BEIRUT, Lebanon—Israeli attacks on Beirut and key southern Lebanese cities killed at least 55 people on Monday while a U.S.-backed effort to end the fighting appeared in danger of foundering.
Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Beirut joined Lebanese officials in rejecting a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution that called for a "full cessation of hostilities" because it didn't require that some 10,000 Israeli troops leave Lebanon.
The foreign ministers dispatched a delegation to New York, where a vote on the resolution was delayed to allow the delegation to address Security Council members Tuesday afternoon. Diplomats said the vote would be Wednesday evening at the earliest.
Earlier, President Bush called for swift passage of the resolution and rebuffed calls for an Israeli pullout.
"Whatever happens in the U.N., we must not create a vacuum into which Hezbollah and its sponsors are able to move more weapons," Bush said at a news conference in Crawford, Texas, where he's vacationing on his ranch.
The resolution should be passed quickly, Bush said, and followed with a second resolution authorizing an international peacekeeping force, which would "provide the help necessary for the Lebanese government to secure its country."
The back and forth over the U.N. resolution came on one of the bloodiest days in the 27-day conflict.
Israeli raids killed at least 55 people, mostly in Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley, one of the highest one-day death tolls since fighting began July 12. Nearly 1,000 Lebanese, many of them children, have been killed by Israeli airstrikes and ground operations.
Fighting in the Lebanese border village of Bint Jbail also killed three Israeli soldiers, bringing to nearly 100 the number of Israelis, civilian and military, killed in Hezbollah attacks. There were no reports of Israeli civilian casualties from any of the 141 rockets Hezbollah fired into Israel.
Shortly after nightfall, an attack on a residential area of south Beirut killed at least five people, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. A series of booming explosions rocked the city as three or four buildings collapsed at the border of a Christian section and a Shiite Muslim section, in an area where many displaced families had been camping.
Television images showed Lebanese rescue workers pushing bloodied bodies into ambulance cars as civilians and relief crews tried to rescue people trapped under the wreckage.
No Hezbollah officials were believed to be missing or dead in the attack, according to a spokesman for the group.
In the southern village of Ghaziyeh, police said at least 15 people were killed and 20 wounded when Israeli missiles struck three apartment buildings at about 8 a.m. The dead included at least six children, said authorities on the scene.
Among them were Rajaa Omar Shour's mother and nearly 2-year-old son. Shour had left them sleeping at home while she went to sip coffee with friends, still clad in her blue pajamas.
On Monday afternoon, Shour's body shook as she sobbed into her hands near the mass of cinderblock and twisted metal. Guilt filled her face as her family lifted her from a plastic chair near the blast and took her away.
Relief teams worked for at least nine hours to pull bodies and the wounded from the rubble, digging through debris with jackhammers and sledgehammers, and then their bare hands.
At one point, they pulled out drawers and mirrors as the sound of a strangled cry grew stronger from below.
"Say, `God willing,'" a rescue worker said in the direction of the whimper, before pulling a long-haired young woman from the wreckage.
Israeli forces had dropped fliers in the area days before, warning residents to leave.
Less than a mile away, a three-story building had been reduced to a pile of rocks. Eight people from the Badran family were killed and two were wounded, police said. Five of the dead were younger than 7.
Israel appeared to be paving the way for a larger offensive in southern Lebanon. Airstrikes destroyed the last bridge connecting the town of Tyre, some 15 miles from the Israeli border, with northern areas, cutting Tyre off from the rest of Lebanon and further inhibiting the flow of humanitarian aid.
Israeli forces also issued a stark warning to people in southern Lebanon to stay indoors after 10 p.m.
In a visit to Israel's northern command headquarters, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel has to stop the barrage of Hezbollah rockets, which has forced 1 million Israelis from their homes.
"On this matter, there will be no limitations on the army," Olmert said. "I will give you every strength and support. We are not stopping."
The back and forth over the U.N. resolution seemed to promise several more days of fighting.
The proposed resolution, backed by the United States and France, would require Hezbollah to stop its attacks but allow Israel to conduct "defensive" military operations, a term that Lebanon has said can be broadly interpreted. Israeli officials have described the current operation as a defensive one, precipitated by Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers from a border post on July 12.
Lebanese officials have objected to the resolution because it doesn't require that Israel withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon. On Monday they also voiced disagreement with the requirement for an international peacekeeping force, which U.S. officials have said would be "robust" so it could prevent Hezbollah from returning to southern Lebanon.
Lebanese officials said late Monday that they would deploy 15,000 troops to southern Lebanon if Israel withdraws. But it was unclear whether the United States or Israel would trust Lebanon's relatively weak army to keep Hezbollah's Shiite Muslim militants in check.
Lebanon's top diplomat in Washington, Carla Jazzar, warned that any resolution passed that relied on an international force instead of the Lebanese army wouldn't be implemented by the Lebanese government.
Mark Regev, the Israeli foreign ministry's spokesman, questioned whether Lebanese troops would be able to police Hezbollah, which has launched more than 3,000 rockets on northern Israel since the conflict began.
"Up until now, the Lebanese army has done nothing to limit the freedom of movement of Hezbollah, to disarm them or to prevent them from launching attacks," Regev said on CNN.
(Fadel reported from Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, Bengali from Beirut. Contributing to this report were McClatchy Newspapers correspondents Matthew Schofield in Jerusalem, Hannah Allam in Beirut and Warren P. Strobel in Washington.)
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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