The Lebanese Health Minister says Israel's 16-day-old bombardment may have killed up to 600 people in Lebanon.

Mohammad Khalifeh said hospitals had so far received 401 bodies of victims of the Israeli campaign.

He said: 'On top of those victims, there were 150 to 200 bodies still under the rubble that they had not been able to pull out because the areas they died in were still under fire.'

anwhile, it is reported that Israel's cabinet has decided to continue its current policy of limited incursions into Lebanon accompanied by air strikes, rather than launching a bigger ground offensive against Hezbollah.

The cabinet met after nine soldiers were killed in south Lebanon yesterday.

The UN Security Council adopted a statement today expressing shock and distress at Israel's bombing of a UN outpost in Lebanon that killed four unarmed UN peacekeepers.

The policy statement, which carries less weight than a resolution, was weaker than one proposed by China and other nations, after more than a day of negotiations and objections from the United States, which wanted to make sure Israel was not directly or indirectly blamed for the attack.

The final draft on Lebanon eliminated wording 'condemning any deliberate attack against UN personnel' as well as a demand for a joint Israeli-UN investigation, as requested by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Instead, the statement, which had to be approved by all 15 Security Council members, called on Israel 'to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into this incident, taking into account any relevant material from United Nations authorities'.

Israel has apologized and called the incident a mistake. UN officials said they asked Israel a dozen times to stop bombing near the post in the hours before it was destroyed.