Israeli soldiers on Tuesday (11 April) began their reportedly reluctant withdrawal from forward positions in southern Lebanon.
Israeli soldiers on Tuesday (11 April) began their reportedly reluctant withdrawal from forward positions in southern Lebanon. On the first day, their pullback from seven points in the eastern sector of the region took them back between two and seven kilometres (one and four miles). It was the first stage of the withdrawal decreed by the United Nations Security Council.
SYNOPSIS: This is the shattered village of Rashaya Foukhar, some 10 kilometres (six miles) from the Israeli border. From an early hour soldiers were busy packing and loading their equipment onto trucks for the pullback. Israelis have been sceptical of the willingness of United Nations peacekeeping forces, who are taking their place, to resist Palestinian violence. Reports last weekend said Norwegian forces had retreated from Palestinian gunfire at Kaoukaba, some 16 kilometres (10 miles) from here.
General Emmanuel Erskine, the Ghanaian commander of the U.N. Interim Force observed the hand-over. He said the time had come for the U.N. troops to take over. He felt the pullback had begun smoothly, and repeated that the United Nations' job was to make sure the area was not used for hostile actions.
At another Israeli encampment, just a few kilometres from Rashaya Foukhar, troops were just as busy loading equipment onto trucks for the brief journey towards their own border. The pullback began exactly four weeks after Israeli forces poured across the border following a Palestinian guerrilla attack near Tel Aviv, in which more than 30 Israelis died.
On Friday (14 April), will begin second phase of withdrawal on the centre of the South Lebanese front along the Litani River. United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim has termed the Israeli withdrawal plans inadequate, but Israeli officials say their Lebanese incursion was to create a new political situation in the area.
Meanwhile, as the Israeli pullback got underway, Lebanese refugees also began packing to return to their homes from temporary dwelling places. Youngsters have regarded the drama as high adventure.
Thousands were made homeless when Israeli air strikes pounded their villages, and visiting newsmen reported seeing hordes of Lebanese fleeing from danger areas with what-ever possessions they had been able to gather. The Lebanese government has announced that every returning family would get a full month's ration of food.
Officials said that engineering teams had repaired water networks in the central sector of southern Lebanon. There have been unverified rumours that regrouped units of the Lebanese Army would start moving south to oversee the repatriation of refugees.