Israel withdraws last soldier from southern Lebanon
Israel has pulled the last of its soldiers out of Lebanon, fulfilling a key condition of a UN-brokered ceasefire that endeda 34-day conflict with Hezbollah guerrillas that raged in the summer, the Israeli army said.
The pullout early Sunday ended a nearly three-month troop presence and cleared the way for the full deployment of an international peacekeeping force that will police the border.
Military officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the last soldier exited Lebanon just after 2:30 a.m., local time. Thewithdrawal comes before the beginning of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, which starts at dusk on Sunday.
Blackout on pullout
The final pullout was swift, taking just several hours to complete. Under the cover of darkness, the roar of Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles could be heard moving across the Lebanese side of the border during the operation.
During the withdrawal, the military censor imposed a blackout on all details of the troop movements, citing security concerns. The army set up roadblocks to block reporters from reaching the border.
Israel had 30,000 troopsin south Lebanon at theheight of the conflictbefore a trucetook effecton Aug. 14, but only a few hundred remained in the country by the weekend.
Hezbollah actionsparked fighting
Israel sent the troops into Lebanon shortly after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two soldiers and killed three others in a July 12 cross-border raid.
More than 150 Israelis and 850 Lebanese were killed in thefighting.
The pullout comes after LaFrancophonie, an international association of French-speaking nations,passed a resolution Friday recognizing the suffering ofeveryone in the south Lebanon conflict. The resolution was announcedafter some countries, including Canada, opposed a draft that focused only onthe suffering of the peopleof Lebanon.
With files from the Associated Press