Israel accepted a cease-fire agreement yesterday but fighting with Hezbollah remained fierce until minutes before the truce went into effect this morning, all the papers report in their lead stories.
Hezbollah's leader vowed to continue attacking Israeli forces as long as they were present in Lebanon. And Israel said it would not pull out until the Lebanese armed forces and an international force were ready to take control, which could be weeks away. Nevertheless, heavy fighting seemed to stop after the cease-fire took effect at 1 a.m. ET, according to early morning reports in Haaretz, which fearlessly uses one of the hoariest of war-reporting clichés, "a tense calm," to describe the situation there.
The lead stories in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and USA Today all focus on the situation on the ground. Hezbollah used the last day before the cease-fire to send more than 220 rockets into Israel, as well as trying a truck bomb and two attack drones, Israelis said. Israel continued airstrikes and artillery attacks across Lebanon, but as the hour of the cease-fire arrived, fired a different sort of ordnance into Beirut, the NYT reports: "In Lebanon, as the clock struck 8, the streets of Beirut were littered with a new leaflet dropped by Israeli warplanes saying that Hezbollah had brought the people of Lebanon 'to the edge of the abyss' and brought only 'destruction, displacement and death.' The leaflet warned that the Israelis could return 'with all necessary might.' "
The Washington Post's lead focuses more on the Israeli Cabinet's acceptance of the U.N.-brokered cease-fire agreement. Details of one of the key elements, the deployment of a 15,000-strong international force, remained murky, including the issue of what country would lead it and when it could arrive. The LAT seems alone in noticing an obvious potential snag: "Observers fear that ongoing clashes could push back the arrival of the multinational force, which would then fuel a cycle of more violence and further delays. Optimistically, the international mediators should arrive in seven to 10 days; countries potentially contributing to the force include France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia."
Investors, at least, apparently were optimistic about the cease-fire: The Tel Aviv stock index climbed 3 percent Sunday.
The Wall Street Journal, WP and NYT all run analyses coming to the same conclusion: Hezbollah has come out the winner in the conflict up to now, its success forcing the U.S. and Israel to scale back their goals of military destruction of the group that the Post headline calls "THE BEST GUERRILLA FORCE IN THE WORLD."
Photos of Fidel Castro were published for the first time since his surgery last month. The maximum leader turned 80yesterday, and Hugo Chavez flew in from Venezuela to bring a birthday cake and a gift of a coffee cup that once belonged to Simon Bolivar. Chavez was greeted at the Havana airport by Fidel's brother Raul, who also has been barely seen since he took over interim leadership of the country. The NYT runs a front-page analysis examining what it says is a surprising lack of disorder in Cuba since Raul took over and the Journal notes a new U.S. policy that loosens rules on immigration from Cuba.
The Christian Science Monitor kicks off an 11-part series by Jill Carroll detailing her kidnapping by insurgents in Baghdad.
Taking your laptop out of its case may not be enough for airport security some day soon—the Journal reports on the front page that federal regulators are looking at the risk to airplanes posed by spontaneously combusting computer batteries. The feds have documented "339 cases of lithium and lithium-ion batteries for portable electronics overheating, emitting smoke and fumes or exploding since 2003."
Also in the papers … The LAT profiles a Symbionese Liberation Army veteran in California prison. The WSJ looks at the fallout from a Yemeni judge's ruling that there is nothing illegal about that country's youths traveling to Iraq to fight U.S. troops. The White House denied a report in The New Yorker that the U.S. was closely involved in helping Israel planning attacks against Hezbollah. More than 50 Iraqis were killed in a series of bomb blasts in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad, and U.S. and Iraqi security forces raided the Iraqi Ministry of Health looking for people who had been kidnapped. New Orleans is seeing a post-Katrina baby boom, the LAT reports. Great Britain's aviation authorities have relaxed newly strict rules against carry-on luggage, though liquids are still forbidden. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said no U.S.-based terrorists were involved in plotting the foiled transatlantic airplane bombings, and the NYT fronts word that British and Pakistani investigators are looking at links between the would-be bombers and a prominent Pakistani charity/U.S.-designated terrorist group.
Say it Ain't So, Tiger: The NYT sports section looks at the looming threat of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs tainting …. golf?