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Guns fall silent after UN-brokered truce in Lebanon
|August 14, 2006|
|Guns fell silent across southern Lebanon on Monday after a U.N.-brokered truce went into effect to end five weeks of fighting between Israel and Hizbollah that killed more than 1,250 people and wounded thousands.|
Israel said it would not lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon for now. “The air and sea closure will continue until a mechanism is in place to oversee and stop weapons smuggling,” a military source said.
Thousands of Lebanese displaced by the war headed south after the truce — some to check damage to their houses, others hoping to return home for good. Drivers honked their horns, and hundreds of cars jammed a narrow road leading south from Sidon.
“I’m going to make sure my house is okay,” said Adel Abbas, from a village near Tyre. “If Israel sticks to its word and continues to stick to the ceasefire, I’ll take my family back home later today.”
An Israeli air strike on a van on the outskirts of the eastern city of Baalbek killed seven people minutes before the truce began, Lebanese medical sources said. Security sources said the van was transporting policemen, soldiers and civilians.
Air strikes on a village near Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria killed at least nine civilians, medics said. A policeman died in another strike in the area and one person was killed in a raid on a Palestinian refugee camp, security sources said.
Around 1,100 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 156 Israelis, including 116 soldiers, have been killed in the war, triggered when Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.
Under a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted on Friday to end the fighting, Israeli forces must start to withdraw as around 15,000 foreign peacekeeping troops and 15,000 Lebanese soldiers arrive in the south. Hizbollah must also pull its fighters out of southern Lebanon.
Hizbollah has said it accepts the U.N. resolution although it regards some aspects of it as unjust. The group has said it will cooperate with the peacekeeping force and Lebanese troops that deploy in the south, but has not said whether it will pull out its forces from the area south of the Litani river.
Israeli officials said the Jewish state believed it would be entitled under the U.N. resolution to use force to prevent Hizbollah from rearming and to clear guerrilla positions out of southern Lebanon even after the truce took effect.
Western diplomats and U.N. officials said they feared Israel’s broad definition of “defensive” actions could lead to a resurgence in large-scale fighting and prevent the swift deployment of the U.N. troops, likely to be led by France.
The United Nations has said it could be around a week before the international force can be deployed.
The truce has not resolved many key issues including the fate of the two captured Israeli soldiers, the issue of whether Hizbollah will disarm and the status of the Shebaa Farms area which is claimed by Lebanon but occupied by Israel.
The question of how to deal with Hizbollah could once again fracture Lebanon along sectarian lines. A Lebanese cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday was postponed because of divisions over whether to discuss disarming Hizbollah.
The war in Lebanon coincided with an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip to free another captured soldier.
An Israeli air strike on Monday killed three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip shortly after at least one rocket was fired into Israel from the area, doctors said. The Israeli army said it had targeted militants who had launched the rockets.