TYRE, Lebanon—The United States and France Saturday agreed on a draft plan for "full-cessation of hostilities" in the 26-day Israeli-Hezbollah war, but as intense action continued on both sides of the border, there was little immediate indication that the warring parties would buy it.
Hezbollah responded by saying Israeli forces must first leave southern Lebanon.
"When the Israeli aggression ceases, very simply, we will stop fighting on condition that no Israeli soldier remains inside Lebanese land," said Mohamad Fneish, a member of Hezbollah's political arm.
In Israel, government spokesperson Miri Eisin said there would be no official reaction before the cabinet met Sunday, in a meeting at which officials planned to discuss expansion of the ground war in Lebanon.
The full, 15-member U.N. Security Council resolution met Saturday afternoon to consider the cease-fire resolution, and U.S. and European diplomats cautioned there could be further changes. If all goes as planned, the document is expected to be adopted as early as Tuesday at a U.N. meeting attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other foreign ministers.
In a victory for Israel that was backed by the United States, the draft resolution does not require Israel to immediately withdraw its troops, said a French diplomat, who requested anonymity as a condition of explaining the provisions. Israel has maintained throughout this fight that all its actions are defensive, as soldiers attempt to push Hezbollah far enough away from Israel to stop Katyusha rocket barrages from terrorizing northern cities.
A second resolution would be required to authorize a U.N.-mandated peacekeeping force that would deploy to south Lebanon and elsewhere in the country to help bolster the central government's authority. The existing Lebanese army is considered too weak to control Hezbollah. The second vote is expected in about a week.
The resolution includes: a ban on armed personnel other than Lebanon's army or the peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon; final delineation of Lebanon's borders; and an embargo on arms other than those sent to the Lebanese army.
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the resolution was an important first step to getting "the government of Lebanon fully and properly in control of the whole of the Lebanon so that Lebanon can get back on its feet and Israelis can be secure."
Even as diplomats half a world away expressed optimism, the fighting on the ground was intense. Israel bombed 170 locations throughout Lebanon and launched an early-morning commando raid in Tyre, while nearly 200 Hezbollah rockets rained on Israel.
Residents in Tyre saw some of the fiercest face-to-face combat of the war. Before dawn, 15 miles north of the border, Israeli naval commandos staged a dramatic raid on an apartment complex that Israeli officials said had been used to fire long-range rockets.
Tyre was jolted awake at about 3 a.m. by the rat-tat-tat of Israeli artillery fire and helicopters whirring overhead. Under the cover of artillery, the commando unit swam ashore onto a fruit plantation and crawled toward a multi-story apartment building, witnesses said.
In a second-floor residence, Israeli troops engaged in a gun battle, leaving bloodstains and ammunition shells on the concrete floors and walls, according to images broadcast on Lebanese television.
Israeli officials called the attack a success, a strike at "terrorist rocket-launching infrastructure," and said seven Hezbollah members were killed. Lebanese sources said four people died—all civilians. One Israeli soldier was killed and at least six were wounded.
Hezbollah members are known to be living in Tyre and in some surrounding villages, but they blend into the population and residents tend not to divulge their identities.
"I don't know who they are," Mohammed el Hussein, son of Tyre's mayor, said of the men living in the apartment. "I don't know if they are Hezbollah members or not."
The Lebanese army also got involved, firing anti-aircraft missiles from two positions at Israeli helicopters until the helicopters fired back, killing one Lebanese soldier and injuring another.
In northern Israel, four women were killed by Hezbollah rockets_a mother and two adult daughters in Arab al Arahsa and an Israeli woman who died of a heart attack during a Katyusha rocket attack in Kiryat Ata. Rockets landed in cities such as Tiberias, Ma'alot, Shlomi, Maghar and Rosh Hanikra, among others.
One barrage came in as dozens of Israeli soldiers gathered in a Kiryat Shemona hotel for a brief respite from fighting in southern Lebanon.
As soldiers cleaned their guns and commanders gathered in the bomb shelter to review maps, Katyusha rockets rattled the hotel windows and sparked wildfires on the surrounding ridges.
(McClatchy correspondents Hannah Allam and Leila Fadel in Beirut, Dion Nissenbaum in Kiryat Shemona and Matthew Schofield in Jerusalem also contributed to this report.)
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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