UNITED NATIONS—The United Nations Security Council late Friday unanimously approved a compromise plan to end a month of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, but acknowledged that it was only a tentative first step to a lasting cease-fire.
Although the cease-fire plan fell short of pleasing Israel and Lebanon, both countries reluctantly embraced the deal as the best way to bring a halt to a conflict that has claimed 1,100 lives.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to announce in the coming days a precise time when hostilities are supposed to stop. It could be more than a day at the earliest before the shooting is supposed to end.
The Israeli military is expected to press ahead with a new ground offensive in southern Lebanon until the government meets on Sunday to officially embrace the U.N. proposal. Lebanon's government was expected to vote Saturday.
That delay is likely to lead to a dangerous last-minute escalation that could jeopardize the tenuous cease-fire agreement.
Under the proposal, Hezbollah is supposed to halt its rocket attacks on Israel, while Israel is supposed to stop offensive military operations in southern Lebanon.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, addressing the Security Council, acknowledged that all fighting might not end right away.
"No one can expect an immediate end to all acts of violence," Rice said.
Others chided world powers for not acting sooner to stop the fighting, which has primarily killed civilians on both sides.
Annan said he was "profoundly disappointed" at the month-long delay and said his view was shared "by hundreds of millions of people around the world."
After major violence by Hezbollah and Israel stops, the United Nations will dispatch an expanded 15,000-person peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon to work alongside an equal number of soldiers from the weak Lebanese army.
That force is supposed to step in—"in parallel" as the resolution puts it—as Israeli soldiers pull out.
A senior State Department official said that the United States expects Israel would stop any forward movement of its ground troops into southern Lebanon and halt large-scale bombing operations.
But the official, who spoke anonymously under State Department ground rules, said Israel would still be able to "defend in place" and deal with imminent threats or respond to Hezbollah attacks.
In a significant loss for Israel, the agreement doesn't explicitly spell out how or when Hezbollah will be disarmed. And it doesn't clearly lay out a way to prevent Hezbollah from rearming, another key Israeli demand.
The senior State Department official said that disarming Hezbollah would be the responsibility, eventually, of Lebanon's armed forces.
One of the biggest last-minute sticking points centered on the power the new peacekeeping force would have to prevent Hezbollah from rebuilding once Israel leaves.
Israel had been pressing for establishment of the force under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, which would have given the soldiers more power to fight Hezbollah. But negotiators acceded to Lebanese demands that the force be deployed under a more traditional peacekeeping model.
In a compromise, the resolution authorizes the U.N. force to "resist attempts by forceful means" to prevent it from carrying out its duties. It also allows U.N. peacekeepers "to take all necessary means" to ensure more fighting doesn't break out in southern Lebanon.
Lebanon also didn't get everything it wanted. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora had demanded Israel's immediate withdrawal and the resolution of a land dispute involving territory called Shebaa Farms.
But Mohamed Shatah, a senior adviser to Saniora, said the resolution addressed most of Lebanon's demands.
The crisis began July 12 when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a cross-border raid. Israel responded by launching thousands of airstrikes that crippled Lebanon, killed more than 1,000 people, most of them civilians, and created a growing humanitarian crisis.
As Israel hit Lebanon, Hezbollah fired more than 3,500 rockets into northern Israel, killing 40 civilians and forcing residents across much of the region to live in bomb shelters for weeks.
Over the past four weeks, Hezbollah has surprised the Israeli military with its advanced weapons and tactics. Hezbollah has killed 84 Israeli soldiers in fierce battles across Lebanon.
Another key component of the cease-fire resolution is the return of the two captured Israeli soldiers.
The apparent diplomatic breakthrough came on a dramatic day as the deal appeared close to crumbling before an agreement was finalized. As foreign ministers were meeting at the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared the proposal unacceptable and ordered his military to expand efforts to cripple Hezbollah.
Within hours, tanks and soldiers began moving deeper into Lebanon to battle Hezbollah.
After receiving the final draft, however, Olmert agreed to accept the compromise and urge his Cabinet to embrace it on Sunday, after the Jewish Sabbath ends.
In the meantime, though, the Israeli military is expected to press ahead in an effort to do as much as it can to cripple Hezbollah before the cease-fire takes hold. At the same time, Hezbollah is likely to respond in kind by firing hundreds more rockets into northern Israel until its soldiers pull back.
Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese expert on Hezbollah, said the cease-fire resolution represented "a major victory" for the militant group because it forces Israel to withdraw its troops while not ensuring that Hezbollah has to give up its weapons.
Having fought the region's strongest military effectively, Hezbollah has gained legitimacy, Saad-Ghorayeb said.
"After this, Hezbollah is going to be very hard pressed to give up its arms," she said.
On Friday night, a U.N.-led convoy leaving the besieged Lebanese town of Marjayoun was hit by an Israeli airstrike. Five civilians were killed and at least 17 others were injured, including an undisclosed number of Lebanese soldiers, according to Lebanon's acting minister of the interior, Ahmed Fatfat.
The U.N. arranged the convoy to evacuate 350 Lebanese soldiers from Marjayoun, a hilltop village where Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters fought on Thursday. The convoy left Marjayoun with Israeli permission, Fatfat said, but became delayed as it was joined by some 3,000 residents in hundreds of vehicles.
"The convoy was too long and they didn't respect the timing" agreed to by Israel, the Lebanese minister said. "But I think Israel had the choice to bomb it, and it was to send a political message in the last moments of this war."
Israel's decision to expand the ground war came on a day when Olmert came under widespread criticism for his handling of the crisis.
Military leaders, political opponents, prominent newspaper analysts and the Israeli public all voiced dissatisfaction with Olmert, with some suggesting that he had bungled the military campaign.
(McClatchy correspondent Shashank Bengali contributed to this report from Beirut, Lebanon; Nissenbaum reported from Jerusalem.)
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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