Tue, Aug 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Siniora makes tearful plea for end to violence

`DELIBERATE MASSACRE' Speaking at an emergency meeting of Arab ministers, Lebanon's prime minister decried the latest Israeli attack that killed 40 people


Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora yesterday said that Israeli raids had killed more than 40 people in a "deliberate massacre" in the southern village of Hula and made a tearful plea for the violence to end.

"One hour ago there was a horrible massacre in the village of Hula, a deliberate massacre, in which there were more than 40 martyrs," Siniora told Arab foreign ministers holding a crisis meeting in Beirut.

The ministers began a closed door meeting at the Lebanese governmental palace in downtown Beirut, official sources said.

The meeting was aimed at backing the Lebanese goverment and ending the Israel-Hezbollah fighting in Lebanon, the sources said.

The meeting was still going on as of press time.

Siniora called on the ministers to help seek "an immediate and unconditional ceasefire" and wiped away tears as he pleaded for his country not to become an "arena for conflicts and confrontations whatever the justification."

Shepherds killed

In Houla, residents said they feared up to 60 people, including many children, had been killed. They said most of the people were shepherds who had refused to flee the fighting.

Nineteen people were killed in separate strikes on other villages in the south and the eastern Bekaa valley.

Speaking before news of the Houla raid, Lebanese Health Minister Mohammad Khalifeh said that the conflict had already killed 925 people, mostly civilians, with 75 others missing, pres-umed dead.

About one-third of the dead were children under the age of 13, he said. Ninety-four Israelis have also been killed.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah guerrillas fired more rockets into the northern part of Israel, wounding one person, a day after rockets killed 15 Israelis in the deadliest day of the war for the Jewish state.

Israeli aircraft hit the last coastal crossing on the Litani river between Sidon and Tyre, cutting the main artery for aid supplies to civilians in the south, security sources said.

One international aid group said Israel was providing no security guarantees, effectively paralyzing the organization's delivery of aid south of the Litani.

About 22,000 people remain in the region, less than one-fifth of the pre-war population, UN figures show.

"Our last remaining supply route into Tyre into the south has been cut," said Christopher Stokes, operations director for the relief group Medecins Sans Frontieres.

"The Israelis have said they cannot provide a security guarantee that our convoy will not be attacked, so if we move, it will be at our own risk and peril," Stokes said.

UN vote delayed

Hezbollah says it will fight on until Israel stops bombing Lebanon and pulls out its forces. Israel is pressing ahead with its offensive while world powers struggle to agree a N resolution to end the fighting.

Opposition from Lebanon caused the US and France to delay a vote on a UN resolution. They may submit a revised text after Security Council consultations later in the day.

Lebanon's government has demanded that the US-French draft UN resolution include a call for an immediate withdrawal of some 10,000 Israeli troops from its soil.

China and Russia argued the text should take more account of Lebanon's concerns. That prevented Paris and Washington putting the draft into final form which could have cleared the way for a Security Council vote on the resolution yesterday.

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