Israel pulling back from Lebanon

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The United Nations brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah is largely holding as Israel has begun to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. UNSC Resolution 1701, which calls for a "full cessation of hostilities" in the Israeli-Lebanon war, was passed by the UN Security Council last Friday and was approved by Lebanon and Israel over the weekend.

Lebanon's defence minister, Elias Murr, says that the 15,000 troops Lebanon has committed to the peacekeeping operation will be on the north side of the Litani River by the end of the week. As part of the truce agreement, they must cross the river and exercise control over what has been Hezbollah controlled territory in southern Lebanon.

The head of the Israeli army says the IDF could complete its withdrawal from Lebanon in 7 to 10 days.

The new international peace-keeping force may number as many as 15,000, significantly larger than the existing force of 2,000, known as UNIFIL, which is expected to take up border positions in the mean time. The UN hopes for an advance force of up to 3,500 within the next 10 to 14 days. France, who is expected to lead the international force, is seeking a clearer mandate from the UN on the rules of engagement.

Over 1,200 people have lost their lives in the conflict. 1,110, mostly civilians, have died in Lebanon and 157 Israelis, mostly military, were killed. Israel says it killed 530 Hezbollahh fighters while Hezbollah puts the toll at about 80.