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No end in sight - its ground assaults. Israel intensifying to the streets in protest. As thousands take please help Lebanon. Please help Lebanon -

to steal millions in gold bullion. The Sydney scam on fire in Liverpool. And Tiger Woods - with ABC News. Deborah Rice Good evening.

has announced The US Secretary of State she's heading to the Middle East to the escalating conflict to lobby for an end militants in Lebanon. between Israel and the Hezbollah at least 345 people dead Strike and counter-strike have left displaced in Lebanon and half a million on Israel's side of the border. and 34 people dead International calls for restraint haven't stopped Israel on the Lebanon border from massing troops a large scale ground offensive. in apparent preparation for that our coverage begins And it's from there with the ABC's Jane Hutcheon.

fought by Israel on Lebanese soil. For a third day a battle raged, the Israeli village Hezbollah rockets struck of Avivim. In return, targets in the Lebanese town Israel fired on Hezbollah of Maroun al-Ras. it's going to be a long effort. We very much know that

a matter of days. It's not going to be turn to enter Lebanon, As these men wait for their they know that securing the border of seven soldiers. has already taken the lives to be a strategic strike This was supposed of commandos crossing the border. by small groups and cost more lives Instead, it's lasted longer than Israel expected. there's evidence of preparations But along quiet roads for a ground offensive.

in about 3,000 reservists. And the army plans to call its offensive as self-defence. The military describes This, as the city of Haifa again came under attack. busy residential areas, The latest rockets struck causing injury but not death. remnants of a missile Emergency services extracted

a post office. which partially destroyed

for 12% of Israelis - While below ground, the new reality home is now a bomb shelter. northern Israel. Jane Hutcheon, ABC News, in southern Lebanon - Across the border have sparked further evacuations fears of an Israeli invasion of towns and villages. pounding Hezbollah positions Israeli planes have been In a double air assault -

civilians to vacate any areas and dropping leaflets warning Hezbollah guerrillas. that might be sheltering correspondent Matt Brown reports. From inside Lebanon, Middle East 10 days of destruction. Southern Lebanon has already seen south of the border, With news of an Israeli build-up it will only get worse. there's every reason to believe of Beirut's southern suburbs Air strikes reduced more

to rubble. more attacks in and around Tyre. Further south, there have been Bodies from the countryside to the city's main hospital. are being brought Staff can barely cope with their gruesome workload. and remove dead bodies "We still have to go back says doctor Adib Waizani. under destroyed homes," vehicles on the roads. "And take them from destroyed "That's what we have to do, dead bodies back to the fridge." "we have to bring all these are put in temporary graves. many more dead bodies With the morgue overflowing,

tell residents to head north. Israeli leaflets In this village near Tyre,

Some say they'll defy the warning. "This is just bluffing," says this man. "Our resistance is determined, to psychological warfare." "and we won't surrender have heeded the Israeli warnings, But tens of thousands of people and are heading north. They fly white flags, hoping to convince Israeli aerial surveillance that they're not a Hezbollah target. have arrived from the south. In Tyre, tens of thousands of people aid convoy to reach the area. This is the first Red Cross are trying to provide "The residents here "whatever meagre support they can give,"

Abdul Mohsen Husseini, says Tyre mayor "But that's not enough. the Red Cross has brought, "We're grateful for what "but we need more." its blockade of the country Israel has said it will ease to allow humanitarian access, a difficult and dangerous task but aid agencies still face as the crisis worsens. forced from their homes in Lebanon More than 650,000 have already been

Israel bombed 150 targets. and in the past 24 hours alone,

Matt Brown, ABC News, Beirut. for the Middle East Condoleezza Rice will leave within the next 48 hours. any prospect of a quick end But she's already playing down to the hostilities. will hold talks The US Secretary of State and Lebanese leaders, with Israeli, Palestinian in hopes of negotiating a lasting peace. from Washington, But as Michael Rowland reports is an immediate cease-fire. the one thing she won't be seeking

for nearly a week, She's been talking about it is finally embarking and now America's top diplomat on her Middle East peace mission. to work with our partners The goal of my trip is to help create conditions sustainable end to the violence. that can lead to a lasting and

Dr Rice will discuss the crisis political leaders, with Israeli and Palestinian

on the plane, but even before getting she's lowering expectations. no answers that are easy, I know that there are nor are there any quick fixes. work for peace will be difficult. I fully expect that the diplomatic

One of the quick fixes the US is keen to avoid is an immediate cease-fire. a sudden end to the fighting The Bush Administration maintains will simply embolden Hezbollah. a false promise A cease-fire would be to the status quo if it simply returns us allowing terrorists to launch attacks at the time and terms of their choosing. While in the region, Dr Rice has no plans to engage with either the Syria, or Iran, the two key backers of Hezbollah. But Israel says the two regional powers should be held to account. The international community must also vigorously address

the sponsors of terrorism - Syria and Iran. The members of that exclusive club, that axis of terror. In another day of robust exchanges at the UN Security Council. Lebanon demanded that Israel should be the country facing international condemnation. TRANSLATION: The whole world has witnessed how the Israeli military machine has turned Lebanon into ruins.

The US peace initiative is facing some very big hurdles. Michael Rowland, ABC News, Washington. The Australian evacuation from Lebanon is in full swing, though fewer people are leaving than the Government expected. Three ships due out of Beirut tonight -

are likely to depart half-full. For some who've already reached Cyprus, it's been a traumatic journey.

This is the first boat organised by the Australian Government to arrive in the Turkish port of Mersin. Many of the evacuees on board had spent days in the fierce summer sun, waiting for a passage out of Beirut.

The long, hot voyage over choppy seas was too much for some. The boat had to stop halfway and bring doctors on board to treat people suffering from dehydration and motion sickness. When we saw them here they had recovered a little

but it was a tough, tough boat ride for them. But in Turkey, they received a warm welcome and despite spending more than a week traumatised by war, some, at least, they were happy with their treatment. You couldn't get any quicker than that.

Just one week and everybody was going out.

There was relief, too, in Cyprus as another boatload of Australians arrived after a much shorter, though still stressful journey. We felt really like

it's not the way we'd like to leave the country, but at least we're safe here. The Australians are joining thousands of other people who have crowded the transport facilities of this small nation. Delays and cancelled flights have left many people, like these Swedes, stranded at the airport.

Yesterday, almost 800 people were taken out of Lebanon on Australian-chartered ships. Similar numbers have gathered at the port today. The ships will most likely be leaving half-full. The Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said

many Australians in Lebanon might not be able to get to the port because they're trapped in the war zone. And we're still working on trying to find ways of getting those out of the south who wish to get out of the south.

Mr Downer says the Government will provide charter flights to bring Australian residents home from Turkey and Cyprus. Those without travel insurance will not have to pay for the flight.

Jonathan Flynn, ABC News.

Thousands of Lebanese Australians gave vent to their anger today condemning Israel, and calling on the Australian Government to help restore peace in the Middle East. The Prime Minister expressed sympathy for their anguish, but laid the blame squarely on Hezbollah. They marched in their thousands, with a plea to governments everywhere. All my family gone. Please help Lebanon. Please help Lebanon.

Please stop the war. This is not right (Chant) Go down Israel, go down Israel. With so many in the crowd having relatives in Lebanon, this is conflict is personal. Carrying graphic banners and flags,

an estimated 15,000 demonstrators descended on Sydney's Town Hall. These are fellow human beings. They are like you and me - we must save them. There is no reason for this brutality. Israel's bombing campaign is wrong - it must stop. (All chant) No more war. No more war. The cry was echoed around Australia with similar protests in most capital. Already 337 civilians killed,

exclusing the civilians still under rubble in their destroyed homes. This is a massacre. This is what we think it is. Israel has gone too far. Where is the humanity? How do you allow somebody like Israel to sit there and bombard civilians?

Time and time again organisers have encouraged the crowd to keep this protest peaceful - with extra police on hand to ensure that happened. Hundreds of police were assigned to keep order.

They praised the crowd's restraint. Ask the Government to help our countrymen and disarm Israel. But the Prime Minister expressed sympathy for the Lebanese community. It has to be said that the current outbreak of hostilities has been the direct result of the provocative action of Hezbollah

which is a terrorist organization - But for many Lebanese Australians, it's not about who started the war - it's about who will end it. Liv Casben, ABC News, Sudney. Turning to other news, and at their State Council today - NSW Liberals were eager to promote their plans for victory in the next year's State election.

But most members were much less eager to talk about accusations of intimidation and dirty tricks - allegedly part of the factional battle for control of the party. For the NSW Liberal Party, the attractions don't come any bigger than this. And the message from Prime Minister John Howard was pretty popular too. Gee, we need a change of government in this State. Even the Prime Minister knows, though, winning back government after 12 years in the State's Opposition wilderness won't be easy. We face an enormous challenge. The swing needed is gigantic,

the number of seats required to be taken from Labor is a very significant number indeed. Despite the challenges, NSW Opposition leader Peter Debnam predicts he'll win next year's election. But not far beneath the surface here about allegations of factional infighting that threaten to divide this party.

