Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that the so-called Israeli Security cabinet approved the expansion of ground assault in Lebanon authorizing the army to invade Lebanese areas up to the Litani river, 30 kilometers away from the Israeli-Lebanon border.
The cabinet authorized Israel’s Prime Minster, Ehud Olmert, and Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, to determine the timing of the expansion but did not oblige the two to implement the new decision.
Haaretz added that according to Israeli military sources, the expansion of ground offensive will affect Hezbollah’s short range Katusha launching capability from within this area.
Twelve of the fifteen cabinet members voted for the move, three abstained.
The three ministers who abstained from voting are Shimon Perez, from Kadima Party, Ophir Pines-Paz, from Labor party, and Eli Yishai, from Shas party.
Perez and Pines-Paz said that all diplomatic channels should be practiced before deciding to expand the war, while Shas’s Industry and Trade Minister called for the continuation of air strikes before deciding to widen the ground assault.
Also, Haaretz added that Olmert phoned the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to provide her with an update on the situation. The phone call came during a session break.
Meanwhile, Yishai told reporters after the meting that the proposed expansion of ground assault in Lebanon is expected to last for 30 days, but could take longer.
Prior to the meeting, Olmert was concerned that the expansion plan could result in further casualties among the Israeli troops, especially after more soldiers were killed and injured in recent days, in addition to the increasing number of Israelis killed by Katusha rockets.
Haaretz said that Olmert had asked the military to present to him with several different options for a ground offensive.
The army proposal was to carry a two-week ground offensive that aims to occupy the entire area south of the Litani River, and occupy several area north of it.
Israeli army Chief of Staff Dan Hallutz, said on Tuesday that this operation is needed in order to end the war “differently”.
Yet, Israeli decision came opposing a new diplomatic move by Lebanon after it offered to deploy its army in the south.
Also, an American-French draft for a resolution in the security council had proposed earlier this week a two stage solution to the ongoing war. The first stage proposes a cease-fire and then talks on stationing international force in southern Lebanon.
But several security council members argued that the presence of an international peace fore can be voided since the Lebanese army, supported by the UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) will be capable of controlling the area.