Aggressor finally withdraws from Lebanon


Richard Moore

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Israel pulls remaining troops out of Lebanon
by Charles Levinson
Sun Oct 1, 5:57 AM ET

Israel has pulled its remaining troops out of southern Lebanon ahead of the 
start of the sacred Yom Kippur holiday, but warned it would act decisively 
should Hezbollah militants regroup.

The several hundred Israeli troops who had remained in south Lebanon following 
the August 14 UN-brokered ceasefire crossed back into Israel along with tanks, 
armored personnel carriers and bulldozers in the early hours of the morning, 
correspondents reported.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said it would begin patrols
in southern Lebanon later Sunday in a bid to confirm the pullout.

"Early this morning, October 1, 2006, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) 
transferred the areas under its control in southern Lebanon to UNIFIL and 
redeployed along the international border with Lebanon," said an Israeli army 
statement Sunday.

The withdrawal comes almost seven weeks after a UN-brokered truce ended a 34-day
war between the Jewish state and the Hezbollah Shiite militant group.

Israel warned, however, that it would not hesitate to act again if Hezbollah 
tried to rebuild its positions destroyed during the offensive and demanded that 
two of its soldiers captured by the militant group be released immediately.

"If Hezbollah approaches the frontier with arms and tries to reconstruct its 
infrastructure that we have destroyed, we will use all the means at our disposal
to prevent this," chief of staff Dan Halutz told army radio.

Army radio said that Israel had beefed up its troops along the border with 

A spokesman for the foreign affairs ministry, Mark Regev, told AFP that "noone 
should expect Israel to honor the agreement unilaterally if the other party to 
the agreement fails in their commitment."

"The pullout from Lebanon has been done in the framework of implementing UN 
Security Council Resolution 1701," Regev said.

"Just as Israel has moved to fullfill its commitment, it is the obligation of 
the Lebanese government and the UN forces to fully implement their commitment.

"First and foremost we have to see the immediate release of the two Israeli 
servicemen being held hostage in Lebanon," Regev said, referring to two soldiers
captured by Hezbollah in cross-border raids on July 12 that killed eight other 
troops and sparked the Jewish state's offensive.

"We have to see the creation in south Lebanon of an area free of all armed 
Hezbollah personnel and we have to see the enforcement of the international arms
embargo to prevent illicit arms transfers to Hezbollah," he said.

Resolution 1701 put an end to the devastating conflict and called for Israel's 
withdrawal from Lebanon in tandem with the deployment of Lebanese government 
troops and additional UN peacekeepers, as well as the disarming of all militias.

UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko told AFP UNIFIL would begin partrols early 
afternoon to confirm that the pullout has been completed.

"At one o'clock (1000 GMT), we are supposed to take over the areas offically and
then we will start patrolling to ensure that there are no Israeli Defense Forces
present," Ivanko said.

In Lebanon, the war left more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, dead and saw 
much of the south turned to rubble by Israeli fire.

In Israel, some 162 people, mostly soldiers, died and hundreds of thousands fled
the 4,000 rockets that Hezbollah fired across the country's north.

Sunday's pullout -- which Israel had twice delayed because of disagreements of 
how UN forces and Lebanese army would deal with armed Hezbollah militants -- 
came ahead of the high holiday of Yom Kippur, the most sacred day in the Jewish 
religion, which begins at sundown.

An "insignificant" number of Israeli troops would remain on the Lebanese side of
the border village of Ghajar, which is dissected by the Israeli-Lebanese border,
the army said.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse.
Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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