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Israeli Missiles Kill at Least 15 Lebanese in Southern Lebanon


Israeli warplanes carried out heavy strikes against Beirut's southern suburbs Monday - killing at least 15 people. The air strikes came one day after 15 Israelis were killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks - the worst day for Israeli casualties so far in nearly a month of fighting. Hezbollah rockets again landed in northern Israel Monday, wounding at least one person. Israel's top leadership meets Monday to discuss whether to significantly expand bombing and ground operations in Lebanon.

Israel's security cabinet meets on the status of Lebanon operations Monday. Newspapers report that military planners have asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for permission to expand targets to include Lebanon's vital infrastructure.

Also under discussion is a proposal to have Israeli troops attempt to push north to the Litani River - about 20 kilometers inside Lebanon - a proposal that Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon says he supports.

Simhon says the Israeli Army needs to move further north to destroy Hezbollah's capacity to launch rockets - which he says have paralyzed life in northern Israel.

Israel has about 10,000 ground troops inside Lebanon but they have so far not been able to significantly deter Hezbollah rocket launches - which have increased in recent days.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged the U.N. Security Council to "vote quickly" on a draft resolution for a "cessation of hostilities." The draft allows Israel to respond if attacked by Hezbollah militants and to keep its forces inside Lebanon until a possible deployment of international peacekeepers.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor says Israel believes only international peacekeepers can end the crisis.

"Lebanon cannot control Hezbollah, the central government is too weak," he said. "This is why they need to be assisted by the international community, not only in words, and in Security Council resolutions, but in facts with deeds on the ground. That means an international military force that will deploy wherever it is needed in the South, or along the Lebanon-Syria, border to assist the Lebanese Army and the Lebanese police in enforcing law and order."

Lebanese leaders have so far said the U.N. plan is unacceptable because it allows Israel to keep its forces inside their country until the peacekeepers arrive. Lebanese leaders have asked the U.N. demand that Israeli forces leave Lebanon immediately once a cease-fire takes effect.

Arab foreign ministers meeting in Beirut on Monday are expected to give a strong endorsement to the Lebanese proposal.

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