Israel decides to widen ground assault

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Four Israeli soldiers were killed and a number wounded yesterday in a rocket attack at a southern Lebanese village, as fighting continued to rage along the border with Israel.

A Hezbollah statement said its fighters had killed or wounded ten Israeli soldiers and destroyed a tank as it advanced toward the village of Qantara.

Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes carried out pre-dawn strikes yesterday in the north, east and centre of the war-ravaged country, hitting roads, bridges, fuel tankers and homes, Lebanese police said.

Israeli artillery shelled Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, Ein al-Hilweh, near Sidon, yesterday morning, killing at least two people and wounding five.

It was the first time the camp has been targeted since Israel launched attacks on Lebanon 29 days ago.

Seven people, including a political member of Hezbollah, his wife and their five children, were killed when the four-storey apartment block where they lived in Mashghara, in the eastern Bekaa Valley, collapsed after a bombing raid.

The Israeli security cabinet yesterday decided to widen its ground assault on Lebanon.

The military has dropped leaflets on south Lebanon, warning it will strike any vehicle travelling south of the Litani River.

Israeli reservists were heading to the border to reinforce the estimated 10,000 troops already operating in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, buses ferried residents from the Israeli border town of Kiryat Shmona in the first such evacuation since 1948.

Sirens wailed across Kiryat Shmona, signalling more Hezbollah rocket fire, as buses carried residents from northern towns and villages to safer areas in the centre of Israel.

The UN Security Council was still unable to agree on a resolution to end the fighting that has now killed well over 1,000 people, most of them Lebanese civilians.

On Tuesday, an Arab League delegation had warned the Security Council that there would be civil war if Israeli troops did not leave Lebanon.

France’s UN ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere responded: ‘The question for us is to produce the best possible text and take into account all concerns, so there will be a new text.’

New US-French talks focused on a Lebanese plan to deploy 15,000 troops in the south, when Israeli troops leave.

Russia called for a resolution calling for an emergency ‘humanitarian cease-fire’ if a broader resolution including elements for a long term settlement cannot be agreed.