Thousands of Lebanese refugees continue to head home as army waits for international force
Thousands of Lebanese refugees continued to head home to south Lebanon on Tuesday as a ceasefire between Israel and Hizbullah held on into a second day.
Underlining the fragility of the "cessation of hostilities", the Israeli army said Hizbullah fired four mortar bombs overnight that landed near Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, causing no casualties or damage. The army said on Monday it had killed at least two Hizbullah fighters in shootings after the truce.
Thousands of vehicles jammed the coastal highway linking Beirut to the south of the country from the early hours of Tuesday, Reuters reported.
French military officers headed to the United Nations to discuss the boosted U.N. peacekeeping force France is expected to lead, U.N. and French officials said. At a meeting on Monday of about 20 potential troop contributing states, participants said that a concept of operations would be ready by Thursday.
On his part, Lebanon's Defense Minister Elias Murr said the Lebanese army would dispatch 15,000 troops to the north of the Litani River around the end of the week, ready to enter the southern border area. But he said the army would not be disarming Hizbullah fighterss, who have controlled the area for six years. "The army is not going to the south to strip Hizbullah of weapons and do the work Israel did not," he told LBC Television.
"The resistance is cooperating to the utmost level so that as soon as the Lebanese army arrives in the south there will be no weapons but those of the army." According to Murr, the Lebanese army would deploy on the border only after the U.N. force deploys there and verifies the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Lebanon.
Earlier, U.S. President George W. Bush said Hizbullah had been defeated by Israel.