This week on the ABC's 'Four Corners' program several NSW Liberals charged that intimidation and rough tactics were used by the party's right faction to seize control from moderates. The man at the centre of those allegations is upper house MP David Clarke. He wasn't eager to talk about the accusations today. And he wasn't alone. I'm not interested in doing that.

No comment? No, thank you. But Mr Debnam was pressed on his involvement in pre-selection battles - another accusation from the program. One section where I was particularly disturbed - and I'd like to ask you - where a man had said that you had been ringing pre-selectors and what have you. If you're gonna win elections, you've gotta have the best candidates from the beginning. The Opposition Leader has made no apologies

and has tried to ignore the allegations. But today the party's president said an internal investigation is under way. Norman Hermant, ABC News. The two men convicted under Australia's new terrorism laws could have their prison terms increased after the discovery of an oversight by crown prosecutors. The Department of Public Prosecutions has revealed

that under the legislation,

the men must serve at least 75% of the maximum sentence. The Crown has applied to extend Jack Thomas' prison term. He was sentenced to serve only 40% of his five-year term. Criminal lawyers say the law should be reviewed. The ramifications for that are huge for all citizens in the community.

We now all have to look at whether these laws are safe laws.

The sentencing of Faheem Lodhi was abruptly suspended last week because the judge had not been told of the sentencing provision. Details have emerged of one of Australia's largest attempted gold thefts. It was foiled by police and the Perth mint six months ago. The case reads like the script of a Hollywood movie - except that those responsible have yet to be caught. It was an audacious crime by any standards, pretending to own a major Sydney building in order to borrow millions of dollars against it. But it didn't end there, with the would-be thieves then using the cheque to buy gold bullion - and lots of it. This $14 million in gold is approximately about 605 kilos

and it's probably 10 times, well it is 10 times bigger than any other swindle that's been done on the Mint. But the Perth Mint says it had its suspicions before it sent the gold to Sydney

and alerted police. We've been doing this for a long, long time. We have very, very detailed protocols on how we sell bullion and who we sell it to and something about this transaction didn't ring right in our minds. This is the building at the centre of the attempted heist.

It houses the headquarters of the Australian Rugby Union. Its real owners say they had no idea of the scam until they were contacted by the police. The Uniting Church Trust Association was the victim of the fraud as it granted the mortgage on the strength of forged title deeds. It's since reached an out-of-court settlement with the bullion dealer involved and is believed to have got most of its money back. With those responsible still on the run, police are reluctant to give too much away about the investigation but they acknowledge it was a professional operation. This documentation was extremely well done and even with the transportation and things like that along the way, it was just one or two minor things, normally, y'know, the average person would have overlooked it.

If caught and convicted, those responsible face a possible seven to ten years in prison.

Jayne-Maree Sedgman, ABC News, Sydney. He Federal Government has asked Australia's corporate watchdog to start monitoring the price of ethanol-blended fuel. In a bid to crack down on profiteering. The Deputy Prime Minister made the announcement at the Queensland National Party's conference in Brisbane today. Mark Vaile says big fuel companies aren't passing on production subsidies in ethanol blends.

With pressure from the ACCC, motorists could save about four cents a litre. If consumers start voting with their feet and they go and buy their product from distributors that are passing on the saving then other companies will soon get the message. Mr Vaile says with fuel prices soaring - consumers need all the help they can get.

Tonight's top story - villages in southern Lebanon are being evacuated

as Israel intensifies its bombing raids. And still to come - the make or break stages of the Tour de France. World number one Tiger Woods has equalled the course record at Royal Liverpool to grab the lead at golf's British Open. Ernie Els and Chris Dimarco lead the chase. 10 Australians made the cut

including Adam Scott who's five shots off the pace. Day 2 at Royal Liverpool was enough to inspire any future major contender. This round alone featured more highlights than many tournaments, and there was none better than a hole in one from South African Richard Sterne. COMMENTATOR: Oh, it's in the hole, would you believe! A 3-way battle looms up front, led by Tiger Woods. This is Woods' third tournament back from an extended break

due to the death of his father. Oh - and once again! Another one goes in for Tiger. Woods' touch on the greens was impeccable, but he didn't need the putter when he produced the improbable from almost 200m on the 14th hole. Oh - it's in! It's in. He doesn't know yet. Yeah, he knows now. Woods has firmed as the favourite to defend his crown and collect his 11th major title. He faces stern competition from South African Ernie Els and fellow American Chris DiMarco. Both matched Woods' course-record-equalling round of 65. On the comeback from a knee injury, Els had a bogey-free round including seven birdies, while DiMarco remains a chance to end his run of near misses in majors. And that's DiMarco saying, "Well, wait a minute, Tiger." It wasn't a good day for the record contingent of 23 Australians.

