The Lebanese government has approved a plan to deploy 15,000 members of its army in south Lebanon. That is in line with a UN resolution that halted fighting between Israel and Hizbollah. The army is due to start deploying south of the Litani River early on Thursday. Officials said it would not permit the presence of any armed group in the area.
Earlier Israel had warned that it will stop pulling its soldiers out of southern Lebanon unless the Lebanese army moves into the area within days. Israeli army chief General Dan Halutz said their promised withdrawal, within 10 days, depends on the swift deployment of the Lebanese army.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, after meeting top officials in Beirut along with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, also said it was “vital that the deployment of the Lebanese army takes place as quickly as possible.” And he urged Israel to end its air and sea blockade imposed on Lebanon to stop Hizbollah getting more rockets.
He said: “Lifting the embargo is crucial for rebuilding Lebanon and for its economic life. We ask the Israeli authorities to lift the embargo and at the same time we ask the Lebanese government to do everything in its power to make sure that there is no arms trafficking.”
The UN has said it wants to move 3,500 thousand new troops into the area along the Lebanese border within two weeks to maintain the fragile truce. Currently there are 2,000 international soldiers there as UNIFIL – the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. That is to be expanded to 15,000 and its mandate strengthened.