This post is compiled from news reports and information from personal contacts. Parts II and III of my pieces about Israel and Lebanon will appear later this week.
On Tuesday, a defiant Israeli prime minister vowed to continue incursions into Lebanon and attacks on suspected Hezbollah outposts. While acknowledging he was "very conscious" of humanitarian needs of Lebanese civilians, Ehud Olmert said Israel would continue to "defend itself against terrorism."
Overnight, a family of seven Lebanese civilians were the latest casualties from Israeli bombs intended for Hezbollah. As of 4 p.m. GMT, nearly 400 Lebanese - the majority of them civilians - have died in the conflict, while 1,596 more have been injured. About 35 Israelis have died, either civilians falling victim to Hezbollah rockets or soldiers directly involved in the conflict.
As Hezbollah continued to fire rockets into Israeli territory, Condoleeza Rice, the American secretary of state, met Olmert in Jerusalem. She said conditions must be established before a ceasefire can take place. Those conditions reportedly include the release of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah and the withdrawal of Hezbollah forces from the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Further, Western countries are expected to seek a new Security Council resolution, calling for implementation of Resolution 1559, adopted in September 2004. That resolution called for disbanding Hezbollah as a militia, with Lebanese government control to be extended to the border with Israel.
Rice talked in vague terms about "a new Middle East" and appeared to greenlight continuing Israeli actions in Lebanon. Rice's attempts at diplomacy during visits to Beirut, Ramallah and Jerusalem have been dismissed as "disappointing" by several leaders in the region.
French Foreign Minister Phillipe Douste-Blazy told reporters he is convinced "a ceasefire is possible." "In Jerusalem as in Beirut, my message is the same: reaching as rapidly as possible a ceasefire which meets Israel's legitimate aspiration for security and which ensures the survival of the Lebanese state, because the survival of the Lebanese state is in Israel's interest," Douste-Blazy said.
The Saudi foreign minister has also requested a ceasefire. Prince Saud Al Feisal said cessation of hostilities would allow Lebanon to establish its sovereignty "over the whole of its territory." "That is the important thing," he noted.
In a visit Monday to Beirut, UN humanitarian aid chief Jan Egeland accused Israel of using excessive force in seemingly indiscriminate bombing of Beirut and south Lebanon. The UN has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe. In the last two weeks, more than 750,000 Lebanese civilians have been displaced by Israeli aggression aimed at Hezbollah. Egeland said Hezbollah has compounded the danger by "cowardly blending in among women and children," in effect making them vulnerable targets.
The UN has launched a $150m aid appeal for Lebanon, to help provide food and shelter for 800,000 Lebanese civilians already victims of the conflict. The United States has agreed to contribute a $30m aid package, as well as ships and helicopters to provide that aid. The European Union has pledged $12.6m in aid, while the United Kingdom has offered £5m. Egeland has asked the Israelis for safe passage for aid ships to enter Lebanese ports at Tripoli and Tyre.
On Tuesday, Egeland visited Gaza to assess damage created by Israel's month-long military offensive. Egeland expressed shock at the "disproportionate use of force" Israel has shown in the "targeting of civilian infrastructure," including Gaza's power plant. While Israel claims its objective is to gain release of a captured soldier and stop militants from firing rockets, Egeland told reporters the power plant's destruction affected schools and hospitals more than militants. "This is very clear, a disproportionate use [of power]," Mr Egeland told reporters. "Civilian infrastructure is protected. The law is very clear. You cannot have any interpretation in any other way."
For weeks various United Nations and aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian disaster in Gaza.
Meanwhile in Britain, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell urged immediate suspension of all arms export licences to Israel, saying Tel Aviv's attacks on Lebanon and Gaza have been disproportionate. British government figures indicate that in 2005 British arms exports to Israel more than doubled. Arms campaigners have also called for an embargo on military exports to Israel, saying they violate guidelines aimed at limiting arms sales to volatile regions.
Campbell told reporters the British government also should ascertain no arms transfers are made from the UK to Syria, Iran or illegal armed groups, such as Hezbollah. British Prime Minister Tony Blair declined comment.