Israel decides to limit offensive, send in more troops

story.vert.evac.afp.gifThe decision was made at a meeting of Israel’s Security Cabinet.

The Cabinet meeting, which went an hour over its scheduled time, came a day after nine Israeli troops were killed in heated battles with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the goals of Israel’s offensive are being met, Israel Radio reported.

However, the ministers decided to call up additional reserves to support the troops in Lebanon, the report added.

Three additional reserve divisions, comprising thousands of people, would be called up, The Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, al Qaeda’s second in command pledged Thursday that the terror group would not “stay silent” on the conflict in southern Lebanon.

The video statement by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant, was broadcast on the Al-Jazeera television network. “The al Qaeda organization will not stay silent regarding what the Muslims in Palestine and Lebanon are facing,” al-Zawahiri said.

He called on those he described as victimized by the Western world to unite with al Qaeda and rise up as Israel battles Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon and Palestinian militants in Gaza. Al-Zawahiri’s statement came the day after international efforts to negotiate a cease-fire in Lebanon stalled at a conference in Rome.

Since July 12, at least 401 people — mostly civilians — have been killed in Israeli strikes, Lebanese sources said. The IDF said the death toll from Hezbollah rockets striking Israel and the fighting in southern Lebanon is 50 — 19 of them civilians.

The fighting also has wounded about 1,500 people in Lebanon and more than 300 civilians in Israel, the sources said.

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday suffered its largest loss of life in its offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas. Nine Israeli soldiers were killed while fighting in southern Lebanese towns.

Eight soldiers were killed and 22 more were wounded in Bint Jbeil, near the Israeli border, while battling militiamen in what the IDF has called Hezbollah’s “terror capital.”

There were heavy casualties among Hezbollah fighters, according to Israeli soldiers. The Islamic militia has not released casualty figures since fighting began.

On Tuesday the IDF said it had taken control of the city. On Wednesday it said more troops were being sent there. In nearby Maroun al-Ras, an Israeli army officer was killed and five soldiers were wounded in fighting, according to the IDF.

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