Israel’s sea and air blockade of Lebanon has ended. Foreign cargo ships have started arriving in Beirut’s harbour, signalling the end of the embargo. Control of the Lebanese coastline has been handed over to an international naval taskforce headed by Italy before a German-led contingent takes over in a couple of weeks.
The end of the sea embargo comes a day after Israel lifted its air blockade. A number of international airlines have resumed flights to and from Lebanon – most of them had cancelled their services in July after Israel bombed Beirut International Airport. The end of the blockade was a key demand by Lebanon to speed up reconstruction of the south which was massively destroyed in the war.
On the ground, Israel continues to withdraw its troops from southern Lebanon. The UN has said the pullout should be completed once the peacekeeping force reaches the 5,000 mark. As the Israeli troops leave, hundreds of Lebanese soldiers are moving in.
It is Lebanon’s first deployment in the region for decades – until now, it was a Hizbollah stronghold. The aim is to create a buffer zone along the border to prevent the trafficking of arms destined for Hizbollah although UN forces have no mandate to actively search weapons.