- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006

TEL AVIV — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to Israel yesterday with a plan to halt fighting with the Hezbollah militia of southern Lebanon, while Hezbollah’s leader threatened new rocket attacks deep inside the Jewish state.

Miss Rice dined with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem last night after telling reporters earlier that she hoped for a U.N. cease-fire resolution early this week.

“I expect the discussions to be difficult, but there will have to be give and take,” Miss Rice told reporters while en route from Malaysia, where she attended an East Asian security conference.

Shortly before Miss Rice arrived, officials said most Israeli troops had been pulled from the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbail after four days of fighting, in which at least 18 Israeli soldiers were killed.

Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Israel had accomplished nothing militarily, and he issued new threats.

“Many cities in the center [of Israel] will be targeted beyond Haifa if the savage aggression continues on our country,” he said in a broadcast on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station. “The bombardment of Afula and its military base is the beginning.”

On Friday, Hezbollah launched its longest-range rocket, which touched down near the northern Israeli city of Afula.

Israeli aircraft bombarded targets near Lebanon’s border with Syria yesterday, strikes intended to prevent Hezbollah from replenishing its arsenal.

U.N. officials said that two peacekeeping monitors in southern Lebanon were injured by Israeli fire on a U.N. installation. Last week, four U.N. personnel were killed in an Israeli bombardment, an attack for which Israel apologized.

Israel yesterday also rejected a U.N. demand for a 72-hour halt to fighting to allow relief supplies to reach isolated villages in the south.

Miss Rice is to meet with other Israeli ministers today and is expected to talk with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. Israeli radio said she plans to fly to the United Nations as early as Tuesday to support a Security Council resolution that would call for a cease-fire and a new international peacekeeping force to police the border. Early reports from Beirut said that Hezbollah had tentatively and reluctantly agreed to cooperate.

Israeli reservists received emergency call-ups over the weekend, ahead of what many Israelis anticipate will become an expanded ground war against a battle-hardened foe.

The United States and Israel insist any deal must ensure Hezbollah guerrillas are pushed back from Israel’s northern border before fighting can stop.

Despite its intense bombardment of Lebanon — and heavy ground fighting near the border — Israel has been unable to stop barrages of hundreds of Hezbollah rockets. Guerrillas fired at least 90 rockets into Israel yesterday, slightly injuring five persons.

Fighting erupted after the July 12 kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah fighters. Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, head of Israel’s northern command, said Israel never intended to occupy Bint Jbail or to get “stuck in one place.” He said the real mission ? “to destroy infrastructure and kill terrorists” ? had been a success.

Sheik Nasrallah said his guerrillas had dealt Israel a “serious defeat” in the town. “This elite force was fleeing and scurrying like mice from the battleground,” he said.

Israeli troops still hold Maroun al-Ras, a nearby village, as well as the high ground above Bint Jbail, Gen. Adam said, adding that the air force would continue to pound Bint Jbail and ground forces could return at any time.

More than 450 Lebanese have been killed in the fighting, with estimates as high as 600 dead and with many bodies buried in rubble. Thirty-three Israeli soldiers have died, and Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel have killed 19 civilians, the Israeli army said.

The U.S. package calls for a U.N.-mandated multinational force that can help stabilize in the region, a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press.

It also proposes: disarming Hezbollah and integrating the guerrilla force into the Lebanese army; Hezbollah’s return of Israeli prisoners; a buffer zone in southern Lebanon to put Hezbollah rockets out of range of Israel; a commitment to resolve the status of a piece of land held by Israel and claimed by Lebanon; and the creation of an international reconstruction plan for Lebanon.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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