(AP) - Mideast diplomats were pressing Syria to stop backing Hezbollah as the guerrillas fired more deadly rockets onto Israel's third-largest city Sunday. Israel faced tougher-than-expected ground battles and bombarded targets in southern Lebanon, hitting a convoy of refugees.
Israel's defense minister said his country would accept an international force, preferably NATO, on its border after it drives back or weakens Hezbollah. But his troops described the militants they encountered as a smart, well-organized and ruthless guerrilla force whose fighters do not seem afraid to die, reports Trend.
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview published Monday an Israeli ground invasion would not prevent the Shiite militant group from firing rockets into Israel. But he said he was open to discussing initiatives.
With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arriving in Israel on Monday, both the Arabs and Israelis appeared to be trying to set out positions ahead of Washington's first diplomatic mission to the region since the fighting began. Rice said Sunday the United States' poor relationship with Syria is overstated and indicated an openness to working with Damascus to resolve the crisis.
The United States backs Israel's refusal to talk about a cease-fire until it completes the military campaign against Hezbollah, but is under increasing pressure to foster a plan to end the growing suffering and destruction in Lebanon.
Still, daily casualty figures appeared to be falling about nine confirmed Sunday by Lebanese security officials, compared with dozens each day earlier in the week. The decrease could be a result of the exodus from the hardest-hit areas or because of the difficulty in getting figures from the war zone.