Israel Prepares To Withdraw Remaining Troops from Lebanon

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JERUSALEM — Israel will withdraw the rest of its troops from Lebanon by Friday night, its army chief said yesterday.The move will leave international peacekeepers and Lebanese troops in full control of the South.

Lieutenant General Dan Halutz made the promise to an Israeli parliamentary committee, insisting that the plan is to have the last soldiers home by Friday evening, in time for the Jewish new year.

But Lieutenant General Halutz, an air force officer who has been sharply criticized for his handling of the ground offensive during the war against Hezbollah this summer, said the pullout depended on final coordination with the Lebanese army and U.N. troops.

In August, the U.N. voted to send a 15,000-strong force to southern Lebanon to maintain the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah and to help the Lebanese army disarm the Shiite militia.

Though Israel fears that the force will not be robust enough to force Hezbollah to disarm, its soldiers have been steadily handing over the territory that they held when fighting ended on August 14.

According to a member of Israeli Knesset’s defense committee, Ran Cohen, several thousand Israeli troops are still inside Lebanon.

They are believed to be conducting patrols within a 1.5-mile strip along Israel’s border with Lebanon, while engineers lay sophisticated traps and monitoring equipment to detect and prevent future Hezbollah infiltrations into Israel.


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