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Monday, August 14, 2006

Latest developments in the Middle East

Aug 14 (Reuters) - Here are developments on the 34th day of the Middle East crisis.

* U.N.-brokered truce to end month-long war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas took effect at 0500 GMT. Lebanese security sources said guns fell silent across southern Lebanon and that Israeli air strikes and artillery fire stopped just a few minutes before the truce.

* Some Israeli troops begin withdrawing from south Lebanon.

* Thousands of displaced Lebanese leave city of Sidon for home, crowding narrow road to south Lebanon.

* Truce is first step in process that includes deployment of 15,000-strong U.N. force in south Lebanon to help ensure peace.

* Israeli soldiers shoot dead a Hizbollah fighter in southern Lebanon after he opened fire on them, marking the first casualty since the truce started. The Israeli army said soldiers elsewhere shot another Hizbollah guerrilla who had approached them and aimed a gun at them. It was not known if he was killed.

* An Israeli air strike on a van on the outskirts of the eastern city of Baalbek killed seven people minutes before the truce began, Lebanese medical sources say. Earlier aid raids killed at least 11 people.

* Israeli army maintains its ban on unauthorised traffic in south Lebanon.

* An Israeli air strike kills three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip shortly after at least one rocket was fired into Israel from the area, doctors said. The Israeli army said it had targeted militants who had launched the rockets.

* Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz pledges to name a team to conduct a "wide and thorough" investigation of the Lebanon war and voices hope for eventual negotiations with the Lebanese government.

* Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, facing a backlash over his handling of the war, will address parliament.

* EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, helping coordinate European contributions to U.N. force, says he would like to see international troops start deploying to southern Lebanon this week or early next week.

* Around 1,100 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 156 Israelis, including 116 soldiers, have been killed in the war, triggered by Hizbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in cross-border raid on July 12.
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