Tue, Aug 15, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Lebanese assess damage as ceasefire begins

GOING HOME Many residents headed out to check the status of family properties as Israeli jets for the most part disappeared from the skies for the first time in a month

AFP , TYRE, LEBANON

Hundreds of people returning by car to southern Lebanon wait in line yesterday to pass a bridge that was destroyed by Israeli warplanes during operations over the past month near the town of Zahrani.

PHOTO: AP

Exhausted Lebanese displaced by a month of bombing left their shelters yesterday to stream onto roads in the hope of finding homes intact as Israel halted attacks after a final barrage of raids.

Residents of the port city of Tyre ventured out of shelters as soon as calm prevailed after a UN-brokered ceasefire deal aimed at ending the month-long war in Lebanon entered into force at 0500 GMT.

The residents headed to inspect homes and stock up on bread and other provisions, a correspondent on the scene said.

Cars and pick-ups, loaded with families and luggage, were seen streaming from Tyre on mountain roads leading to villages in the area.

Similar convoys arrived in Tyre from the north, as residents who had fled to the coastal city of Sidon started to head back home.

Hussein Abu Zeid, 38, started his car and headed to his village of Ramadiyeh, east of Tyre.

"I am heading to my village. My house, that of my brother and our shop have been destroyed," Hussein said.

"I will erect a tent and stay there with my family. This is our land, we will not stay away from it," he said.

In the city of Sidon further north, engineer Imad Ibrahim was sitting in his car. At exactly 8am, he started his car and headed to his village of Dweir.

"I am going alone to inspect our house in the village and see if this ceasefire stands. If all is fine, I will return to Sidon to bring back my family," he said.

As some Israeli forces began withdrawing from southern Lebanon, Israeli warplanes disappeared from the sky over the Lebanese capital, as well as the war-battered south and east of the country as soon as the deadline for the end of the hostilities passed.

But half an hour later, warplanes roared at high altitude over the Iqlim al-Tuffah mountains east of Sidon and the city of Baalbek, correspondents and police said.

Israel said yesterday it would maintain its air and sea blockade of Lebanon despite a ceasefire on the ground to end more than a month of fighting.

"The maritime and aerial blockade will be kept in place until a mechanism is put in place to control smuggling of arms" to Hezbollah, a military source said.

Israel had launched an 11th-hour wave of air strikes on Lebanon early on Sunday.

Just before the ceasefire took hold, fighter jets also dropped leaflets over Beirut blaming Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian "masters" for the destruction in Lebanon and warning that Israel would respond to any new attack.

"To the Lebanese citizens of Lebanon: Hezbollah which is serving its Iranian and Syrian masters has led you to the edge of the abyss," one of the flyers said.

"With its isolationist, reckless and false policy, Hezbollah has brought you many achievements: destruction, displacement and death," said the leaflet, dropped about two hours before battles were due to stop.

"Can you pay this price a second time? Know that the Israeli Defense Forces will return and work with the required force against any terrorist act that will be launched from Lebanon to harm the state of Israel," it said.

Another of the leaflets pictured Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah building a sand castle threatened by a huge wave.

Residents of the capital and displaced people from the south were seen tearing up the leaflets and garbage workers were picking them up from the streets.

The Lebanese army opened fire with anti-aircraft batteries as the Israeli war planes were letting the leaflets fly.

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