BEIRUT, July 28 (AFP): Israel was poised Friday to intensify its deadly offensive against Lebanon, calling up thousands more reservists after claiming it had won the green light from the world to crush Hezbollah.
"We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world ... to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah won't be located in Lebanon and until it is disarmed," Ramon told Israel's Army Radio.
However, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said Israel had misread the outcome.
"I would say just the opposite - yesterday in Rome it was clear that everyone present wanted to see an end to the fighting as swiftly as possible," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
The Israeli Cabinet authorised the army to call up 30,000 reserve soldiers in case the fighting intensified.
Israel and the United States were settling in for a much longer battle than had initially been expected, one that could grow far bloodier if Israel decides its air attacks and small-scale invasion into Lebanon are not working and sends in thousands of more ground forces.
In Damascus, Syrian and Iranian officials gathered to hold meetings on the crisis, according to Iranian and Kuwaiti news reports. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah was also to take part in the meeting as well as Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to Kuwait's Al-Siyassah newspaper, known for its opposition to the Syrian regime.
The newspaper said the meeting was designed to discuss ways to maintain supplies to Hezbollah fighters with "Iranian arms flowing through Syrian territories."
At least 11 people were killed in Lebanon as warplanes bombarded Hezbollah strongholds in the south and east, bringing the death toll to 420 people in Lebanon alone as the conflict entered its 16th day.
But the bloodshed continued in Lebanon, where at least 11 people, including a Nigerian domestic worker and a gendarme, were killed. Israel said its aircraft carried out over 120 strikes against Hezbollah targets across Lebanon, including rocket launchers, command centres and ammunition depots.
Dozens more civilians, including a large number of children, are still buried underneath the rubble of houses destroyed in air strikes around Tyre, according to rescue workers.
Israeli jets fired missiles at a three-story building near the southern market town of Nabatiyeh at 8:30 a.m. Hussam Abu Shamet, a Jordanian in a nearby house, was killed by missile shrapnel, they added. Four children of Lebanese journalist Ali Dawoud, who also lives in a nearby building, were wounded by flying glass and taken to hospital, the officials said.
Earlier Friday, Israeli jets destroyed a deserted four-story building near Nabatiyeh, the officials said. Israeli jets also staged four bombing runs early Friday damaging roads in southeastern Lebanon, the officials said. No casualties were reported.
A Palestinian teenager and a militant were killed in eastern Gaza early Friday as Israeli troops withdrew from the east of the coastal strip, hospital officials said.
Anass Zomnutt, 13, died of bullet wounds at the Jabaliya refugee camp northeast of Gaza City, as the Israeli troops were withdrawing. A body of a Hamas militant was found in the camp after the troops withdrew.
Israeli airstrikes on southern Lebanon Thursday struck roads and houses, many believed to be the deserted homes of Hezbollah activists, in the apple-growing region of Iqlim al-Tuffah. The strikes caused casualties, but fighting kept ambulances and civil defence crews from the areas, security officials and witnesses said.
The fierce ground battles that raged Wednesday through the border villages of Bint Jbail and Maroun al-Ras appeared to have abated, with U.N. observers reporting only "sporadic fighting" there.
Overnight Thursday Israel continued its assault with dozens of air raids in the Bekaa Valley, east of the capital. Police in the Kilya-Dalafa region said there had been no casualties.
Thousands of civilians are believed trapped in the border villages, according to humanitarian officials.