Israeli troops have moved further into southeast Lebanon and reportedly engaged in heavy battles with Hizbollah guerrillas, but senior Israeli government officials said plans for an expanded ground assault are on hold until the weekend. Israel is under pressure from Washington to allow more time for US-led diplomatic efforts to progress.
However a member of Israel’s security cabinet said a push by ground forces to the Litani River, around 20 kilometres inside Lebanon, remains an option.
Israeli forces have seized the key town of Marjayoun which overlooks the Litani River valley, one of the sites from which Hizbollah is firing rockets into northern Israel. As the fighting on the ground intensified, Israeli aircraft have hit more targets in the Shi’ite suburbs of southern Beirut, areas which have been heavily bombed over the last month.
So far the war has cost the lives of at least 1,011 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and one 121 Israelis. Israeli planes dropped leaflets over Beirut which read “The Israeli Defence Forces intend to expand their operations in Beirut” and warned residents of three southern suburbs to evacuate immediately. The leaflets threatened a “painful and strong” response to Hizbollah rocket attacks. There was an angry response to the leaflets from locals who burned them or tore them up.