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Fighting Heavy Near Hizballah Stronghold --> Lebanese Red Cross workers carrying out rescue operations in Srifa on August 1 (epa) August 2, 2006 -- Israeli airborne commandos battled Hizballah fighters early today around a Hizballah-run hospital near Baalbek in eastern Lebanon.

The Israeli military said its forces had captured several fighters before returning to their base without suffering any losses. Hizballah denied those detained belonged to the group.

Witnesses said Israeli air strikes in Baalbek killed at least 11 people.

AFP reports Israeli warplanes also destroyed two bridges in northern Lebanon, some 5 kilometers from Syria.

Meanwhile, Hizballah today fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel, wounding at least seven. A rocket hit the town of Beit Shean, almost 70 kilometers from the Lebanese border, the deepest a Hizballah-fired rocket has struck into Israel.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said today that Israel will continue its military offensive against Hizballah in southern Lebanon until a strong international force is deployed.

"If indeed, as we hope, the international force will be an effective force made of combat units, then we will be able to stop the fire when the military force -- international force -- will be on [the] ground in the south part of Lebanon," he said.

Olmert said he wants the peacekeepers to have a mandate to enforce a UN resolution calling for the disarmament of Hizballah. He said Israel has already destroyed much of the group's military capability.

Also today, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a Lebanese Army base in southern Lebanon, killing three soldiers.

Hizballah fired rockets at towns across northern Israel, but caused no casualties.

The fresh violence comes with Israel set to resume full air strikes in Lebanon after a partial 48-hour suspension following a raid on Qana. More than 50 people died in that Israeli attack, most of them children.

Israel's army said it has warned residents north of Lebanon's Litani River to leave the area, suggesting air raids could target areas farther north than most previous strikes.

The United Nations and Red Cross say they've been forced to delay the dispatch of aid to southern Lebanon because of a failure to get security guarantees.

On August 1, the EU called for an immediate halt to hostilities to be followed by a sustainable cease-fire.

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) today said a large oil slick in Lebanon could cause long-term environmental damage.

The slick was caused when Israeli warplanes struck storage tanks at a power plant south of Beirut in mid-July. It already covers one-third of the Lebanese coast.

Lebanon has requested international assistance. But Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, says hostilities make it impossible to begin the cleanup.

(compiled from agency reports)

UN Peacekeepers
UN peacekeepers in Haiti in February 2006 (AFP)

MISSION In cases in which international intervention in regional conflicts is deemed necessary, peacekeeping missions authorized by the UN Security Council provide legitimacy by demonstrating the commitment of the international community to address such crises.

MANDATE UN peacekeeping missions are prepared, managed, and directed by the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The unique mandates of peacekeeping missions falls under the authority of the UN's Security Council and General Assembly, and under the command of the UN secretary-general.

MONEY Funding for UN peacekeeping missions is provided by UN member states. All are legally obliged to pay a share under an established formula. The leading financial providers as of 2006 were: the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Spain, China, and the Netherlands.

MORE All UN peacekeeping missions share the goals of alleviating human suffering and creating conditions for self-sustaining peace. Missions can consist of armed or unarmed military components, depending on their mandate, and various civilian tasks.

Military operations can include:
· Deploying to prevent the outbreak of conflict or the spillover of conflict across borders;
· Stabilizing conflict situations after a cease-fire in order to create an environment for the parties to reach a lasting peace agreement;
· Assisting in implementing comprehensive peace agreements;
· Leading states or territories through a transition to stable government, based on democratic principles, good governance, and economic development.

HISTORY There have been 60 peacekeeping operations since 1948. Fifteen peacekeeping missions were in operation in mid-2006, employing more than 60,000 troops, 7,000 police, and over 2,500 military observers. Peacekeeping operations in 2006 were supported by uniformed personnel provided by 109 countries.

(source: UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations)


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