Around 70 Lebanese families who sought refuge in the Jewish state following Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000 returned home on Thursday, Lebanese police said.
They crossed the border with vehicles of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), said AFP.
The returning refugees included former members of the disbanded Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA), who were taken by the Lebanese army for interrogation, police said.
In early July, SLA militiamen and their families had their residency visas renewed for another two-and-a-half years, reported Haaretz newspaper at the time.
The former militiamen were forbidden, however, from receiving Israeli license plates for their cars, and had to make do with the original Lebanese plates.
In May, SLA representatives complained to Israeli officials that the Lebanese plates were causing them great inconvenience by automatically marking them as Lebanese.
The Israeli Interior Ministry has ruled out the possibility of naturalizing the SLA men and their families for the moment, said the paper.
Following Israel's troop pullout, around 6,500 people, mostly SLA members and their families, fled to Israel for fear of reprisals by the Shiite Muslim radical group Hizbollah or of criminal charges.
Since then, more than half have returned to Lebanon in small groups, according to figures compiled by AFP.
Around 3,000 former SLA members have been tried in Lebanese military court for collaboration, and Hizbollah has complained that sentences given to those convicted have been too light.
Thirty members tried in absentia have been condemned to death – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )