Ceasefire dead before it starts


Martin Chulov, Beirut
August 07, 2006

HOPES of an imminent end to almost a month of war were dashed last night when Hezbollah vowed to ignore a UN-brokered ceasefire and Lebanon blackballed the draft resolution.

The UN was discussing the draft as 10 reserve soldiers were killed in a Hezbollah rocket barrage in the northern kibbutz of Kfar Giladi, the deadliest such attack since the Israeli offensive on Lebanon began 27 days ago.

And Israeli fighter-bombers attacked Sidon, killing six civilians, just hours after the southern Lebanese city's 500,000 residents were warned to flee.

Hezbollah said the French-US plan would fail because it had ignored its demand that Israeli forces had to withdraw from southern Lebanon before the Shia militia would agree to stop firing rockets into Israel and retreat to the north.

The Lebanese Government said the plan largely ignored its blueprint for peace -- primarily, the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Jerusalem welcomed the plan, saying it would agree to the UN interim force remaining in southern Lebanon while the international force was assembled.

John Howard said he feared the deal would collapse because the two root causes of Middle Eastern tensions were not addressed: the settlement of the Palestinian issue and the recognition by the Arab world of Israel's right to exist.

Israeli ministers conceded last night the deal was unlikely to stop the fighting, which has killed more than 1000 people in Lebanon and Israel. "Even if it is passed, it is doubtful that Hezbollah will honour the resolution and halt its fire," said Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon.

France and the US appear to have made concessions in the draft resolution.

France had sought an "immediate cessation of hostilities" that was not in the draft. And the text makes no explicit demand for the release of the two Israeli soldiers that the US pressed for. But it allows Israel to retaliate if attacked and stresses the need to carry out UN resolution 1559, which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah and other armed groups in Lebanon.