Israeli air raids killed 12 people in north Lebanon yesterday as the US and France strove to clinch a draft UN resolution to end the month-old war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.
Intensive big-power diplomacy has done little to ease the violence in Lebanon, although Israel has put on hold plans for a deeper assault that its security cabinet approved on Wednesday.
Israel had earlier renewed its air raids on Beirut's southern suburbs and northern Lebanon early yesterday, carrying out at least 10 bombing runs.
The bombing of a bridge near the border with Syria wounded 18 people in addition to the 12 dead, hospital staff said. Witnesses said a second strike hit the bridge 15 minutes after the first had brought rescuers rushing to the scene.
The Israeli army meanwhile announced that one soldier had been killed, and nine others wounded, in heavy fighting overnight between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas in south Lebanon.
An Israeli strike on a car near the eastern city of Baalbek killed one civilian and wounded two, medical sources said.
More bombs hit Beirut's battered Shiite Muslim suburbs, hours after dawn raids on the capital. Many people fled the suburbs on Thursday after Israel dropped warning leaflets.
Hezbollah fired several rockets into Israel, wounding two people in the northern city of Haifa, ambulance staff said. The Shiite group said the salvo was in response to Israeli bombing.
The war, which began after Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12, has killed at least 1,024 people in Lebanon. At least 123 Israelis have been killed.
The war has caused shortages of fuel and power throughout Lebanon and badly disrupted relief efforts in the south.
The US and France were close to agreement on a draft UN resolution, but objections from Lebanon or Israel could again delay a Security Council vote.
US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, who has been shuttling between Beirut and Jerusalem, held more talks with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who broke away at one point to perform prayers, local media reported.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy will travel to New York to join talks on the resolution at the UN. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett were also due in New York.
US and French diplomats worked on the text into the night after Beirut rejected deployment of UN troops under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which authorizes the use of force.
The latest compromise calls for a phased Israeli withdrawal as the Lebanese army moves into the south. At the same time, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon would be reinforced by up to 15,000 French and other troops.
As part of the deal, Hezbollah would pull out from south of the Litani River, 20km from the Israeli border.