Lebanese President Emile Lahoud cried victory Monday as Israel's proxy South Lebanon Army militia cleared out of some 15 villages in two days in the zone of south Lebanon occupied by Israel for the last 22 years.
"Every Lebanese will remember today's victory," he told a crowd in the village of Aaramta which the SLA abandoned back on May 9.
"What is happening in south Lebanon today proves to the whole world the strength achieved by Lebanon since it became united," he said.
He lashed out at the "repeated crimes against innocent civilians" which he said were committed by Israelis.
At least five civilians were killed and 24 injured by artillery fire or bombing, as the Israelis tried to prevent villagers returning to their homes in company with Hezbollah guerrillas.
Lahoud assured those Lebanese living in parts of the zone that remains under occupation that they "need not worry."
"All those who bore arms alongside the enemy will be put on trial according to the Lebanese laws in force which guarantee everyone's rights," he said.
Hundreds of SLA militiamen, who face legal proceedings, gave themselves up to the guerrillas or the Lebanese army Monday after abandoning their positions. Others headed for the border with Israel.
However, Laboud added that "this victory is not enough."
He repeated Lebanon's demands for a comprehensive peace, namely the return of the disputed Shebaa hamlets -- which Israel says belong to Syria -- the release of all Lebanese held in the occupied zone or in Israel, the recognition of the right of return for Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, and the return of the Golan Heights to Syria -- BEIRUT (AFP).
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