Wed, Aug 16, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Skirmishes test Lebanon truce as Israel pulls back

AGENCIES , JERUSALEM, BEIRUT AND GENEVA

Israel began slowly pulling out forces from southern Lebanon and made plans to hand over territory yesterday on the first full day of a tense ceasefire that has already been tested by skirmishes.

But Israeli and Hezbollah forces held their ground and raised hopes that the UN-imposed pact could stick.

Hezbollah guerrillas fired at least 10 rockets within southern Lebanon, but none crossed into Israel. On Monday, at least six Hezbollah militiamen were killed by Israeli troops waiting for a peacekeeping force before beginning a full-scale withdrawal.

Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said that 15,000 Lebanese soldiers could be on the north side of the Litani River by the end of the week. But they must still cross the river and try to enforce the government's control over Hezbollah areas for the first time in decades.

In Jerusalem, Israeli army officials said they planned to begin handing over some captured positions today and hoped to complete the withdrawal by next week.

Meanwhile, relief aid was flowing into southern Lebanon yesterday, hampered only by returning refugees and lingering obstacles caused by an Israeli blockade, aid agencies said.

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