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Arabs demand Israel pullout as more civilians die

Beirut, Aug. 7 (Reuters): Arab nations demanded Israel pull its troops out of Lebanon as part of any UN resolution to end a war in which at least 30 people were killed today by Israeli strikes.

Israeli air raids killed at least 25 civilians in southern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley, and another five died in a strike on a crowded area in Shia-dominated south Beirut.

With diplomatic efforts to end the 27-day-old conflict stalled, Israel said it may expand its ground offensive, and a military source said the army had warned residents of south Lebanon to stay indoors after 1900 GMT today.

“Anyone who does travel is taking a high risk. There is no end period,” the source said. “This will allow us to track anyone potentially trying to launch rockets.”

The Arab League announced it would send a delegation to the UN to press for changes. The group would include foreign ministers from Qatar, the UAE and the league’s secretary-general, Amr Moussa, an Egyptian.

Their chief objection is the presence of some 10,000 Israeli troops in southern Lebanon trying to suppress Hizbollah rocket fire at Israeli towns. The draft does not call for their withdrawal, which would be left to a follow-up resolution authorising an international force and setting peace terms.

Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League’s UN observer, said the current draft “has a discriminatory tone, and we don’t accept it.”

Hizbollah guerrillas fired more rockets into northern Israel, wounding one person, a day after rockets killed 15 Israelis in the deadliest day of the war for the Jewish state.

Israeli Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser said Israel had inflicted serious damage on Hizbollah but the group still possessed thousands of short-range rockets and hundreds of longer-range weapons. “Crushing Hizbollah is not like ordering pizza. It takes time,” he said.

Israeli aircraft also hit the last coastal crossing on the Litani river between Sidon and Tyre, cutting the main artery for aid supplies to civilians in the south, aid agencies said. “We must be able to have movement throughout the country to deliver supplies. At this point we can’t do that,” said the UN humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon, David Shearer.

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