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Report: Germany to Send Troops to UNIFIL


Germany has agreed to send troops to the multi-national United Nations (UNIFIL) force, whose mission is to keep Hizbullah terrorists from re-arming and staging attacks on Israel, according to a German newspaper quoted by Reuters News Agency.

Chancellor Angela Merkel previously has said Germany might send troops in the future but that it is too early to decide. The government is concerned how the image of its Nazi past would affect its ability to be accepted by Israel as peacekeepers.

Israeli Prime Minister Defends War

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

More than a month of heavy fighting between Israeli forces and Hizbullah terrorists has ended with a U.N.-mediated ceasefire in effect in Lebanon. Despite several incidents when Israeli troops and Hizbullah exchanged fire, the truce appears to be holding. Israel's prime minister addressed his critics, saying his country's actions have helped reduce the threat of Hizbullah.

Radio's crackled along the Israel-Lebanon border at 8 a.m. local time when Israeli commanders ordered their troops to halt offensive operations in Lebanon. A short while later an Israeli military spokesman said some Israeli troops had begun withdrawing from Lebanon, even though the bulk of the force would remain there until U.N. peacekeepers arrive.

Speaking to lawmakers in Israel's Knesset later in the day, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert staunchly defended the decision to go to war in Lebanon, saying Israel's actions helped eliminate a state within a state run by Hizbullah.

Olmert said the war changed the strategic balance in the region to Hizbullah's disadvantage, saying its supply of weaponry has been mostly destroyed, and its self-confidence undermined. He also promised to continue to pursue Hizbullah's leaders and to do everything he could to win the release of two Israeli servicemen, whose capture by Hizbullah terrorists on July 12 sparked the current crisis.

Olmert also asked for patience from critics who say ending hostilities now means that Israel has failed to achieve its objective of eliminating the threat from Hizbullah.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said he would name a commission to conduct an investigation into the conduct of the military operation.

Israeli and Lebanese military officers met with the commander of U.N. forces in southern Lebanon to discuss Israel's disengagement from the country. Under the ceasefire agreement, 15,000 international peacekeepers will join the small U.N. force in Lebanon known as UNIFIL to assist Lebanese troops in carrying out the U.N. mandated goal of stopping the flow of weapons to Hizbullah.

U.N. Special Envoy to the Middle East Alvaro de Soto said the peacekeepers should start to arrive within days, and that the enhanced force should have the authority to carry out its mandate.

"UNIFIL has gone through several incarnations. It now has a restricted mandate; it is only composed of 2,000 men. But it will be increased up to 15,000 and it will have a robust capacity to assist the government of Lebanon to carry out its responsibilities. The important point is that it is the government of Lebanon who will be taking on this responsibility and that is an important new step," he said.

Israeli officials said their troops would only withdraw from Lebanon when the peacekeepers and the Lebanese army deploy in the south. Hizbullah leaders said while they have accepted the truce, they said they may continue fighting as long as Israeli troops stay in Lebanon. Israeli officials say under the terms of the U.N. resolution they are allowed to respond if attacked, and they warn they will, with force, if necessary.

Fragile Ceasefire Holding, Despite Two Incidents


Two Hizbullah terrorists were killed in two separate clashes with IDF troops in southern Lebanon, but the ceasefire is largely holding. 161 Israelis hospitalized with wartime wounds.

At noon, the first ceasefire-threatening incident was reported: A Hizbullah terrorist cell detected "moving in a threatening manner," according to the IDF announcement, was fired upon by an IDF force near Hadta, in the western sector of southern Lebanon. One terrorist was killed. Shortly afterwards, another terrorist was killed in a separate clash in the eastern sector. No Israelis were hurt in the battles. The two incidents have been the only clashes since the UN-approved ceasefire took effect.

Though the ceasefire has taken effect, Defense Minister Amir Peretz made it clear that the naval and land blockade of Lebanon would not be lifted until other elements of the UN ceasefire resolution have been implemented. Travel in and out of Lebanon would be restricted until a system to supervise border crossings and prevent terrorists from acquiring arms from outside the country is put into effect.

The army went to great pains to make sure that each of the 30,000 troops in Lebanon understands that no offensive action is to be taken, unless life-threatening Hizbullah action is detected. The noted presence of an armed Hizbullah terrorist or a vehicle carrying arms or weapons will result in IDF fire.

This, in contrast with a document sent by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Israel, saying that Israel would be permitted to open fire only after a request for such is submitted to the UN and the UN approves it in writing.

And in a related report, Al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden has sent his son to Lebanon to organize terror cells, according to Mideast Newsline. It quoted sources as saying that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard released Sa'ad, who went to Syria and then to Lebanon.

His mission is to recruit Arabs who claim that Israel is their home. The assignment indicates renewed cooperation between the worldwide terrorist organization and Iran.

Abducted IDF Soldiers in Exchange for 13 Hizbullah Terrorists?

The ceasefire agreement now in effect contains no operative clause for the return of the two Hizbullah-kidnapped IDF soldiers - but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the 13 terrorists in Israel's hands may be the bait.

Olmert met with the parents of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev early Sunday morning, before the Cabinet approved the ceasefire. He acknowledged that the agreement does not provide complete answers regarding the captives, but noted that Israel captured 13 Hizbullah terrorists during the warfare. Olmert said that Israel would offer their return in exchange for the return of the two abducted Israelis.

