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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fighting Rages Ahead of UN Cease-Fire Vote

TYRE, Lebanon -- An imminent UN cease-fire resolution brought no calm in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah on Sunday. Guerrillas fired their deadliest barrage of rockets yet into northern Israel, killing 10 people, while Israeli bombardment crushed houses in south Lebanon, killing at least 10.

The United States and France on Saturday completed a draft resolution calling for a halt in fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, marking a significant advance after weeks of diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict. A vote could follow Monday or Tuesday, said France's UN Ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere. But getting the two sides -- particularly Hezbollah -- to sign on will likely require a greater push.

Lebanon on Sunday rejected the draft resolution because it would allow Israeli forces to remain on Lebanese soil, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said.

Slamming the draft as biased, Berri said it ignored a seven-point plan presented by Lebanon that called for an immediate cease-fire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces and the return of all displaced civilians, among other things.

"Lebanon, and all of Lebanon, rejects any resolution that is outside these seven points," said Berri, who has been negotiating on behalf of Hezbollah guerrillas.

"Their resolution will either drop Lebanon into internal strife or will be impossible to implement," he told a news conference.

The resolution also calls for the "unconditional release" of two Israeli soldiers captured by the guerrillas in a cross-border raid July 12.

A senior Israeli government official said the Jewish state viewed the draft favorably, because it allowed Israel to respond to Hezbollah attacks once a truce takes effect and did not order Israel to withdraw its 10,000 soldiers from southern Lebanon.

The draft resolution makes only vague promises to eventually address two key Lebanese demands for a long-term peace: the release of prisoners held by Israel and the resolution of Lebanon's claims on Chebaa Farms, a tiny border region controlled by Israel.

Hezbollah's two key allies, Iran and Syria, expressed their rejection of the draft cease-fire resolution, suggesting they back a continued fight by the guerrillas. "The United States, which has been supporting the Zionist regime until today, has no right to enter the crisis as a mediator," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a phone conversation with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Assad said the presence of international forces with extensive power in Lebanon would cause anarchy in the country, according to a report on Ahmadinejad's official web site. Deployment of an international force in south Lebanon is a central cornerstone of U.S.-led Western efforts for peace.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem made a surprise visit to Beirut to meet with Syria's top allies in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud and Berri.

Hezbollah fired a volley of 80 rockets at several Israeli towns Sunday, one of them making a direct hit on a crowd of people at the entrance of the communal farm of Kfar Giladi. Ten people were killed, rescue workers said, the highest toll from a rocket attack since the conflict began on July 12. Israel's Channel Two television reported that nine of those killed were reserve soldiers.

In southern Lebanon, dozens of Israeli strikes hit communities and roads, with some villages bombed continually for a half-hour, security officials said.

Ground fighting also raged along a stretch of territory on southern Lebanese border that the Israeli army had invaded.

Missiles flattened a house in the village of Ansar, near the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, killing a man and four of his relatives, Lebanese security officials said.

Another strike overnight killed three people in al-Jibbain, a village about 4 kilometers from the Israeli border, civil defense officials said. They said they had received calls from two nearby villages -- Aiteet and Qlaile -- reporting people trapped under the rubble of houses destroyed in strikes. But rescue workers could not retrieve the dead because of continued bombardment.

"We don't know how many and we can't get there," said Salam Daher, 39, a civil defense employee in the southern port city of Tyre.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with senior ministers late Saturday and approved continuation of the Lebanon offensive along its current lines.

So far, at least 585 people have died in the fighting in Lebanon including 506 civilians, 28 members of the army and 50 Hezbollah guerrillas. Added to the total deaths were five Syrian farm workers killed in an Israel airstrike just inside the Lebanese border in the Bekaa Valley, whose deaths were not counted when the attack occurred Friday.

Eighty-nine Israelis have died, including at least 33 civilians killed by Hezbollah rockets.

(AP, Reuters)