The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox, and New York Timesall lead with Israel's Cabinet authorizing a much larger ground offensive while 15 Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting—the worst day's loss for Israel so far. Prime Minister Olmert is reportedly holding off on actually starting the offensive, the idea being to give France and the U.S. a couple of more days to try to hash out a peace plan.
USA Today, in a smart lead, details a key, little-noted objective of the U.S.'s latest security plan for Baghdad: taking down Shiite death squads, which the U.S.'s top commander in Iraq acknowledged are responsible for most of the recent killings there. The "chief focus" of the new sweep is populist cleric Muqtada Sadr's militia—meaning another battle between Sadr and the U.S. is a distinct possibility. A NYT reporter spent a few days with some of the newly bolstered Iraqi troops in Baghdad and concluded in a front-page piece that they still have just a few problems including, "weak discipline, divided loyalties, failure to complete tasks, the tendency to fire wildly in every direction at the first sign of danger."
The LAT fronts and USAT reefers late-breaking word from Britain that the police have arrested suspects in what they say is or was a close-to-happening plot to blow up airliners bound for the U.S. Britain raised its terror-threat level to "critical"—meaning there is fear of an "imminent" attack—and said no handbags will be allowed onboard flights.
Early this morning the U.S. Homeland Security Department said it's raising its threat level for flights from overseas to orange and to red for flights from the U.K. Lotions and other liquids are now no-nos on flights. According to CNN, Secretary Chertoff suggested in a statement that the government just isn't sure if the plot has been fully foiled.
The Israeli Cabinet's decision to authorize a push all the way to the Litani—15 miles north of the border—was made in a six-hour meeting that included occasional "shouting matches," with Cabinet members arguing for a more modest offensive.
Everybody quotes White House spokesman Tony Snow seeming to warn Israel against expanding the offensive. "We do not want escalations," he said. But Olmert spoke to Secretary of State Rice yesterday, and the Post says, "Rice did not ask Olmert to hold back on the ground assault."
Nine Israeli soldiers were killed when an anti-tank missile hit the house they were in. Israel said it killed 40 Hezbollah fighters, while Israeli TV said members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard were among those killed. Haaretz's military analyst points out that the location of the casualties shows Israel "does not yet control the narrow strip along the border." About 170 rockets landed inside Israel; there were no casualties. About a dozen Lebanese civilians were reported killed in airstrikes.
The NYT, LAT, and WP all have dispatches from the bank of the Litani, where the reporters watched a few wounded Hezbollah fighters cross the river—aided by Lebanese Red Cross workers—and saw food from Iran coming back the other way. "There's somebody who will get angry if you take pictures," one aid worker. "No pictures at all." The LAT's piece looks at one of the purported subtexts of the war: control of water.
Aid convoys haven't been able to get into southern Lebanon since Sunday, when Israel bombed one of the last bridges over the Litani. "Basically, the south is cut off," said a U.N. spokesman. "We have had many villages that have completely run out of food, run out of water."
The LAT, NYT, and WP all front follow-up to Sen. Joe Lieberman's fall: Bill Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and other Dem bigwigs lined up in support of Lieberman's opponent, Democratic nominee Ned Lamont.
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