At least one of the Hizbullah terrorists in Israeli hands was wounded and treated in an Israeli hospital, and another one took part in the actual kidnapping attack. Olmert announced Monday that he had appointed Ofer Dekel, former Deputy Head of the General Security Service, to head the task force dealing only with the captives' return.

Nasrallah: 'A Great Victory'


Hizbullah chief terrorist Hassan Nasrallah announced in a televised speech on Monday that his group is "on the brink of a great victory."

Brushing aside the agreement by the Lebanese government to disarm the group, Nasrallah said, "This is not the time for Hizbullah to disarm. It is unfortunate that the initial discussion on this matter and on the deployment of the army (in the south) was held by the (Lebanese) government in direct contrast to the agreement between the sides."

The terrorist chief underlined his intention not to disarm because there would be "no one to defend Lebanon in case of a new Israeli offensive," and claimed the Lebanese army and an international peacekeeping force would be unable to protect the country.

Meanwhile, despite his announcement that he would soon be speaking in public squares, the terror chief remains in hiding. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in his own televised speech at the Knesset on Monday that the IDF would continue to hunt down Hizbullah operatives.

Nasrallah also informed viewers that Hizbullah would begin distributing funds to displaced Lebanese families. The money is meant to help them rebuild houses destroyed by IAF air strikes targeting terrorists who attacked Israel from the safety of civilian homes.

"You will not wait in any line or for government funds," he said, "because this may take too long. We will come to you and grant you funds worth a year's rent and for furniture. In the meantime we will rebuild your destroyed homes."

Kassams Hit Ashkelon; Four Treated for Shock


Precisely as the ceasefire in Lebanon was taking effect, Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired advanced Kassam rockets towards a residential street in Ashkelon.

Four people suffered shock and were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, and some property damage was caused. The IDF announced that its forces saw three terrorists who returned to the site to retrieve the launchers. The soldiers fired at them and killed two. Another Kassam rocket was fired from northern Gaza southwards, landing in an open area near Kisufim. No one was hurt and no damage was caused.

Hamas had cut down on its Kassam firings from Gaza over the past several days, launching only 13 since August 5. Of these, three landed inside Gaza. This contrasts with 140 Kassams fired in the three weeks prior to that. The IDF has been operating fairly intensively in Gaza over the past several weeks, destroying houses from which Kassams were fired.

Ha'aretz reports based on Palestinian Authority sources, that much of the Hamas terrorist leadership is out of commission after being targeted in IDF attacks. Number-one wanted Hamas terrorist Muhammed Def is wheelchair-bound and has had his legs and hands amputated, following last month's attack on his hideout in Gaza City. In addition, both Ahmed Al-Andour, head of the Izaddin Al-Kassam Brigades in northern Gaza, and Marwan Isa are in serious condition.

More than 4,000 Katyushas were fired at Israel over the past five weeks. About a quarter of them landed in built-up areas, and a quarter were fired at Kiryat Shmonah. Another 800 were fired at the Nahariya/Shlomi area, along the Mediterranean Coast. The Katyusha explosions set fire to 10,000 dunams (2,500 acres) of forestland. Not all the missiles exploded, and the security forces have issued grave warnings to residents not to touch them.

Five thousand claims have been filed for property damage caused by the war. The Knesset Finance Committee is convening today to discuss the financial ramifications of the war.

We'll Liberate Golan Heights


Syrian President Bashar Assad said his country is prepared for any war that may break out with Israel, adding that he is convinced that the chances for peace have decreased and that "the Golan Heights will be liberated by Syria."

In a special interview with Egyptian newspaper Al-Osboa, Assad said "if Israel launches a war against Syria, it will pay a heavy price." He said Syria has been following Israel closely, particularly after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to power.

"Syria and the resistance (referring to Hizbullah) read the situation correctly in that we predicted the confrontation. There have been extensive preparations for the current battle. Our disagreement focused on the nature of the resistance. There were those who thought the resistance didn't stand a chance in a time when satellites reveal everything, track everything down and can direct severe blows at the resistance, but the reality proved otherwise.

"In Lebanon they (Israel) destroyed everything, but they were unable to achieve their true military objectives on the ground; the resistance has won the war, and now we must win the diplomatic battle as well."

Referring to the international community's intervention in the conflict, Assad said "they intervene only when Israel is in pain; but when the Lebanese, Palestinians and others suffer – no one intervenes."

Assad took the opportunity to praise Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, describing him as "a unique commander in the history of the noble Lebanese resistance'; he also lauded Hizbullah TV station Al-Manar, saying it was the first time that the Arab media `defeated' the enemy's.

"The US and Israeli intelligence agencies are unaware of the resistance's real capabilities," he said, adding that he had rejected "lucrative offers" presented to him on condition that he abandon Hizbullah and Hamas.

Assad said "there were those who believed that peace (with Israel) was the only option and they attempted to enforce it upon the Arab nation, but the resistance's firm stand and the change we see in the Arab world, due to which we can see millions of youngsters waving the Hizbullah and resistance flags, have proven that this nation is on the brink of a new phase in its history."

Palestinian Gunmen Seize Two Fox News Journalists

By VOA News

The U.S. television network Fox has identified two of its employees who were kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip Monday.

A Fox spokesman named American correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig from New Zealand. Witnesses say the two were taken away by gunman after their car was intercepted in Gaza City.

Meanwhile, witnesses said an Israeli air strike in Gaza has destroyed an empty house. The Israeli military said it was targeting a command center of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, and had warned residents of the house before the air strike took place.

Israel's military said it targeted Palestinian terrorists in the area after they fired two rockets at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, which did not cause any casualties.

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