Hezbollah guerrillas killed up to 13 Israeli soldiers in fighting in Lebanon on Wednesday and world diplomats met in Rome but stopped short of calling for an immediate end to the 15-day-old war. Foreign ministers at the crisis conference pledged to work urgently for a ''lasting, permanent and sustainable'' ceasefire, but did not call for the fighting to stop immediately.
Thirteen Israeli soldiers were reported killed in fierce fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon on Wednesday while United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan told world diplomats in Rome that the 15-day-old war must end. Al Jazeera television said 13 soldiers had been killed in clashes in the southern town of Bint Jbeil, which Israel calls a Hezbollah stronghold.
Fierce fighting raged in Lebanon on Wednesday as an international conference opened in Rome on how to end Israel's 15-day-old war with Hezbollah guerrillas. Al-Jazeera television said nine Israeli soldiers had been killed during clashes with Hezbollah guerrillas in a south Lebanese village. Israeli medics reported heavy casualties.
Israel's killing of four United Nations observers piled pressure on an international conference in Rome on Wednesday to end a 15-day-old Middle East conflict, as Hezbollah vowed not to accept any ''humiliating'' truce terms. Israel, with apparent United States approval, has said it would press on with its offensive.
Israel called up thousands of reservist soldiers on Friday but a military source ruled out a mass invasion of southern Lebanon, saying the army would step up pinpoint cross-border attacks against Hezbollah guerrillas. Fearing a large-scale Israeli ground attack, thousands of Lebanese civilians fled north after the Jewish state warned them to leave border villages.
Thousands of Lebanese civilians fled north on Friday after Israel warned them to leave border villages and called up 3Â 000 army reserves in a possible prelude to a ground offensive. Amid world concern, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to leave for the Middle East on Sunday in what diplomats called a bid to reduce the fighting.
A barrage of Hezbollah rockets fired from Lebanon slammed into the northern Israeli city of Haifa on Friday, wounding at least 19 people, medics said. Rockets also hit several other northern towns. One missile hit an apartment building in Haifa. Sirens sounded shortly before the rockets struck.
A tiny United States marine force landed in Lebanon on Thursday to evacuate Americans stranded by a nine-day old Israeli bombardment, which has killed more than 300 people but failed to stop Hezbollah rocket strikes on Israel. It was the US military's first return to Lebanon since it withdrew in 1984, months after a Shi'ite Muslim suicide bomber destroyed a marine barracks, killing 241 US service personnel.
The United States and other nations were plucking their citizens from Lebanon on Wednesday, as thousands fled Israeli air raids any way they could. ''It's very bad, very sad, I can't believe what's happening,'' said a tearful Lubna Jaber, an Australian who had come to visit relatives in Lebanon.