Lebanese forces start historic deployment in south
Lebanese forces moved towards the south of the country Thursday to replace Israeli soldiers in line with a U.N. peace plan to end a month-long war. "Army units have begun deploying from various points," a senior Lebanese military official said shortly after dawn broke.
The deployment will continue for a few days "to spread Lebanese government authority over all Lebanese territory, including south of the Litani River," the Lebanese official said.
An Associated Press reporter saw some 40 military trucks and jeeps, carrying soldiers, equipment, luggage and plastic water tanks, heading to south Lebanon at around 4 A.M. (0100 GMT) Thursday. The trucks and jeeps hoisted Lebanese flags as they drove into central Beirut on their way to south Lebanon.
Over 100 trucks and 10 armored carriers mounted on flatbed trucks streamed across a newly installed metal bridge over the river, escorted by several other military vehicles. The bridge was built by the army to replace a structure that was bombed by Israel during the 34-day offensive.
The column headed to the town of Marjayoun, around 8 km from the border. Dozens of people lined roads where they passed, waving Lebanese flags and throwing rice and flowers in celebration.
Other units crossed the river at Qasmiyeh to deploy in the area around the port city of Tyre, the sources said.
A total of 15,000 Lebanese soldiers are due to take control of the longtime Hizbullah bastion in southern Lebanon for the first time in decades, along with a promised expanded international peacekeeping force.
Israel said Thursday that it had begun "transferring responsibility" over southern Lebanon with the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area.