13 missed the cut, including Stuart Appleby. Adam Scott is the only real contender - he's in a tie for fifth on 7 under. Chris Kimball, ABC News. Tonight's time trial stage in the Tour de france will be pivotal in deciding who finishes with the overall honours. With two stages to go, Australian Cadel Evans is in fifth position overall, while compatriot Robbie McEwen only has to avoid mishap to win the sprinter's green jersey for a third time. COMMENTATOR: It's very warm here in the centre of France... After three days of climbing in the Alps, the 197km journey from Morzine to Macon provided some relief, albeit in oppressive heat. With 14 km to go, three cyclists broke away. Matteo Tosatto out-sprinted Cristian Moreni to claim the first stage victory by an Italian rider at this Tour. And he gets the win! Quick Step get the win that they've wanted... The day had no impact on the overall honours with the top 10 riders finishing together. Spaniard Oscar Pereiro has a 12-second overall lead

from compatriot Carlos Sastre. Third-placed Floyd Landis, is 30 seconds behind Pereiro but the American is the best time-trial cyclist

of the top three riders and could have the yellow jersey after tonight's stage.

Robbie McEwen has a massive 79-point lead in the sprinter's category. There's no doubt about it - Robbie McEwen is the finest sprinter Australia has ever produced. He just loves the Tour de France. Former Tour de France winner, Jan Ullrich, has been sacked by his team, 'T-Mobile', as a result of his involvement in an ongoing doping investigation. The German, who's denied the doping allegations,

was one of nine cyclists

who weren't allowed to compete in this Tour. Duncan Huntsdale, ABC News. The Melbourne Storm has firmed as premiership favourite after one of their best games of the season last night. Billy Slater scored twice in the Storm's win over the Sharks. Tonight, the Bulldogs lead the Roosters late in their game. Pre-match celebrations revolved around Matt Geyer's 200-game milestone, but Melbourne had to wait just eight minutes to celebrate its first points, courtesy of Ryan Hoffman and Cooper Cronk. Ever-improving second-rower Hoffman soon added his own name to the score sheet thanks to a perfect pass.

COMMENTATOR: Oh, that's superb from Scotty Hill. Mick Crocker received some of his own medicine on his return from suspension for a dangerous tackle, while the Storm erected its own purple and navy brick wall to shut out the Sharks. A 16-point half-time advantage became 22-0 in the time it took

for Cameron Smith to position Billy Slater for a knockout punch just after the break. This is no jog now. Look at Billy go! Billy Slater's away for Melbourne! Following the adage that premierships are built on resolute defence, Melbourne kept the Sharks tryless until the 59th minute, but Slater's second 4-pointer secured the Storm a 14th-straight home win and a guaranteed finals spot in just round 20. The Bulldogs are one of the few teams which can catch Melbourne. Their clash with the hot-and-cold Roosters gave the second-placed Dogs the chance to boost their premiership credentials and they did so with a dominant first-half. And the Bulldogs are in for try number one here tonight! The Roosters were their own worst enemy, while the Dogs had far too much strike power for their Sydney rivals, who increasingly look like missing out on the top eight. Ian Eckersley, ABC News. And confirming the final score in that game - Bulldogs have beaten Roosters 25-0

New Zealand leads South Africa 25 points to 14 late in the Tri-Nations rugby union Test in Wellington. After being thrashed 49-nil by Australia last week, the Springboks took only 17 seconds to score the first try through halfback Fourie Du Preez.

The All Blacks took a 19-7 lead to half-time after scoring their first try of the game, just before the break. COMMENTATOR: McCaw couldn't get it, now Weepu Weepu for the line. WHISTLE BLOWS New Zealand went further in front in the second half through the accurate boot of Dan Carter. And the full time score in that Test match New Zealand leads South Africa 35 pounts to 17. In Sydney club rugby, there were wins for Sydney Uni, Manly, Parramatta, West Harbour, Randwick, and Gordon.

Collingwood has ended a three-game losing streak by defeating West Coast in Melbourne. Collingwood won by 37 points, Essendon drew with Carlton, and top-of-the-table Adelaide thrashed the Kangaroos. Being a rugby league fan used to be considered a cheap and cheery pastime. But extravagant merchandising is helping to make it a very expensive exercise. With clubs regularly changing their playing jerseys, many fans are finding it hard just to keep up.

