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Israeli troops shoot Hezbollah militants

U.N. works against obstacles to build multinational force


United Nations

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli troops shot two or three Hezbollah militants Monday in southern Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The clash came as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton acknowledged that many countries are wary of participating in an international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon because of the danger.

An IDF representative said troops fired on militants who were advancing toward the Israeli force in the western portion of southern Lebanon. The IDF said it did not know immediately whether those shot were killed.

Since a cease-fire between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah went into effect last week, there has been sporadic violence.

The U.N. resolution that brought about the cease-fire called for Hezbollah's disarmament south of the Litani River and an end to "offensive" actions by the Israeli military.

Israel said it will continue defensive maneuvers.

There's no doubt about "the urgency" of deploying a beefed-up U.N. presence to the region, a step called for in the U.N. resolution, Bolton said.

Efforts to create the force are "a work in progress," Bolton said.

"The United States has been working very vigorously at all levels to help encourage and facilitate that deployment," he told reporters at the United Nations.

Asked why some nations are reluctant, Bolton said, "It's obviously a very dangerous situation. The cease-fire is quite fragile." Nations want to be sure their troops will "have the maximum opportunity to defend themselves," he said.

"As long as Hezbollah fighters remain armed," he said, the international peacekeeping force and the Lebanese forces "would be vulnerable."

The U.N. plans to send 13,000 additional troops to the region to dramatically strengthen a 2,000-strong observer mission already in place in southern Lebanon.

U.N. Resolution 1701 calls for the international force to hand over power to Lebanese troops, in an effort to prevent Hezbollah from again seizing control of the region.

France surprised many when it offered only 200 troops for the force -- far fewer than many expected.

The United States does not plan to take part. Many in Lebanon view the United States as a proxy for Israel, and would not want U.S. participation in the force.

Israel has rejected the participation of three nations that have offered troops -- Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh. Israel noted that the three do not recognize the existence of Israel.

Bolton said it is "a long-standing custom" that both sides can agree to participants in a peacekeeping force.

The monthlong war between Israel and Lebanon began when Hezbollah fighters crossed into Israel, killed three Israeli troops and kidnapped two. (Watch Beirut residents curse Israel -- 2:58)

Israel releases 5 Lebanese prisoners

Meanwhile, Israel on Monday released five Lebanese men captured during a commando raid in the Bekaa Valley on August 2. Israeli, Lebanese and U.N. officials confirmed the release.

U.N. sources said the five men were handed over to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon at the Naroura border crossing. Lebanese military officials said the men were then handed over to the Lebanese army.

After the August 2 operation, Israel said it had captured five Hezbollah militants at a hospital that was part of a Hezbollah stronghold. But Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in a televised address the next day, said Israel has taken five "hostages" and denied the hospital was a Hezbollah base of operations.

Residents of the area told CNN they believed the five captives were civilians.

Israel said it had intelligence that the hospital was a logistics base for the militant group and may have been sheltering a senior leader. Israel said it found weapons at the scene and other evidence that Hezbollah used the site as a stronghold.

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