Israel: new war is just around the corner?

Israel says it has made some gains - the Lebanese army, backed by international troops, is to take control of south Lebanon.

But as the guns fall silent, an ominous question lingers over the Jewish state: Is another war with Hezbollah or even its sponsor Iran just around the corner?

A cease-fire that took effect Monday seeks to end the 34-day conflict in which the mightiest army in the Middle East was fought to a virtual draw by a small band of Shiite guerrillas.

Developments on the ground will determine the war's ultimate winners and losers _ whether Hezbollah will be pushed back from Israel's border and eventually disarmed, whether Israel will be able to prevent Iran and Syria from funneling weapons to Lebanese guerrillas, whether Islamic radicals everywhere will be propped up by Hezbollah's successes, the AP reports.

For now, neither side can truly declare victory. Hezbollah's ability to withstand more than a month of Israel's punishing assaults while firing an uninterrupted stream of more than 4,000 rockets has given its fighters heroic status on Arab and Muslim streets.

But having joined the Lebanese government, the guerrillas are likely to pay a steep political price for provoking Israel's wrath. On July 12, they captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three others in a daring cross-border raid, sparking a war that killed more than 790 Lebanese and left much of that country in shambles.

And even if Israel achieves its goal of pushing Hezbollah away from its border, it, too, has suffered great losses, with 155 dead and hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee their homes or seek refuge in bomb shelters.

Israel failed to achieve its original goal of destroying Hezbollah or the group's fearsome array of Iranian- and Syrian-provided rockets.

Israeli critics are warning that Israel's deterrence may have suffered a life-threatening blow, giving archenemy Iran an opening to pursue its stated goal of destroying Israel.

If Israel can't deal effectively with Hezbollah now, some Israelis ask, what's going to happen down the road when Iran sends even more lethal weapons? For many, the future looks scary.

Hezbollah's rocket barrage, threatening the entire northern third of Israel, shattered taboos and seemed to signal that the Jewish state's survival is no longer a given.

In a speech Monday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the cease-fire deal had eliminated Hezbollah's "state within a state" in Lebanon, and restored the Lebanese government's sovereignty in the south.

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