The Lebanese army reached the country's southern border with Israel for the first time Friday, sending a sole jeep on patrol through the village of Kila. The army jeep, flying a large Lebanese flag and carrying just two soldiers passed by the Fatima Gate a few yards from the border but did not stop.
Villagers throwing rice and Hizbullah supporters holding banners have welcomed the country's army to the south after a nearly 40-year absence. So far the troops have deployed mostly to predominantly Christian towns including Qleia and Marjayoun.
Overnight, Lebanese forces arrived in the largely Shiite village of Khiam in the same area, said Lebanese Brig. Gen. Charles Sheikhani, according to the AP. Sheikhani said he would not deploy troops permanently to Kfar Kila until a border fence destroyed by invading Israeli forces last month was repaired and all Israeli troops there withdrew.
Residents in Kfar Kila said Israeli forces had already pulled out. "Maybe today we'll patrol Kfar Kila, but if we deploy forces there, it doesn't mean we'll put soldiers in the village" to stay, Sheikhani said earlier Friday.
The army's 10th brigade has set up camps within a mile of the Israeli border. "We are all very happy," Sheikhani said. "It's our country, and this is the first time we've really been in south Lebanon."
The United Nations got pledges Thursday of 3,500 troops for the force, with Bangladesh making the largest offer of up to 2,000 troops.