After a stormy debate, Israel last night finally approved a ceasefire, agreeing to silence the army's guns even as a last-minute push by the military attempted to deliver a devastating blow to Hezbollah guerrillas.
The fighting between Hezbollah and Israel was scheduled to end at 5am this morning, after a unanimous vote by the Cabinet.
Their decision came one day after the Lebanese government approved the agreement, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave his grudging consent.
Despite the major breakthrough, the potential for new flare-ups last night remained high and questions as to the truce's durability were already arising.
The Lebanese cabinet cancelled a critical meeting that was supposed to discuss the deployment of 15,000 troops to southern Lebanon, a key part of the cease-fire deal.
And published reports said the cabinet had been sharply divided over demands that Hezbollah surrender its weapons in the area. That disagreement was believed to have led to the meeting's postponement.
A heated debate also erupted during Israel's cabinet session, with minister Ofir Pines-Paz criticising the government's decision to order an expanded ground offensive in the days before the ceasefire was to take effect.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the ceasefire agreement would ensure that "Hezbollah won't continue to exist as a state within a state".
"The Lebanese government is our address for every problem or violation of the agreement," Army Radio quoted him as saying.
The Cabinet session came as some 30,000 Israeli troops fought heavy battles with Hezbollah a day after 24 soldiers were killed in the highest Israeli toll of the month-long war.
After the halt in fighting this morning, some 15,000 Lebanese troops and an equal number of UN forces are to deploy in the coming days in south Lebanon and create a Hezbollah-free zone, from the Israel-Lebanon border to Lebanon's Litani River.
The Israeli army "will withdraw as the Lebanese army and the international force deploys," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said.
"The Security Council decision is good for Israel, and if it's implemented, it will lead to a significant change in the rules of the game in Lebanon," Livni said. "I'm not naive. ... I live in the Middle East, and I know that sometimes not every decision is implemented. I'm aware of the difficulties, yet with this I say with full confidence that the Security Council decision is good for Israel."
The Lebanese government approved the ceasefire deal yesterday, and Nasrallah signalled acceptance, but also warned that "the war has not ended."
Yesterday, Hezbollah fired more than 200 rockets at northern Israel, killing an Israeli man in a direct hit on a house, police said. Israel Radio said the total number of Hezbollah rockets to hit Israel since fighting began topped 4,000 last night, though the army said it could not confirm that report.
Israeli jets ranged across the skies above Lebanon from north to south, hitting a Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut with at least 20 missiles in a two-minute period.
The jets also attacked petrol stations in the southern port city of Tyre.
The strikes killed at least 12 people, Lebanese officials said.