Ten people were killed on Sunday in the deadliest rocket attack on Israel since it launched its war on Hezbollah 26 days ago, with no sign of a let-up in violence despite UN efforts to broker a ceasefire.
Israeli combat jets also struck villages across south Lebanon, killing at least eight civilians, while three Chinese UN peacekeepers were wounded in cross-fire between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas.
The tit-for-tat attacks continued after the UN Security Council in New York began debating a draft resolution to bring a halt to the war, although it was swiftly rejected by Lebanon which is demanding modifications.
The civilian death toll from Hezbollah rocket fire rose to 43 after a missile hit a building in the town of Kfar Giladi near the Lebanese border.
"There are 10 killed and 20 wounded of whom one person is in a desperate state," said Eli Bin, the director general of the Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross.
The Arab news channel Al-Jazeera said the 10 killed were reserve soldiers stationed in the area. But the Israeli army did not confirm this.
A total of 45 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive launched on July 12 following the capture of two soldiers in a deadly cross-border Hezbollah raid.
Early on Sunday, Israeli jets fired missiles and hit houses in the Lebanese village of Ansar, near the port city of Sidon, and in the coastal town of Naqura just north of the border with Israel. Lebanese police said a total of eight people died.
The air raids came one day after what Lebanese police said was the heaviest bombing against the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia since the war began. Almost 1,000 Lebanese civilians have been killed, more than 3,000 wounded and an estimated 915,000 left homeless since then.
Israel had dropped leaflets over the south on Saturday, warning it would bombard Hezbollah positions, especially in Sidon, which has been swelled by an influx of Lebanese trying to flee the conflict.
The UN Security Council on Saturday debated a Franco-US draft resolution demanding a 'full cessation of hostilities'.
But Lebanon swiftly rejected the draft and has proposed an amended text, including an explicit demand for a full Israeli pullout.
The current resolution "will not resolve the crisis neither for the good of Lebanon nor for Israel. Israel will not have a guarantee of secure frontiers and Lebanon will not recover all its occupied territory," a government source said.
The White House also voiced caution about prospects for an immediate halt to the conflict after Washington and Paris managed to iron out strong differences over the Middle East and present a sweeping outline for peace.
But the resolution still marks the first joint diplomatic effort to end the fighting that continued to rage on Saturday with an Israeli onslaught that police said included 250 air raids on a large swathe of Lebanese territory.
The UN draft seeks an international force to police a buffer zone in southern Lebanon once agreement on a long term political settlement is reached. The UN mandate for that mission would be present in a separate resolution.
The draft "calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations."
More meetings on the text were to be held on Sunday but France's ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said there could be a full Security Council vote on Monday or Tuesday.
"People are generally pleased with the draft and prepared to move as expeditiously as possible," the US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said.
Both France and the United States sides appear to have made concessions in drawing up the resolution.
France had sought an "immediate cessation of hostilities" but that was not in the draft. And the text makes no explicit demand for the release of the two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah that the United States reportedly pressed for.
But it does stress the need to carry out UN resolution 1559 that calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah and other armed groups in Lebanon.
"When the Israeli aggression ceases, very simply, we will stop (fighting) on condition that no Israeli soldier remains inside Lebanese land," said Mohammed Fneish, one of the two Hezbollah ministers in the Lebanese government.
But Israeli Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said "the army will continue to act" until the resolution entered into force.
And Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres warned it would take weeks not days for the resolution to take effect on the ground.
On Saturday, Israel bombarded Lebanon with around 250 air raids and some 4,000 shells in a space of just a few hours, according to police, killing two people and wounding at least 37.
Israeli commandos also reported killing four senior Hezbollah missile operators in a raid on an apartment block in the Lebanese port of Tyre.
Rear Admiral Noam Feig told a news conference the Israelis shot dead five other Hezbollah fighters as they fought their way back to their base after the two-hour raid.
Lebanese police also said Israeli artillery was systematically levelling 15 villages within five kilometres (three miles) of the border after the Jewish state vowed to create a security zone free of Hezbollah fighters in the area.
Damascus accused Israel in a letter to the United Nations of having 'intentionally' bombed the Lebanese village of Qaa near the Syrian border where 28 people, mostly Syrians, were killed.
The men had been shifting boxes of fruit and vegetables at a warehouse in the Christian village of Qaa, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the ancient eastern city of Baalbek, when the Israelis struck on Friday.
The toll equalled what had been the deadliest raid by the Jewish state which also killed 28 people, including 16 children, in the southern Lebanese village of Qana on July 30.