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Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies While Attacks Continue


Three senior European envoys held talks with Israeli officials ahead of a visit to the region by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. But as diplomacy intensifies to end the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas, rocket attacks, bombing raids, and fierce ground clashes continue unabated.

The German and French foreign ministers as well as a minister from the British foreign office held rounds of meetings Sunday with Israeli leaders.

The talks took place before a visit to the area by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who has said she is coming to discuss a long-term solution to the crisis and not an immediate cease-fire.

Israel's senior commander in the north, General Udi Adam made it clear Israel is not ready for a cease-fire just yet. Speaking on Israeli television, Adam said it will take time. It is important that the end will be a success and achieve the goals of the mission, he said - adding it will take weeks and patience.

Adam said Israeli troops are slowly closing in on Hezbollah rocket launching sites. Israeli troops are operating inside southern Lebanon looking for Hezbollah positions, and have reportedly met with some fierce resistance as troops try to extend their reach from the border.

The ground operations have not stopped the rocket attacks. Dozens of Katyushas again hit northern Israel, several barrages hitting the port city of Haifa.

Two people were killed and more than a dozen injured.

Israeli warplanes also pounded targets across Lebanon, focusing in particular on the south and southern neighborhoods of Beirut.

While southern Beirut is well known as a Hezbollah stronghold, it is also a densely populated civilian area. U.N. Humanitarian Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland toured one neighborhood that had been hit just hours earlier and sharply criticized Israel's bombardment. "I would say that this seems to be an excessive use of force in an area with so many civilians ... It makes it a violation of humanitarian law," he said.

Grim television images from the southern city of Tyre showed wounded civilians, including women and children being brought to a hospital after their minibus was hit by an Israeli missile, as they had tried to escape from villages in the south.

Israel says it is not targeting civilians and blames Hezbollah for operating from within civilian areas. According to Lebanese authorities, more than 360 people, including civilians and children, have been killed in Lebanon during the past 12 days of violence.

Nearly 40 Israelis have been killed.

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