In round 2 of this season's NRL competition, the Cronulla Sharks wore this jersey. A few weeks later, it was this darker blue strip. and in round 14, the Sharks wore grey. The idea is essentially to make money by having a rapid turnover of a variety of shirts,

which fans will absolutely have to buy if they want to feel like being fans. Australian Rules football, though, is more traditional. The AFL clubs rarely change their jerseys. Essendon and Collingwood have kept theirs the same for more than 100 years. But in rugby league, it's not only players taking the big hits.

New jerseys don't come cheap -

costing fans around $180 dollars a pop. This is a good, old-fashioned Manly jersey. Author and social commentator Thomas Keneally is a diehard Manly fan. He's got seven club jerseys,

and says the latest one is his favourite. And if we kept that and just changed the names of the sponsors, I'd be very happy. But I think they're drawing up next year's design already.

These days, all NRL clubs have a jersey for home matches, and one for away matches. There's also a heritage jersey used for commemorative games, and a retro jersey used purely for merchandising. What's more - all clubs can change their uniform every three years.

We need to make sure that there is a wide range of product that fans can buy. And if they're choosing to buy the authentic team jersey

at that price, then that's a healthy sign for everyone. Jersey merchandising revenue is, not surprisingly, on the up - more than $30 million last year, with the National Rugby League taking 20%.. Simon Palan, ABC News. The state's emergency services were on high alert today - Faced with a staged disaster on Sydney's underground rail network.

The exercise involved testing the response of combined emergency services to a derailment and tunnel collapse,

with the evacuation and treatment of 200 people. Today's drill wasn't an anti-terror exercise but authorities say emergency services are well prepared for any incident. It is timely however in respect of overseas incidents both in London,Mumbai and Madrid,

that we are practising the types of things. State Rail says maintenance work in the city over the weekend provided the opportunity to perform the exercise. Now let's take a look at the weather.. In Sydney today it hit 17 degrees, the average for this time of year. Richmond dropped to 3 degrees overnight. In the north-eas, it was cloudy with a few isolated light showers along the coast and into the ranges. Mungindi had the state's top temp of 22 degrees.

In the south-east it was mostly dry, apart from some drizzle on the coast. Charlotte Pass had the State's overnight min of minus 7.

It was also dry and temperatures tended to be a bit above average. In the 24 hours to 9:00 this morning. The top rainfall was 26mm at Nelson Bay on the Hunter coast. In the six hours to three this afternoon.

The best was 7mm at Grafton on the north coast. In the capital cities - Brisbane and Melbourne had rain with sunny periods today, just like Sydney. The other capitals were dry. The satellite picture shows - low cloud being directed onto the NSW coast and eastern ranges by northeasterly winds. Also cloud forming over western NSW and Victoria. On the synoptic chart - There's a broad low pressure trough bringing wet weather to NSW

Victoria and SA. The strong high to the east of Tasmania is maintaining generally light winds along the coast. So the rain tomorrow - scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms across inland NSW and showers increasing along the coast. Around the nation tomorrow -

Hobart, Perth and Darwin should be dry but the other capitals are expecting rain. For NSW - In the north east - morning fog and showers or drizzle from the coast to the plains. Morning fog or frost and showers, mainly in the afternoon.

Scatered showers or rain and the chance of a thunderstorm in the far west. In Sydney tomorrow - early fog and the chance afternoon showers. Light to moderate e/ne winds and a top of 18 in the city. The sun will rise at 6.54am. Seas to 1 metre on a swell to 2 metres. Winds nw/ne at 5-10km. And further ahead in Sydney, wet all week apart from Friday

And before we go a recap of tonight's top stories... With israel apparently preparing for a large scale ground offensive into lebanon ... The u-s secretary of state condoleezza rice is heading to the middle east ... To try to negotiate a peace deal. Thousands of lebanese australians took to the streets in sydney and melbourne today ... Condemning israel's offensive. And tiger woods has equalled the course record to take a second

round lead at the british open in liverpool. And full time in the tri-nations rugby test.. New zealand has beaten south africa by 35 points to 17. Before we go, a preview of the news and current affairs line-up

here on ABC Television for tomorrow morning. At 9 o'clock, there's 'Insiders'. Barrie Cassidy interviews the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. At 10 o'clock, there's 'Inside Business' with Alan Kohler. His guest this week is Fairfax CEO, David Kirk. Barrie Cassidy returns at 10:30 with 'Offsiders' - a look at events on and off the pitch. And at 11 o'clock, Helen Vatsikopoulos with 'Asia Pacific Focus'.

And that's the news to this minute. And I'll be back with more news at 8:25pm. Goodnight. Closed Captions produced by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd