AP - Israel agreed to a 48-hour suspension of aerial activity over southern Lebanon after its bombing of a Lebanese village on Sunday that killed a number of children.
Israel agreed to a 48-hour suspension of aerial activity over southern Lebanon after its bombing of a Lebanese village on Sunday that killed a number of children, the U.S. State Department said.
The attack marred Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's mission to halt the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.
The suspension of over-flights was announced by State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. He said Israel has reserved the right to attack targets if it learns that attacks are being prepared against them.
"The United States welcomes this decision and hopes that it will help relieve the suffering of the children and families of southern Lebanon," Ereli told reporters traveling with Rice.
In Jerusalem, the Israeli army spokesman's office said it knew nothing of an agreement to halt airstrikes in Lebanon for 48 hours. Government officials were not immediately available for comment.
A State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the evolving situation, said Rice had been working on such an agreement for some time before the attack on Qana, Lebanon. The airstrike early Sunday killed more than 50 people, including many children.
Ereli said that Israel will coordinate with the United Nations to allow a 24-hour period of safe passage for all residents of south Lebanon who want to leave the region.
"We expect that Israel will implement these decisions so as to significantly speed and improve the flow of humanitarian aid," he added.
The official said the 24 hours of safe passage could be renewed.
It was not immediately clear how much Israeli military activity the suspension would end. The official said only that the agreement covered aircraft, which would not rule out the use of ground troops or ground-based weapons systems.
The official said the Israeli government agreed to the suspension and that it was to take effect immediately.
"The decision was taken in light of the steadily deteriorating humanitarian situation in the area," the official said.