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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Monday, July 31, 2006

Latest developments in the Middle East

July 31 (Reuters) - Here are developments on the 20th day of the Middle East crisis.

* Civilians flee battered villages in southern Lebanon after Israel says it will suspend air strikes but step up offensive to root out Hizbollah guerrillas.

* U.S. Secretary of State Rice says she believes ceasefire to end Israel-Hizbollah fighting could be forged this week.

* Israeli aircraft fire in south Lebanon's Taibe area to support ground forces fighting Hizbollah, army spokeswoman says.

* Israel plans to step up its offensive against Hizbollah guerrillas until an international force deploys in south Lebanon, despite calls for an immediate truce, officials say.

* Israeli drone-fired rocket fired at jeep in Lebanese army convoy near Tyre kills one Lebanese soldier, wounds 3. Israel "expresses regret", thought Hizbollah guerrilla was in jeep.

* Rescue workers find remains of 25 civilians in rubble of south Lebanon villages hit by Israeli air strikes.

* French Prime Minister de Villepin welcomes Israel's pledge to suspend air strikes for 48 hours but says it is not enough.

* Germany welcomes Israel's pledge, says it hopes this will lead to a lasting ceasefire.

* France says important to maintain contacts with Iran in efforts to end Lebanon crisis but rules out talks with Syria.

* U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts statement expressing "extreme shock and distress" at killing of 54 Lebanese civilians by Israeli air strike on Qana village. U.S. blocks call for immediate truce, statement says Council will work urgently "for a lasting settlement of the crisis".

* Russian Foreign Ministry criticises delays in calling for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon.

* Egyptian President Mubarak says U.N. Security Council's response to Israel's conflict with Hizbollah reveals its impotence.

* Around 550 people have been killed in Lebanon, although the health minister estimates the toll at 750 including unrecovered bodies. Fifty-one Israelis have been killed.
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