Thu, Sep 14, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Israeli general quits, Hezbollah awaits UN mediator

AGENCIES , JERUSALEM AND BEIRUT

An aerial view taken on Tuesday shows the Lebanese capital Beirut on the Mediterranean sea. At Ramlet el-Baida, Beirut's only public beach, some 40 volunteers are tracking and scooping up residue of the oil slick which for two months has blighted the Lebanese coast. The oil slick was caused by Israeli bombing of a power station in mid-July.

PHOTO: AFP

An Israeli general pushed aside in the middle of the recent war against Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas announced his resignation yesterday, the army said.

Major General Udi Adam, head of the northern command responsible for securing the Israel-Lebanon border, asked to leave his post "as soon as possible," the army said in a statement.

"The chief of staff has accepted the request to begin the process of his replacement," the statement said.

Adam reportedly had several tiffs with Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, the army chief, during the war. Adam was apparently seen as too cautious and hesitant in his decision-making, and Halutz appointed Major General Moshe Kaplinski, deputy army chief, to command the war while the fighting was raging.

A month of fighting against Hezbollah ended in August with a UN-brokered ceasefire deal but without a decisive victory for Israel. A total of 159 Israelis and at least 854 Lebanese, most of them civilians, were killed in the fighting.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah expects a UN "mediator" to visit Lebanon next week to try to secure a deal for the release of two Israeli soldiers it captured in July, the group's leader said in remarks aired on Tuesday.

"He was supposed to come late last week and he is expected to come next week, but negotiations have not yet started," Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told al Jazeera television.

He said the envoy was European but gave no further details.

Hezbollah's capture of the two soldiers in a cross-border raid triggered the 34-day war between Israel and the Shiite Muslim group. Hezbollah wants to swap the Israeli captives for Lebanese held in Israeli jails.

Nasrallah told al Jazeera no deal would be possible without the release of Samir Qantar, the longest held Lebanese prisoner in Israel.

"You ask me will there be a deal without Samir, I say no," he said. "Absolutely not."

Qantar was captured during an attack in 1979 on northern Israel by a Palestinian guerrilla group in which an Israeli policeman, another man and his four-year-old daughter were killed.

The preamble of Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the war calls for the unconditional release of the two Israelis captured by Hezbollah on July 12. It "encourages" settling the Lebanese prisoner issue.

The resolution also calls for the deployment of the Lebanese army in the south, which the guerrillas had controlled since Israeli forces withdrew in 2000, and the expansion of a UN peacekeeping force.

Around 380 more French troops and 13 battle tanks arrived in Beirut on Tuesday to reinforce the UNIFIL force, which has been building up ahead of a planned Israeli troop withdrawal.

Israel has been gradually pulling forces out of Lebanon since the UN resolution in August halted fighting which caused widespread destruction in Lebanon and cost the lives of hundreds of people, many of whom were civilians.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said Israel should complete its pullout once 5,000 peacekeepers are deployed, a target which could be reached this week with the planned arrival of more European troops.

Major-General Alain Pellegrini, head of the UNIFIL peacekeepers, said he had briefed the Lebanese government "on the expected arrivals of the French and Spanish contingents in the next few days."

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