SIDON, Lebanon - Mideast diplomats were pressing Syria to stop backing Hezbollah as the guerrillas fired more deadly rockets onto Israel's third-largest city Sunday. Israel faced tougher-than-expected ground battles and bombarded targets in southern Lebanon, hitting a convoy of refugees.
Israel's defense minister said his country would accept an international force, preferably
NATO, on its border after it drives back or weakens Hezbollah. But his troops described the militants they encountered as a smart, well-organized and ruthless guerrilla force whose fighters do not seem afraid to die.
With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arriving in Israel on Monday, both the Arabs and Israelis appeared to be trying to set out positions ahead of Washington's first diplomatic mission to the region since the fighting began.
The United States backs Israel's refusal to talk about a cease-fire until it completes the military campaign against Hezbollah, but is under increasing pressure to foster a plan to end the growing suffering and destruction in Lebanon.
Still, daily casualty figures appeared to be falling — about nine confirmed Sunday by Lebanese security officials, compared with dozens each day earlier in the week. The decrease could be a result of the exodus from the hardest-hit areas or because of the difficulty for authorities in getting figures from the war zone.
In the 12th day of fighting, guerrillas launched more than a dozen rockets at the Israeli city of Haifa, killing two people. Israeli missiles struck a convoy of fleeing Lebanese, killing four people, including a journalist.
In the far south, fighting with Hezbollah raged around the Israeli military's foothold in Lebanon — the border village of Maroun al-Ras, where the Israeli army has maintained a significant presence since Saturday. But so far they were not advancing. Hezbollah reported three of its fighters killed.
Israeli military officials said their forces captured two Hezbollah guerrillas on Sunday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters. Israel Army Radio reported the two were the first prisoners Israel has taken in this offensive.
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All these Arab countries are calling for a cease-fire is nothing more than a joke, what reason should Israel even contemplate a cease-fire? They are the ones being attacked on a regular basis from these savages. Hezbollah and Hamas respectively have not freed the soldiers that they have taken captive, and they have not stopped the attacks against Israel. The only reason other countries in the Arab world have been seeking a cease-fire is because that if Israel is allowed to continue in its military campaign against these terrorist organizations and destroy them in a very effective manner than a pathway to peace is able to be found, and that is something the hard-line Muslims will never allow. President Bush cannot allow Hezbollah and Hamas to be able to run free in the Middle East and than be taken seriously regarding the war against terror. Iraq and Afghanistan are battlefields in this war, and we need to be taking it to our enemies wherever they are, and they just happen to be fighting our great allies, and we cannot let them down in their time of need.