Thu, Aug 10, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Israel decides to expand Lebanon ground offensive

AGENCIES , JERUSALEM AND BEIRUT

Israel decided yesterday to expand its ground offensive in Lebanon despite UN diplomacy to end the four-week-old war.

Israeli troops thrust deeper into Lebanon and 11 Israeli soldiers were reported killed in fierce clashes with Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet ordered the move to send troops further into Lebanon, possibly as far as the Litani river, up to 20km from the border, to strike at Hezbollah and halt its rocket attacks into Israel.

"The security cabinet approved the recommendations of the defense establishment for the continuation of operations in Lebanon," a statement from Olmert's office said.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz had proposed the expansion. Israeli media had said Olmert feared it might entail heavy casualties. Nine ministers approved the move. Three abstained.

Israel already has about 10,000 troops in southern Lebanon, and it was not immediately clear how many more would join them. Olmert's office said further details would be released later.

"All he is carrying is cosmetics for what remains a very ugly resolution," Lebanon's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a key Shiite politician and Hezbollah ally, said after talks with Welch, who also met Prime Minister Fouad Siniora twice.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said yesterday that there had been no progress towards a new draft UN Security Council resolution to end the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.

"There is no progress so far. We are still at the same place," he said.

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