Israel agrees to ceasefire
UN council adopts resolution that could send 15,000 peacekeepers into southern LebanonBy KARIN LAUB The Associated Press
JERUSALEM — The UN Security Council adopted a resolution Friday that calls for an end to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and authorizes the deployment of 15,000 UN peacekeepers to help Lebanese troops take control of South Lebanon as Israel withdraws.
The draft, adopted unanimously, offers the best chance yet for peace after more than four weeks of war in the Middle East. It was the first significant action by the Security Council, the most powerful UN body, to address the crisis.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said hundreds of millions of people around the world shared his frustration that the council had taken so long to act. That inaction has "badly shaken the world’s faith in its authority and integrity," he said.
"I would be remiss if I did not tell you how profoundly disappointed I am that the council did not reach this point much, much earlier," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert endorsed the resolution late Friday, after a day of dramatic brinksmanship, including a threat to expand the ground war in Lebanon. But Israeli officials said Israel would not halt fighting until the cabinet has approved the ceasefire deal in its weekly meeting Sunday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora also assured U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice his country backs the resolution.
Meanwhile, an Israeli drone fired at a convoy of refugees fleeing southern Lebanon on Friday night, killing at least seven people and wounding 22, an Associated Press photographer said. The Israeli military said it was investigating the incident.
The attack on the convoy was the most dramatic on a day of fighting that saw Israeli air strikes pound southern Beirut and border crossings to Syria, killing at least 15 others as ground fighting picked up intensity in the south of the country. An Israeli soldier was killed in fighting in southern Lebanon, the army said.
Hezbollah sent another barrage of more than 150 rockets toward northern Israel. Rescue workers said eight people in the port of Haifa were wounded by shrapnel.
The clashes have killed more than 800 people — including at least 741 Lebanese and 123 Israelis.
Lutfallah Daher, the photographer, was with the convoy when it was hit near the Bekaa Valley town Chtaura, about 50 kilometres north of the Litani River. Israel has said it would attack any vehicle on roads south of the Litani, assuming it was carrying Hezbollah weapons or fighters.
Daher said when the convoy left the Israeli-occupied town Marjayoun in southern Lebanon, it was made up of more than 600 civilian vehicles in addition to vehicles carrying 350 Lebanese soldiers and police. A few vehicles had left the convoy before it was hit, the photographer said.
Daher lives in Marjayoun and was fleeing with his wife in one car. His mother, brother, sister-in-law and their child were in another car. None was harmed.
Two armoured UN peacekeeping vehicles were to have accompanied the convoy, Daher said, but were not present when Israeli forces in Marjayoun gave the convoy permission to head north. Israeli tanks and infantry took control of Marjayoun on Thursday.
Israel’s military said no convoys had been co-ordinated with the army.
The region around Marjayoun, a mainly Christian town, was hit by Israeli planes and artillery during and after the Israeli advance.
In other developments Friday:
• Polls indicated the Israeli government is losing domestic support for its conduct of the conflict against Hezbollah and doubt is growing among Israelis that they are winning the war. One survey, by the Dahaf Institute, said Olmert’s personal approval rating dropped from 73 per cent to 66 per cent.
• The UN’s World Food Program said civilians cut off by fighting in South Lebanon find themselves in increasingly desperate conditions as the region remains inaccessible to aid agencies.
• UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said the anger on all sides in the Middle East is the greatest he has seen in two decades of trying to help the troubled region make peace.