to commit troops to patrol such a volatile area. A small U.N. peacekeeping force has been deployed along the Israel-Lebanon border for two decades. On Tuesday, four U.N. observers were killed when their post along the border was hit by an Israeli missile.
On the diplomatic front, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to hold talks Wednesday in Rome with leaders from European and Arab states in a bid to halt the fighting that has gripped Israel and Lebanon for nearly two weeks. Since fighting began after a July 12 cross-border raid into Israel by the militant Islamist group Hezbollah, 400 Lebanese and more than 40 Israelis have died.
Rice spent Tuesday in Jerusalem, where she met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. She later met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. She reiterated her view that a cease-fire should return the conflict to the status quo before fighting broke out earlier this month.
Israel is calling for the removal of Hezbollah guerrillas and missiles from southern Lebanon, as well as the release of two abducted Israeli soldiers. Lebanese leaders are calling for an unconditional cease-fire, followed by negotiations conducted, most likely, through a third party.
Meanwhile, more than 75 missiles landed in cities across northern Israel today. A 15-year-old girl was killed near the Israeli city of Carmiel. Sixteen other people were wounded in Nahariya and Haifa.
Israeli warplanes launched more than 100 airstrikes at targets in southern Lebanon and Beirut. A family of seven was killed in southern Lebanon after their home was hit by an errant Israeli missile.
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers continue to stream into the border area, in a bid to flush out Hezbollah guerrillas from the area. Israeli forces are battling with Hezbollah militants to take control over the town of Bint Jbeil, a Hezbollah stronghold.
On Tuesday, a senior regional Hezbollah commander was killed in the fighting, according to the Israeli army. A Hezbollah official told the Associated Press that the militant organization "didn’t expect this response" by Israel to the group's cross-border raid on July 12.
Israel insists it will continue with its offensive until it feels the border area is secure against future terrorist attacks by Hezbollah guerrillas.
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