08/12/2006, 00.00
ISRAEL – LEBANON – UNITED NATIONS
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UN resolution approved but no let up in Israeli, Hezbollah strife

The resolution was unanimously approved. The Israeli and Lebanese governments are expected to react to it today and tomorrow.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Israeli army has given the go-ahead for the "expansion" of its ground offensive although the UN Security Council yesterday unanimously approved a motion calling for a full ceasefire. This morning, the army was heading north towards Litani River, while at least 20 Hezbollah rockets hit northern Israeli cities. Yesterday, Israel bombed Sidon.

The Israeli Foreign Minister, Mark Regev, said the military offensive in south Lebanon would continue until the Cabinet officially approved the UN resolution in a meeting to be held tomorrow. "The logic," said Regev, "would be that even in the framework of this successful outcome, if you hand over to the Lebanese army a cleaner south Lebanon, where you have Hezbollah removed from the territory, that makes their troubles a lot easier."

UN Resolution 1701, adopted late in the evening of Friday, 11 August, calls for "a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations." The resolution was unanimously approved after an impassioned address by the UN secretary, Kofi Annan, who admitted that the world's faith in the UN was "badly shaken" by the long time it took the global powers to call for an end to hostilities.

The wording of the resolution calls on Lebanese troops and the UNIFIL "to deploy their forces together" in southern Lebanon; in parallel, Israel must "withdraw all of its forces from southern Lebanon". The resolution also authorizes an increase of UNIFIL of up to 15,000 troops (from its current strength 1,190). Lebanon plans to send 15,000 of its soldiers to the south.

The resolution demands the "unconditional release" of two Israeli soldiers: it was their capture by Hezbollah on 12 July that ignited the crisis. At the same time, the resolution calls on the UN secretary to make proposals to settle the dispute about Shebaa Farms – occupied by Israeli in 1967 – within 30 days of the ceasefire.

The Lebanese government is set to meet today to evaluate the resolution. But the Prime Minister, Fouad Sinora, already appeared to be cautiously optimistic yesterday.

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