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Barak survives no-confidence vote as raids on Lebanon resume
That conflict resumed Monday after a three-day lull as warplanes struck suspected guerrilla hideouts in southern Lebanon, Lebanese security officials said. Israeli warplanes attacked suspected Hezbollah guerrilla positions at the Iqlim al-Toufah hills, which overlook the 16-kilometer-deep (10-mile) zone that Israel has occupied in southern Lebanon since 1985.
The raid was the first on Lebanon since Friday. Black smoke billowed from the area after the afternoon attack, but there was no word on casualties, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Israel offered no immediate comment on the strike, which came shortly before an alliance of Barak's One Israel coalition and the conservative Likud Party turned back the no-confidence motion. The measure was submitted by Arab parties in the Knesset, Israel's parliament.
Despite growing calls for a withdrawal, Barak said Israeli troops would remain in Lebanon until all chances of a peace deal with that country and Syria -- which wields great influence in Lebanon -- were exhausted.
Barak links withdrawal to Syria talks
Barak has come under growing pressure at home to withdraw troops from Lebanon ahead of a self-imposed July deadline.
The prime minister has said he prefers to pull out the troops as part of a peace agreement with Syria -- which Israelis believe would calm the situation on their northern frontier.
"I know that there is a question going around throughout the public: Why don't we do this immediately, tomorrow?" Barak said. But he added, "We cannot just throw our hands up and run away, even if there's pressure."
Increased Israeli casualties in Lebanon have made it difficult for him to resume talks with the Syrians, whom many Israelis blame for the conflict. Syria says its control in Lebanon is more limited.
The U.S.-sponsored talks broke off last month with both sides blaming the other for the lack of progress.
Barak has indicated he may quit the talks unilaterally if it becomes apparent by April or May that he cannot reach an agreement with Syria. Israel will resume talks only if Syria drops demands for up-front Israeli territorial concessions in the Golan Heights, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy said Monday.
Israel has occupied the region since 1967. Levy also warned Syria against trying to put pressure on Israel by encouraging Hezbollah guerrilla attacks on Israeli troops and militia in southern Lebanon.
"No one should think that by activating Hezbollah he can draw blood from us and we will look the other way because of the peace (talks), or accept a condition," he said.
Talks with Palestinians stalled as well
Israel's negotiations with the Palestinians are also bogged down, with both sides missing a Sunday deadline for a framework peace agreement.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his Fatah Revolutionary Council -- a gathering of his 132 top loyalists -- said Sunday the Palestinians are entitled to statehood this year, no later than September.
September marks the deadline for a peace treaty with Israel that would define the terms of Palestinian statehood. Arafat said Monday that a "dangerous and explosive situation" had been "brought about by the blockage in the Israeli-Palestinian talks."
"We are going round in circles a long way from peace," he said at an Islamic conference in Morocco.
Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.
Israel, Palestinians miss accord deadline
National Council for the Golan
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