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French Version


Ceasefire agreed for Monday

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United Nations said Israeli and Lebanese leaders had agreed to a ceasefire to take effect at 0500 GMT on Monday, as Israel reported its worst death toll yet in the month-long war against Hizbollah guerrillas.

Israel, stepping up an offensive in southern Lebanon before the truce, said 19 of its soldiers were killed in clashes on Saturday and that five declared missing after a helicopter was shot down were now feared dead.

The Jewish state's worst single day for deaths in the war occurred as the United Nations prepared to deploy up to 15,000 troops to help enforce the ceasefire.

The Israeli YNET News Internet site quoted an official in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office as saying Israeli troops would start withdrawing from south Lebanon within a week or two when the U.N. force and the Lebanese army arrived in the area.

Olmert, who has backed a U.N. Security Council resolution passed on Friday that set out ceasefire terms, was expected to ask his cabinet on Sunday to formally approve the deal.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said his government unanimously approved the resolution on Saturday, and Hizbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said his fighters would abide by it once Israeli forces also adhered to it.

"I am very happy to announce (Olmert and Siniora) have agreed that the cessation of hostilities and the end of the fighting will enter into force on 14 August at 0500 hours GMT," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a statement.

"Preferably, the fighting should stop now to respect the spirit and intent of the Security Council decision, the object of which was to save civilian lives, to spare the pain and suffering that the civilians on both sides are living through."

At least 1,067 people in Lebanon and 143 Israelis, including 104 soldiers, have been killed in the war, triggered on July 12 when Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.

NEW RAIDS

Israeli warplanes launched scores of strikes on more than 50 villages and towns across Lebanon on Sunday. Three civilians were killed and 13 wounded in a raid on the village of Ali Al Nahri in the eastern Bekaa Valley, security sources said.

Helicopters lifted hundreds of Israeli troops into south Lebanon on Saturday as part of an expanding offensive. Israel's Army Radio said on Sunday almost 30,000 troops were operating in southern Lebanon against Hizbollah.

The Israeli army said it had killed more than 40 guerrillas in 24 hours. Hizbollah denied it had lost 40 fighters.

Nasrallah said Hizbollah would abide by the U.N. resolution and cooperate with the U.N. and Lebanese troops, but would carry on confronting any Israeli soldiers on Lebanese soil.

"As long as there is Israeli military movement, Israeli field aggression and Israeli soldiers occupying our land ... it is our natural right to confront them, fight them and defend our land, our homes, and ourselves," Nasrallah said.

President Bush welcomed the U.N. resolution, saying Hizbollah and its main allies Iran and Syria had brought an "unwanted" war to the region.

"(The resolution was designed) to put an end to Iran and Syria's efforts to hold the Lebanese people hostage to their own extremist agenda," said Bush.

France is widely expected to lead the planned U.N. force, which will expand the existing U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) but have a stronger mandate.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy made clear in an interview with Le Monde newspaper the mission of the new force would not include disarming Hizbollah by force.

A senior Israeli commander, Major General Udi Adam, said some Israeli forces had reached as far as the Litani river in Lebanon. The river is a few kilometres (miles) from the border at some points but about 20 km (13 miles) away at others.

Adam said at least 500 Hizbollah guerrillas had been killed in the war. Hizbollah has announced less than 100 deaths.

beirut 13-08-2006
Yara Bayoumy
Yara Bayoumy



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