Lebanon orders army to move south
Lebanon-Israel-UN, Politics, 8/16/2006
The foreign ministers of France, Turkey and Malaysia arrived in Beirut on Wednesday to work out details on formation of a 15,000-strong international force to oversee peacekeeping efforts in Lebanon.
The force would work with an equal number of Lebanese soldiers to monitor the cease-fire that went into effect Monday morning ending 34 days of Israeli brutal aggression on Lebanon.
The diplomatic efforts came as the Israeli army began withdrawing part of its troops from south Lebanon while Lebanese troops planned to start moving across the Litani River on Thursday.
The UN hopes 3,500 well-equipped international troops can reinforce the UN contingent within 10 to 15 days to help consolidate the fragile cessation of hostilities and create the conditions for the occupying forces to pull out.
Some 500 Israeli soldiers left Lebanon on foot crossing the border on their way back home near the town of Malkiya today. A report spoke of Israeli military loses during the past 33 days of 130 tanks and three small boats. During those 33 days, about 1 million Lebanese are said to have been displaced by Israel's aggression, with massive amount of civilian destruction to Lebanon's infrastructure and the killing of some 800 Lebanese civilians.
Israel began pullout of troops by withdrawing from the key town of Marjayoun and from their deepest point in southern Lebanon.
The withdrawal from Marjayoun, located 12 km, north of the Israeli border began Monday, the day a cease-fire took effect.
By Tuesday, there were no Israeli soldiers or tanks in Marjayoun, and Israeli troops also were pulling out of Bourj Al-Mulouk, a town on the road halfway between Israel and Marjayoun in the frontier's eastern sector.
Israeli troops also abandoned El-Ghandourieh, their farthest reach into Lebanon, Lebanese interior ministry said.
Israel hopes to complete the evacuation of its forces from Lebanon by next week. Israeli forces occupied Marjayoun last Thursday as they pushed deep into Lebanon in the final days of the fighting.
The area is on high ground, with strategic value overlooking both the Israeli border and the Litani River valley.
During their several days' occupation of Marjayoun, Israeli forces took over the local barracks and detained 350 Lebanese army troops and policemen.
Lebanon plans to deploy 15,000 of its soldiers on the north side of the Litani River by the end of this week, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said.
Israel said that as of eight AM morning (Monday ) it ceased its offensive operations in Lebanon. As part of the ceasefire, Israel will not initiate strikes on Hizbullah targets in Lebanese territory but will nonetheless continue to operate so as to ensure the optimal defense of forces now located in southern Lebanon. Israeli forces will maintain their presence in all sectors of southern Lebanon until the responsibility for control of the area is transferred to the Lebanese military and until the deployment of United Nations UNIFIL forces, at which point IDF forces will redeploy in Israeli territory, along the international border with Lebanon.
The Security Council-imposed cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbullah was generally maintained in the past 24 hours, with three incidents reported, according to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. The Israeli forces and Hizbullah exchanged fire in the area of Haddathah, the Force said. Peacekeepers who arrived on the spot shortly after the incident observed four dead bodies of Hizbullah members which were later taken away in an ambulance.
In another incident last night, an Israeli tank positioned on the Israeli side fired one round across the Blue Line into Lebanese territory towards the village of Markaba, the mission reported. There was no response from the other side and the situation in the area remains calm.
Yesterday afternoon, an Israeli aircraft violated Lebanese airspace in the eastern sector, UNIFIL said.
France was expected to lead the international force. The Italian foreign minister has already visited Beirut and subsequently pledged as many as 3,000 troops. Indonesia and a dozen other countries have also expressed willingness to help.
However, it remained unclear, according to Assistant UN Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi, how quickly a full force could be assembled and deployed to Lebanon.
The zone along the frontier would then be handed to Lebanese troops and the greatly reinforced UNIFIL force once all Israeli soldiers have withdrawn.
"We agreed with the Lebanese army that it will start deploying as the Israelis start withdrawing. It could be as early as Thursday, maybe with a slight delay," he said.
CNN meantime reported that the Lebanese government today gave the orders to send the army to the south.
At least 15 more bodies were found on Tuesday in two villages near the border, Ainata and Taybeh. Lebanese army sent teams across south Lebanon to clear unexploded ordnance from the battlefield.
A 12-year-old girl was wounded by an explosion in her village east of Nabatiyeh on Tuesday.
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