The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today all lead with the acceleration of diplomatic efforts to stop the conflict in Lebanon. There appears to be growing momentum for some sort of international force to stop the violence.
After Israel's defense minister suggested a NATO-led force, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed one of European Union members with combat experience. John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said he's for it, as long as it wouldn't include U.S. troops. Germany and France feel the same way, according to Haaretz, which also reports that Olmert, in a conference call with members of the U.S. Congress, said he was open to Arab countries participating in the force.
The Washington Post leads with a riveting dispatch from a hospital in Tyre, in southern Lebanon (and then tops it with the dry-as-dust headline, "CIVILIAN TOLL MOUNTS IN LEBANON CONFLICT"). The gist: "Israeli forces repeatedly struck cars on southern Lebanon's already perilous roads in attacks that victims said were indiscriminate. Seven people were killed, three of them when an Israeli helicopter fired a missile at a white minibus carrying 19 people fleeing the village of Tairi, which Israeli forces had ordered residents to evacuate."
The hospital's director said: "This is the worst day we've seen."
Everyone reports on the attacks on civilian vehicles, but only the NYT appears to have gotten comment from the Israeli army: It says it hit "approximately 20 vehicles suspected of serving the terror organization in the launching of missiles at Israel, and were recognized fleeing from or staying at missile-launching areas."
On the Israeli side of the border, two Haifa residents were killed in a Hezbollah rocket attack.
The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with a wrapup of the day's military developments and fronts a story looking at the economic damage to the Levant so far—extensive in Israel but debilitating in Lebanon—and how it affects both sides. In Israel, some factories have closed, and Haifa is a ghost town, and though public support for the war is high, "analysts say economic fallout could also shape the debate over the course of the war." However, these analysts are not actually quoted in the Journal. In Lebanon, the economy is largely shut down—for example, 80 percent of highways and 95 percent of bridges have been damaged. There are worries that continued fighting and the resulting hardships could lead to another civil war.
Top Saudi diplomats met with President Bush and Condoleezza Rice in Washington ahead of Rice's visit to Israel today, the NYT and WP report inside. The Saudis pressed the Americans to push for a cease-fire, something that the U.S. administration reiterated several times Sunday it was not going to do.
But the Americans do appear to be incorporating the word "cease-fire" into their talking points: "The purpose of an international force has to be to maintain a sustainable cease-fire," White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten said on NBC.
Israel has not recently been very enamored of foreign forces resolving its conflicts, but that's changing, according to a NYT front-page analysis. It quotes one center-right Israeli analyst: "In a way, we're playing an old Palestine Liberation Organization game ... to precipitate regional instability and then try to bring in international intervention. We fought against it in the past, but Israel now realizes it can't do things alone. And Israel feels here it has a friend in America and some greater understanding in Europe."
Pakistan is vastly expanding its nuclear weapons program, according to an above-the-fold report in the Post. The country is building a new plutonium reactor that could expand its bomb-making capacity 20-fold, according to experts who analyzed satellite photos of the construction. (Their report was posted on the Web this morning.)
The Post also fronts another excerpt from military reporter Thomas E. Ricks' new book on Iraq. The story focuses on several cases of abuse by the US Army's 4th Infantry Division, which internal Army reports have said hurt the U.S. cause in Iraq. The division's then-commander is nevertheless a rising star in the military.
The LA Times has a dispatch from Somalia, where Ethiopian troops have invaded to prop up a powerless secular government against the Islamists who took Mogadishu last month. Somalis are not happy about it, and the leader of the Islamists is calling for holy war.
The Post reefers a series of articles looking at the midterm Congressional elections and what it believes will be the crucial issues determining who comes out ahead. They include Bush's poor ratings, the effect of Washington corruption scandals, whether Democrats can compete in the South or Republicans in the Northeast, and issues like immigration and Iraq.
The NYT fronts changes in the way the Department of Homeland Security will conduct disaster relief, with the aim of reducing fraud and improving evacuation plans.
The American Bar Association says Bush's extensive use of "signing statements," indicating that he will choose to ignore certain parts of bills he signs into law, is a "threat to the Constitution and to the rule of law."