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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Latest developments in the Middle East

July 30 (Reuters) - Here are developments in the Middle East on the 19th day of Israel's bombardment of Lebanon.

* Israeli air strike kills at least 54 Lebanese civilians, including 37 children, in southern village of Qana

* Lebanon tells Condoleezza Rice that it could not meet with her before a ceasefire ends a 19-day-old Israeli offensive.

* Israel says to start open investigation into the bombing

* Rice says deeply saddened by Qana bombing and that it is time to get a ceasefire in Lebanon.

* Ehud Olmert expresses "deep sorrow" over the Qana bombing and orders that humanitarian aid be allowed to reach the village, but says Lebanon offensive will continue

* Olmert tells Rice Israel needs 10-14 more days in its offensive against Hizbollah

* Rice to return to Washington on Monday to focus on U.N. resolution to bring about a "sustainable" ceasefire, U.S. official says

* The EU says "nothing can justify" the Qana air strike, and calls for an "immediate cessation of violence"

* Pope Benedict calls for an immediate ceasefire

* Syrian President Bashar al-Assad calls Israel's Qana attack "state terrorism"

* Hundreds of protesters chanting "Death to Israel, Death to America" storm the U.N. headquarters in Beirut

* Hizbollah and Hamas vow to retaliate for Qana air strike

* Hizbollah guerrillas battle Israeli forces making new thrust into southern Lebanon, Lebanese security sources say.

* Internet site of Israel's Haaretz daily newspaper quoted defence sources as saying army had received orders to accelerate its offensive against Hizbollah assuming it had just another seven to 10 days before it had to stop fighting.

* Lebanon's health minister says Lebanon's overall death toll from the conflict rises to around 750. 51 Israelis have also been killed in the conflict that erupted after Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in raid on July 12.

* Some 330,000 residents of northern Israel have fled due to Hizbollah rocket barrages. The U.N. says up to 800,000 Lebanese have also fled their homes to escape Israel's offensive.
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