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Israel to Lebanon: No to ceasefire
Senior state official says, 'only if two goals Israel has set for itself – removing and disarming Hizbullah and returning kidnapped soldiers – are realized, there will be point to discuss Lebanese offer.' Government set to convene Sunday morning for first time since deciding on IDF's operation in Lebanon
The Lebanese prime minister offered Saturday evening to deploy his army on Lebanon's southern border in exchange for a ceasefire, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not plan to accept his offer.

 

Fouad Siniora offered to deploy the forces along the international border with Israel according to UN Resolution 1559, but Israeli officials reject the offer claiming that Israel will continue its operation against the kidnappers in Lebanon until the two kidnapped soldiers are released.

 

On Sunday morning, the government is expected to discuss the developments in the Lebanon operation, which is now called Operation Change of Direction.

 

The ministers are also set to discuss Siniora's offer. If the situation does not change, the prime minister is expected to explain to his ministers that at this stage it is still early to declare a ceasefire.

 

"Only if the two goals which Israel has set for itself – removing Hizbullah and disarming it, including rockets, and returning the kidnapped soldiers – there will be a point in discussion the Lebanese offer," a senior state official said.

 

"In the meantime, as long as we are still talking about initial declarations, Israel will continue its military operation against Hizbullah and targets inside Lebanon, in order to make it clear that our intentions are serious. One must not forget that the latest escalation is the result of an attack which came from the territory of a sovereign country, a provocation which Lebanon's government is responsible for," the official explained.

 

Special situation: Between Olmert and Peretz

 

Another discussion is expected in the cabinet meeting Sunday on Defense Minister Amir Peretz's plan to extend the validity of his order to declare a "special situation in the north."

 

An associate of the prime minister expressed his surprise over the issue, which enables the defense minister, the army chief or the Home Front Command chief to shut down schools, operate essential industries, close certain areas for traffic, operate commerce zones, etc. The aide hinted that the prime minister was unaware of Peretz's plan to apply the "special situation" starting Saturday evening.

 

The IDF chief of staff, the Mossad chief and the head of the General Staff Operations Branch are expected to brief the minister on the developments in the past few days since the operation on the northern border began.

 

Major-General Gadi Eizenkot, head of the General Staff Operations Branch, is expected to tell the ministers what he already said Saturday evening, that Hizbullah has fired about 700 rockets toward Israel so far.

 

The intelligence chiefs are expected to report to the ministers of the weapons Hizbullag possesses, which may be "the next surprise" for the Israeli home front. In addition, the army chief is expected to report of the efforts to locate the three sailors who went missing after a Navy missile boat was attacked off the shores of Beirut.

 

The foreign and defense ministers are expected to brief their colleagues on the moves taken so far. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will report of the moves to prevent a condemnation of Israel's operation at the Security Council and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan to send a mediating delegation to the region.

 

Livni will also report that in spite of the growing criticism in the world, mainly regarding the damage caused to civil infrastructures in Lebanon, Israel is still backed for its moves, which are considered a right for self-defense against Hizbullah, which is considered a terror organization.

 

Minister Livni is expected to report of the instructions given to Israel's delegations in the world to expand their efforts through the media to raise support for Israel's operation in Lebanon.

 

Additional developments:

 

  • At around 11:10 p.m., Katyusha barrages hit Kiryat Shmona and the Mount Meron area. The rockets landed in open areas and there were no reports of injuries. About one hour later, additional rockets were fired at Meron. On Saturday, Tiberias joined the list of Katyusha-battered cities.

 

  • The Israel Air Force continued its war against Hizbullah strongholds in Lebanon, attacking Beirut's coastal radars, Hizbulla's High Council building and the organization's headquarters in the Lebanese capital. The naval ports of Tripoli and Beirut were also struck.

 

  • An initial investigation of the incident in which a Navy missile boat was hit off the Beirut shores reveled that the automatic interception system installed in the ship was not activated for fear it will hit Israeli aircrafts circling the area. Sources in the Navy said: "Had we known that Hizbullah possesses a missile like the one that hit the boat, we would have activated the system and moved away from the Israeli aircrafts.

 

  • Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz visited the Home Front Command headquarters in Safed on Saturday night. The two were briefed on the IDF's operation and on the rockets which hit Israel's home front. In addition, they spoke to the commanders about the IDF's goals as part of the operation in the north.

 

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