Lebanon Cries Victory for First Israeli 'Forced Pullout'
Lebanese Prime Minister Salim Hoss hailed Tuesday Israel's announcement of a troop pullout from occupied southern Lebanon by July 7 as the first Israeli withdrawal "by force" in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"For the first time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel withdraws from Arab territory by force," Hoss told reporters.
"So we say that this is a great victory for Lebanon, its brave resistance and proud and steadfast people. It is a great defeat for Israel," he said.
Hoss however said the "content of the Israeli letter is still a matter to be studied and discussed."
On Monday, Israel notified the United Nations in a letter of its decision to implement Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426 for a troop withdrawal "by July" from southern Lebanon, which it has occupied since 1978.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Yehuda Lancry, who handed over the letter from Foreign Minister David Levy, told reporters the start date for the Israeli retreat was July 7.
A violent exchange of attacks broke out in south Lebanon shortly after Israel officially informed the UN of its intention to withdraw from the region.
A Syrian civilian was reported killed and three others wounded Tuesday in an Israeli shelling on southern Lebanon, AFP reported citing police sources.
The Syrians were hit when an Israeli shell slammed into their house in Majdal Zoun, near the southern port city of Tyre, they said.
An Israeli soldier was wounded in a series of Hizbollah counter attacks into the Israeli-occupied border zone.
The soldier was wounded by anti-aircraft missile fire near an Israeli army post in the eastern sector of the occupied zone, they said.
A spokesman of the Hizbollah military wing said the group's fighters attacked five positions of Israeli troops and their allied South Lebanon Army militia in the Hasbaya region in the eastern sector.
The Resistance attacked positions in Kawkaba, Zimraya, Zaghla, Ain Qenya and Wadi Abou Qamha, the spokesman said.
Israeli and SLA artillery responded by shelling the outskirts of Lebbaya, Qelya, Mimes, Zillaya and Dallafa -- villages facing the eastern sector of the border enclave, police said.
Israeli warplanes also retaliated in two consecutive raids on Hizbollah suspected positions near Zaghla and Yohmor, security sources said.
ANNAN SENDING ENVOY TO REGION
Annan said he intended consulting with the parties and with interested UN members, including those with troops serving in UNIFIL. To that end, he had asked his special Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen of Norway, “to go to the area as soon as practical.”
Asked what challenges the United Nations faced in southern Lebanon when Israel withdrew, UN spokesman Eckhard told reporters: “To see to it that the withdrawal is conducted safely, without any resumption of conflict or escalation of violence” – (Agencies).
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