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The BBC's Barbara Plett in Beirut
"The armoured vehicles and tanks left behind by Israel are museum pieces now"
 real 56k

Friday, 25 May, 2001, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Lebanon remembers Israel's withdrawal
From left: Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
Lebanese parties have closed ranks in support of Hezbollah
Lebanon's political leaders have put on a strong show of unity to mark the first anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from the south.

Thousands of people filled the streets of central Beirut on Friday and demonstrators voiced support for the Palestinian uprising against Israel.

Hezbollah supporter throws stones at Israeli troops on border
Hezbollah supporters protested on the border with Israel
The celebrations were heavy with reminders that the end of occupation in Lebanon has not brought peace to the region.

As the politicians spoke, Palestinian Islamic militants carried out two suicide attacks to mark the anniversary, and Israeli soldiers shot and wounded a Palestinian man on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

On Thursday, Israel shot down a Lebanese civilian plane it feared was on a terrorist mission.

Hezbollah elevated

An anniversary rally in Beirut brought together Lebanon's Christian President Emile Lahoud, Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Shia Muslim speaker of parliament Nabih Berri and the head of the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia, Hassan Nasrallah.


Resistance is still our best weapon to face Israeli aggression.

Lebanese President
Emile Lahoud

Hezbollah has been elevated to the status of a liberation army over the past year and Lebanese parties have publicly closed ranks in support of its continued resistance against Israel.

They claim that Israel's withdrawal was incomplete because it did not leave the disputed Shebaa Farms border area.

The UN disagrees, but Hezbollah fighters carry out sporadic operations there and, during this anniversary week, renewed threats to attack.

Support for Syria

The rally also demonstrated support for Syria's strong military presence in Lebanon, despite deep divisions about its political control of the country.


The Israeli pullout sparked an unprecedented debate about Syria's role in Lebanon. On Friday, though, the focus was on standing up to Israel.

Mr Berri said fighters would attack northern Israel if the Israeli army hit Syrian targets in Lebanon, as it did last month. Israel has threatened to do just that because Syria backs Hezbollah.

In a national address marking the anniversary on Thursday, Mr Lahoud accused Israel of bringing the Middle East to the brink of "all-out confrontation".

"The unravelling events are solid proof that Israel seeks security, not peace... more so, it seeks security at the expense of peace," Mr Lahoud said.

"Resistance is still our best weapon to face Israeli aggression."

Tensions high

While Lebanon celebrated, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded a Palestinian man trying to hoist a Hezbollah flag on the Lebanese-Israeli border fence and fired at others who tried to slip into the tense frontier land.

Mohammed Assadi, 25, flashes a victory sign after hoisting a Hezbollah flag.
Assadi, minutes before Israeli soldiers shot and wounded him
Witnesses said Mohammed Assadi, 25, ignored two Israeli warning shots to stop. A soldier then shot him in the left knee. He was taken to hospital in Nabatiyeh.

At Fatima Gate on the border, a group of men and Muslim clerics from eastern Lebanon threw stones at the Israeli border post. Such protests have become an almost daily ritual since the withdrawal.

In suicide attacks Friday, a rigged car blew up alongside a bus in central Israel and a truck exploded near a heavily fortified Israeli army post in the Gaza Strip. Three assailants were killed and 45 Israelis were injured, most lightly.

The Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the truck explosion and Islamic Jihad said it was responsible for the attack in Hadera. Both groups said they carried out the attacks to mark the anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

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See also:

24 May 01 | Middle East
Israel downs Lebanese plane
24 May 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon one year on
23 May 01 | Media reports
Lebanon anniversary sparks debate
24 May 01 | Middle East
Hezbollah remembers 'landmark victory'
30 Jul 00 | Middle East
UN spreads out on Lebanon border
26 May 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon's fragile peace
23 May 00 | Middle East
Q & A: Leaving Lebanon
24 May 00 | Middle East
Bitter retreat for the SLA
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