No End in Sight for Mideast Fighting
A day after world leaders' meeting in Rome called for "restraint," there are no signs that the Israel-Lebanon conflict is abating.
Israel's inner Cabinet has approved a plan to call up 15,000 Israeli reservists. The government also decided against launching a full-scale invasion of southern Lebanon but rather to keep up limited ground incursions and targeted airstrikes.
Israel's objective is to crush Hezbollah guerrillas operating in southern Lebanon. There is a palpable sense of urgency in the halls of power in Jerusalem. Israel knows its window is limited.
So far, the Bush administration has tacitly backed the Israeli campaign. President Bush is now saying he opposes the imposition of an immediate cease-fire if it produces what he called "a fake peace."
Both the president and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have argued that a cease-fire resulting in a return to the pre-conflict status quo would be counterproductive.
When Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, Israel Defense Forces intelligence officials were warning that Hezbollah militants were rapidly being armed by Iran and Syria. Israel now says few countries heeded that warning and the result was that Hezbollah managed to build an arsenal including more than 13,000 missiles along the Israel-Lebanon border.
Israel wants a decisive end to come from this conflict. So does the Bush administration. European leaders want an immediate end to the fighting without preconditions.
Israel wants Hezbollah to return two abducted soldiers and remove its weapons from southern Lebanon. Hezbollah says it has no intention of disarming.
That was a requirement under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559. That resolution, passed in 2004, illustrated an extraordinary example of cooperation between the United States and France, which co-sponsored the measure. The resolution called for Syrian troops to leave Lebanon, for all militias to be disarmed, and for the deployment of Lebanon's army along the country's border with Israel.
Israel had complained that Hezbollah guerrillas were launching regular attacks from southern Lebanon. Syria did pull out, but Hezbollah was not disarmed and the Lebanese army was never deployed.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has said that any resolution calling for a cease-fire must also address the role of Syria and Iran in fueling the conflict. Syria and Iran provide arms to Hezbollah.
The Lebanese government is reporting that nearly 600 citizens have been killed since the fighting began on July 12. About 60 Israelis have died.
Israeli warplanes have demolished parts of Lebanon, and Hezbollah rockets into Israel have caused more than $2 billion of damage.
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