The IDF General Staff postponed the expansion of ground operations in south Lebanon
late Wednesday night, after the security cabinet earlier in the day approved a plan for a widened offensive that would take the army to the Litani River, over 20 kilometers from the border, and beyond, in an effort to prevent the incessant Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel.
The troops were already rolling late Wednesday when they were ordered to halt. It appears heavy US pressure delayed the offensive to allow diplomacy to run its course. A senior minister said Wednesday that Israel might delay the expansion for 2-3 days for that purpose.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is ready to wait with the offensive until the weekend, said a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the issue with reporters. The offensive could begin earlier if Hizbullah launches a major attack on Israel, the official said.
Cabinet minister Rafi Eitan confirmed the govenment's decision to wait. "There are diplomatic considerations," he told Israel Radio. "There is still a chance that an international force will arrive in he area. We have no interest in being in south Lebanon. We have an interest in peace on our borders."
"We want an end to violence and we do not want escalations," White House press secretary Tony Snow said Wednesday hours after the Israeli Cabinet approved an expansion of the ground offensive in southern Lebanon.