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Israel Wants 'New Reality' In Lebanon

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Cabinet on Sunday that the army's current offensive is not an invasion of Lebanon, but rather a series of limited raids into the area.

Peretz also said that Israel would accept a temporary international force, preferably headed by NATO, deployed along the Lebanese border to keep Hezbollah guerrillas away from Israel, according to officials in Peretz's office.

"The army's ground operation in Lebanon is focused on limited entrances, and we are not talking about an invasion of Lebanon. We are beginning to see the army's successes opposite Hezbollah," he told the Cabinet, according to a participant in the meeting.

"The army's goal is to create a new reality, mostly that Hezbollah won't be along the border," he said, adding that the army has found a lot of Hezbollah weapons during the operation.

Peretz also held a closed meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"Israel's goal is to see the Lebanese army deployed along the border with Israel, but we understand that we are taking about a weak army and that in the midterm period Israel will have to accept a multinational force," he said in that meeting, according to his office. Peretz suggested NATO be in charge of the force.

In other recent developments:
  • The United Nations' top humanitarian official on Sunday inspected first hand the destruction wrought by Israeli air raids on south Beirut and called for an end to violence as he began a relief mission to war-ravaged Lebanon. "If it continues like this, there will be more and more civilian casualties," he told reporters.
  • The Italian chiefs of staff office identified as an Italian army captain the U.N. observer seriously wounded Sunday by Hezbollah gunfire during fighting with Israeli troops in south Lebanon. The chiefs of staff office said that Capt. Roberto Punzo was at a hospital in Haifa where he was taken by helicopter by the Israeli military.
  • A photographer working for a Lebanese magazine was killed Sunday when an Israeli strike hit near her taxi in southern Lebanon, the first journalist to die in Israel's offensive, security officials said. Layal Nejib, 23, a photographer for the Lebanese magazine Al-Jaras, died of wounds when a strike hit near her taxi while she was driving on a road near the border town of Qana, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
  • Iran's president declared Sunday that Israel had ``pushed the button of its own destruction'' by launching its military campaign against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn't elaborate, but suggested Islamic nations and others could somehow isolate Israel and its main backers led by the United States. On Saturday, the chairman of Iran's armed forced joint chiefs, Maj. Gen. Sayyed Hassan Firuzabadi, said Iran would never join the current Middle East fighting.
  • Israeli soldiers battled Hezbollah militants Saturday, and raided the large Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras in several waves before seizing control, military officials said. Tens of thousands of Lebanese fleeing north packed into the port of Sidon to escape the fighting.
  • U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the conflict has created some 700,000 refugees so far, and Israel's destruction of bridges and roads has made access to them difficult. As part of an effort to avert a possible humanitarian crisis, Israel eased its blockade of Lebanon's ports to allow the first shiploads of aid to arrive.
  • The U.S. is delivering a shipment of "bunker buster" bombs to Israel. Israel is replenishing its stockpile of precision-guided GBU-28 bombs, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin, and the bombs are part of an arms package that Israel can tap into whenever it needs. The sale of these weapons was approved by Congress in April of 2005. A military statement at the time said, "The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region." Israeli officials won't comment on the shipment apart from saying the army has been using precision-guided weapons to minimize harm to civilians, reports CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata from Jerusalem.
  • Israeli warplanes blasted communications and television transmission towers in the central and northern Lebanese mountains, knocking out the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. Fighter bombers fired missiles at transmission stations in the central and northern Lebanese mountains, leaving antennas burning on the ground.
  • Most Americans who want to leave Lebanon have done so and U.S. evacuation efforts are nearly complete, the U.S. consul said Sunday as Navy hovercraft whisked remaining Americans to ships anchored in Beirut's harbor. The U.S. State Department said late Saturday that more than 10,000 of the estimated 25,000 Americans in Lebanon have fled since July 16.

    Warplanes on Sunday hit a minibus carrying Lebanese from border villages they were told by the Israeli military to flee, killing three and wounding 13, Lebanese security forces said. Hezbollah guerrillas fired rockets into northern Israel, killing at least two people.

    Israeli troops continued to hold a Lebanese border village that they battled their way into the day before, but did not appear to be advancing, Lebanese security officials said. But warplanes and artillery were heavily battering areas across the south.

    The minibus was carrying 16 people fleeing the village of Tairi, working their way through the mountains for the southern port city of Tyre. A missile hit the bus near the village of Yaatar, killing three and wounding the rest, security officials said. The wounded were taken to hospitals in Tyre.

    On Saturday, the Israeli military told residents of Taire and 12 other nearby villages to evacuate by 4 p.m.

    At least four other people were killed by strikes in the south, Lebanese television said but the deaths were not confirmed by security officials. About 45 people were wounded in Israeli air raids that targeted villages and towns around Tyre on Sunday, security and hospital officials said.

    Haifa residents had stayed away from work since last week, when eight people were killed in a missile attack on a train maintenance depot in the city center. However, they were told they could return to work Sunday if their workplace had a secure bomb shelter.

    Just before 11 a.m., air raid sirens shrieked throughout the city, followed by the explosions.

    Police spokesman Avi Zelba said 13 rockets fell in the area, with most landing in open areas. One hit the house, while another struck a major road, rescue officials said.

    Israel media also reported that a factory in Haifa was hit and several people inside were injured.

    "My whole factory is totally ruined," owner David Tiboni told Israel Television.

    Dolly Marom, 40, was in the basement of her building in Haifa's Nesher neighborhood when a rocket hit the building and blew the door open, causing her 12 and 13 year old children to burst out crying.

    "It could kill us and that's it, and we did nothing to anyone," she said. "They're talking about the bombing in Beirut, they should see what happened in my house."

    The three deaths in the minibus bring to at least 375 the official death toll provided by Lebanese authorities.

    Israel's death toll stands at 36, with 17 people killed by Hezbollah rockets and 19 soldiers killed in fighting.