Is the region heading for all-out war or a ceasefire? That's the question that's hanging in the balance on Friday as the United Nations Security Council meets to vote on a draft French-US resolution for a ceasefire in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke to US President George W. Bush on Friday night and thanked him for his government's stance regarding the crisis. On Sunday he is expected to ask the cabinet to approve the agreement.
Simultaneously, Lebanon will also adopt the agreement, an official source in Beirut said. However, sources at the Foreign Minister in Jerusalem made it clear that the military operation has not been halted and is aimed at "paving the way" for the Lebanese army to take over the area.
The 15 members of the Council are expected to vote on the draft on Friday night. If approved, the resolution would authorize the deployment of 15,000 UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon to support Lebanon's deployment to the region "as Israel withdraws."
The draft, would ask the UN force to monitor a full cessation of hostilities and help Lebanese forces gain full control over an area that has previously been under de facto control of Hizbullah guerillas.
The text of the draft says the force's mandate would include several elements: monitoring the cessation of
hostilities, accompanying Lebanese troops as they deploy and as Israel withdraws, and ensuring humanitarian access to the area.
Rice: Multinational force to be strong mandate
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a CNN interview that the multinational force which will operate in Lebanon will be a "strong mandate" and will be able to defend itself and the mandate it received opposite anyone who will try to interfere in its duty.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will ask government ministers to approve the resolution when the cabinet meets early next week, officials said late Firday.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told CNN that the UN peacekeeping force would have "a clear mandate," but it the Lebanese government will be assisted in imposing its sovereignty over the whole Lebanese territory as stipulated in UN Resolution 1559.
The resolution calls for the disarming of all militias, including Hizbullah.
The five permanent members – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – have agreed on the resolution, which seeks an ending to the fighting between the Israel Defense Forces and the Hizbullah.
Council members discussed the draft as Israel gave its army the green light to launch a large-scale ground offensive against Hizbullah and to capture Lebanese territory stretching as far north as the Litani River.
In Jerusalem, officials said the government will look at the articles of the draft resolution before accepting the stipulated ceasefire conditions.
But sources in Jerusalem told Ynet that the draft is "good" for Israel.
Defense officials said once the operation is launched it is difficult to stop it.
Ronny Sofer contributed to this report