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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK
UN 'shock' at Lebanon bomb deaths
UN workers and medical staff remove the body of a peacekeeper killed in the Israeli strike
Israel has apologised over the death of the UN peacekeepers
The UN Security Council has expressed "shock and distress" at the deaths of four of its peacekeepers in an Israeli bombing raid in Lebanon this week.

It follows nearly two days of talks in which the US resisted China's calls for sterner condemnation of Israel.

About 600 Lebanese civilians had died since the conflict began more than two weeks ago, the health minister said.

Some 51 Israelis - 18 of them civilians - have been killed by the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

The Lebanese minister, Mohammad Khalifeh, said roughly one-third of the country's dead were believed to still be buried under buildings bombed by Israel.

Overnight into Friday morning, Israel says it struck another 130 targets across Lebanon.

Israel has accused Hezbollah of instigating the violence, after it captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July.

UN clash

The UN Security Council released a policy statement - which has less force than a resolution - expressing dismay at the deaths of the peacekeepers after days of fierce debate.

Map

US opposition resulted in a final draft that was significantly different to the version first put forward by China and other countries.

Calls for a joint Israeli-UN investigation into the peacekeepers' death were dropped, as was any direct condemnation of a "deliberate attack against UN personnel".

Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, welcomed the council's "fair and balanced" statement.

Israel has apologised for the deaths of the peacekeepers, who were bombed on Tuesday at their base in southern Lebanon, saying it was an accident.

UN officials said they contacted Israel a dozen times before the bombing, asking them to stop firing, which Israel did not.

China, which lost one of its peacekeepers in the bombing, had been pushing for a harsher condemnation of Israel but the US opposed this.

In my opinion Israel is not destroying Hezbollah - they are making it stronger
Fiene, London

Beijing's envoy to the UN, Wang Guangya, said in an apparent swipe at the US that members of the Security Council "had to respect each other" and said Washington's stance could have a "negative impact" in the long term.

Mr Wang warned that a Security Council discussion of Iran's alleged nuclear capability, scheduled for Friday, would also be difficult.

Israeli shift

Israel is continuing its bombardment of Lebanon more than two weeks into its campaign, which has seen hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced.

But our correspondent in Jerusalem, Katya Adler, says there is growing concern in Israel that Hezbollah is still firing large numbers of missiles into northern Israel.

LEBANON TWO WEEKS ON
Man helping Tyre woman from her destroyed house
Three airports bombed
62 bridges destroyed
Three dams and ports hit
5,000 homes damaged

Few in Israel still speak of being able to neutralise Hezbollah, she says - instead Israel aims to destroy its infrastructure as much as possible.

She says the Israeli government's announcement that it is calling up three divisions of reservists, said to number between 15,000 to 40,000, suggests it is preparing for the possibility of a protracted war.

A statement from an Israeli cabinet meeting said their deployment would only come after an "additional" approval.

Ministers also said current military activities would remain unchanged - despite apparent pressure from the military establishment to step up ground operations.

Defence Minister Amir Peretz said Israel's military operation would continue until a secure border strip was set up where Hezbollah could not return to.




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