Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Friday gave the Israel Defense Forces the green light to widen operations in southern Lebanon and capture the territory situated south of the Litani River.
The decision comes members of the United Nations Security Council were said to be close to reaching an agreement on a truce deal brokered by France and the United States.
US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said, "We are very close to an agreement."
Military officials said it is in Israel's interest to push forward with its military operation in order to achieve more military and strategic gains ahead of a ceasefire that could open the way for the deployment of an international force in southern Lebanon.
The defense establishment criticized Olmert and Peretz for delaying the operation for two weeks, an operation officers say will significantly weaken Hizbullah.
Israeli sources say Olmert, Peretz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are unpleased with the draft resolution for a ceasefire because it fails to call for the disarmament of Hizbullah.
"Orders to widen the ground offensive doesn't mean it is impossible to stop if there is a decisive diplomatic move, which is accepted by Israel," an Israeli source said.
"For the time being, that's the order given to the IDF: We will widen the ground operation."
"Hizbullah is in a very difficult crisis," officials say. "We need to deal a serious blow and there is no problem to solve this problem completely. It was possible to end this earlier, if we would have started an intense operation two weeks ago."
"People in Israel are confused now because of the government's irresolution over last week. If we would have started the operation, there would have been no confusion. Hizbullah is facing collapse. We need to hit them hard. But the prime minister preferred to wait and so did the foreign minister."