IDF troops kill 5 Hezbollah gunmen in south Lebanon
Lebanese army could deploy in 2 days; IDF kills 5 Hezbollah men; Germany signals for first time it might join int'l force.
Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed five armed Hezbollah gunmen in two separate incidents in southern Lebanon on Tuesday afternoon. In accordance with IDF open-fire regulations, the soldiers shot at Hezbollah militants whom they felt were posing a threat.
Four Hezbollah fighters were killed in Shakif al-Nimal, while a fifth was killed in Rajamin. No Israelis were hurt in either incident.
The IDF is allowing Lebanon to start repairing bridges over the Litani and Zaharani Rivers, which the air force bombed during the war. In addition, south Lebanese residents who had fled the fighting continued to stream homeward on Tuesday, frequently even returning to places where IDF outposts still remain.
Israel Air Force warplanes dropped leaflets over south Lebanon on Tuesday, warning residents not to return home before Lebanese and international troops deploy to the area.
It was the first time Israeli leaflets fell over the south since a United Nations resolution prompted a halt to the fighting there.
"We warn you not to head to the southern regions before the deployment of the forces that are supposed to safeguard your security," the leaflets read. "The situation will remain dangerous in southern Lebanon as long as the state of Lebanon has not deployed the Lebanese army and international forces on all southern Lebanese territories."
The leaflets were seen fluttering from planes over Nabatiyeh, about 13 kilometers from the Israeli border. Most fell in open fields and valleys, and many residents were too afraid of unexploded ordnance and land mines to retrieve them.
Compromise would allow Hezbollah to keep gunsA compromise agreement now being hammered out between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government would allow the Shi'ite guerillas to keep hidden weapons in south Lebanon, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday.
While Hezbollah would need to keep the weapons it possesses south of the Litani River hidden, an agreement for areas north of the river would be "left to a long term solution," the paper reported.
If the proposed compromise is accepted Tuesday by the Lebanese government, it would violate the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 ending the war in Lebanon. The resolution rules that the Lebanese army and UNIFIL may be the only armed forces in the territory between the Litani River south to the Israeli border.
This compromise is also a violation of the "one weapon" principle that appears in Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's Seven Points Plan.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday that the region had changed "because of the achievements of the resistance [Hezbollah]."
The Israel Defense Forces, which had poured 30,000 troops into the south to fight Hezbollah guerrillas, plans to start handing over some pockets of territory to UN troops in a day or two, Israeli officials and Western diplomats said.
Israel's expedited timetable for withdrawing reflects concerns that its forces on the ground are easy targets for Hizbollah attack. "They want a fast exit in one to two weeks," said a Western diplomat briefed by the IDF.
Overnight, IDF troops left the southern Christian town of Marj Ayoun, Lebanese security sources said. They also left the nearby town of Qlaiah and the village of Ghandouriyeh, scene of ferocious battles over the weekend.
UN force to move into southern Lebanon firstA vanguard United Nations force will begin deployment throughout southern Lebanon within 24 to 48 hours, Israel Defense Forces sources believe.
Lebanon's Defense Minister Elias Murr said the Lebanese army would send 15,000 troops to the north of the Litani River around the end of the week, ready to enter the southern border area.
But he said the army would not be disarming Hezbollah, who have controlled the area for six years. "The army is not going to the south to strip Hezbollah of weapons and do the work Israel did not," he told LBC Television.
"The resistance is cooperating to the utmost level so that as soon as the Lebanese army arrives in the south there will be no weapons but those of the army."
Murr said the Lebanese army would deploy on the border only after the UN force deploys there and verifies the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Lebanon.
Immediately following the UNIFIL force's arrival, Lebanese army units will also begin moving into southern Lebanon, even if Israel and Lebanon have yet to hold any contacts to coordinate the transfer of control over the territory.
Germany edges towards sending troops to Lebanon
On Tuesday Germany gave its strongest signal yet that it will send troops to join a UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has so far been non-committal on the matter but Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's conservatives (CDU-CSU) in parliament, said it was a question of "how" rather than "if" Germany would contribute.
"I think it is a given that we should contribute but what the contribution will look like will only come after ongoing talks," said von Klaeden, who had previously been more cautious.
One option would be for Germany to send its navy to patrol the coast off Lebanon and Israel, said von Klaeden, who is seen as close to Merkel.
Government spokesman Thomas Steg said on Monday the cabinet could decide next week on Germany's role.
Von Klaeden said soldiers could also undertake humanitarian work or help rebuild infrastructure in south Lebanon.
"Whether the contribution is military or civilian or both will become clear at this week's conference on troops," he said.
Annan calls on parties to refrain from new escalationAnnan has warned Israel and Lebanon against occupying additional territory and told them to refrain from responding to any attacks "except where clearly required in immediate self-defense."
A copy of a letter that Annan sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was obtained Monday by The Associated Press. It set out the UN's expectations of how both sides will fulfill their obligations under the Security Council resolution adopted Friday.
A similar letter was sent to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Annan told Channel 2 on Tuesday that the world body would seek to deploy more peacekeepers in Lebanon "as quickly as possible."
Annan told Channel 2 he thought the process of meeting the terms of a Security Council resolution passed on Friday for a cease-fire, could take weeks or months. But, he added: "We are trying to move them as quickly as we can."
Lebanon and Israel must immediately inform the United Nations if they have been fired on, with as much detail as possible, "refraining from responding except where clearly required in immediate self-defense," Annan said.
In the case of any firing, Annan said that "the UN undertakes to bring, in an impartial manner, such incidents to the attention of the Security Council as quickly as possible."
Annan also said each side must refrain "from any changes in the strength, composition or disposition of its forces ... unless it notified the UN in advance and the UN in turn is able to inform the other side. "
He asked the two leaders to designate a general who would be accessible to the commander of the UN force, known as UNIFIL, French Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini. The three generals met Monday morning - just hours after the cessation of hostilities began - at the UN position on the border crossing on the Mediterranean coast at Ras Naqoura.
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