Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Haaretz Tuesday that Israel would not hold back because of diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.  Israel is prepared to do whatever it takes to “stop the rockets” hitting northern Israel.  Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, “We cannot have a million residents living in shelters.  On this matter, there will be no limitations on the army.”  With the death toll reaching 769 in Lebanon and nearly one million Lebanese displaced, Olmert’s statement rings true, but Hezbollah rockets have yet to be silenced.
In response to a request by Qatar, the UN Security Council will meet in New York Tuesday for an official open session on the war in Lebanon.  The members will discuss Lebanon’s and Qatar’s amendments to the original U.S.-French draft proposal and address the concerns of both parties involved in the conflict.  

So far the ceasefire favors Israel, allowing the army to remain in southern Lebanon and for it to take “defensive” action against Hezbollah.  Arab governments have generally spoken out against the U.S. – French draft proposal, mainly because it does not include a clause that demands the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon.   

Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Tuesday repeated Israel’s stipulation that the military will not leave until Hezbollah disarms, disbands and returns the two captured soldiers that ignited the fighting.  Contrarily, Lebanon and Hezbollah will not allow for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force unless Israel withdraws first.

Once a ceasefire is agreed upon, 15,000 Lebanese troops, including 5,000 reservists will be deployed to south Lebanon to reinforce the agreement.  In the proposal, drawn up by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, the UN peacekeeping force would also increase from 2,000 to 4,000.  

Until now, the Lebanese army has stayed out of the conflict, as it has had no presence in south Lebanon for over 20 years and it regards itself as a separate entity from Hezbollah.  Although deployment of troops could change the relationship between the two, Hezbollah has been fully supportive of the Lebanese cabinet’s proposal, which includes two Hezbollah ministers.    

The Israeli government still plans on expanding their ground offensive in south Lebanon, the details of which will be discussed Wednesday in a security cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Sourced from Haaretz Online and