Israel's Cabinet has agreed to a U.N.-mediated cease-fire, aimed at ending the fighting
in Lebanon. The cease-fire is scheduled to take effect at 5:00 UTC Monday. Nearly 30 Israeli soldiers were killed in a 24-hour period during the heaviest day of fighting of the month-long conflict in Lebanon.
After nearly five hours of discussions and debate, Israel's Cabinet voted to approve the U.N. cease-fire resolution, which was passed by the Security Council late Friday. The 24-to-zero vote with one abstention came one day after Lebanon's Cabinet also approved the measure.
Speaking after the vote in the Israeli Cabinet, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the cease-fire deal will change the rules of the game between Israel and Lebanon.
Livni says Israeli troops will only withdraw from Lebanon when the Lebanese army and international troops deploy in the southern part of the country, and that, eventually, the cease-fire should lead to the disarming of Hezbollah.
Livni says Israel will not neglect its goal of achieving the release of two of its soldiers,
whose capture by Hezbollah militants on July 12 sparked the current crisis.
Under the agreement, Israel and Hezbollah are to agree to a cessation of hostilities. Fifteen thousand international peacekeepers will be sent to Lebanon to join the small U.N. force already there to assist about 15,000 Lebanese troops in their goal of stopping the flow of weapons to Hezbollah militants.
The measure calls for a phased withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon, as international troops and the Lebanese army move into the area.
Even as the U.N. Security Council was approving the measure on Friday, Israel launched its largest offensive, moving more than 20,000 troops into Lebanon, an effort Israel says is designed to destroy Hezbollah's capability to launch rockets that have terrorized northern Israel.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says he is glad the cease-fire agreement is being ratified, but he says the fighting should stop immediately.
"The fighting should stop now, to respect the spirit and intent of the Security Council decision, the object of which was to save civilian lives and to spare the pain and suffering that civilians on both sides are living through," said Annan. "So, I urge the parties to stop immediately."
Secretary Annan's plea fell on deaf ears, as Hezbollah launched more than 150 rockets into northern Israel, and Israel carried out some of its heaviest bombing of Beirut's southern suburbs. Israeli warplanes struck more than 50 targets, and there was heavy fighting on the ground, as Israeli troops pushed toward the Litani River, about 30 kilometers north of the Israeli border.
Hezbollah militants claimed to have destroyed a number of Israeli tanks and inflicted heavy casualties on Israeli troops.
More than 1,000 people in Lebanon have been killed in the war, while 144 Israelis, including more than 100 soldiers, have died since the conflict began more than one month ago.