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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Mid-East hope as ceasefire begins
Lebanese cars wait to cross a destroyed bridge south of Sidon
Roads were jammed as some Lebanese risked returning home
Thousands of displaced Lebanese have begun travelling home hours after a UN ceasefire to end fighting between Israel and Hezbollah came into force.

Traffic jams formed near the southern town of Sidon, and bulldozers began clearing rubble in southern villages.

Fighting ended at 0500 GMT, although in one later clash, Israeli soldiers fired on a group they said were militants.

Israel has said its troops will remain in Lebanon until an international peacekeeping force can take control.

As the ceasefire came into effect, Israel said it would continue to maintain an air and sea blockade of Lebanon. It also said troops would return fire if they came under attack.

Hezbollah must end attacks on Israel
Israel must end offensive military operations
15,000 peacekeepers to enforce ceasefire
Lebanese troops to be deployed to south
Israel to withdraw troops as international force deployed

Cars packed with luggage and passengers took the highway south from Beirut and others jammed a road leading out of Sidon, as drivers navigated bomb-cratered roads.

But Israel said its ban on traffic on Lebanese roads south of the Litani River remained in place, and that anyone found on the road risked attack by Israeli forces.

The BBC's Jim Muir in the town of Bint Jbeil, the site of some of the fiercest fighting, described a scene of devastation with few signs of life.

The only local residents he found were one man and his disabled wife who had been sheltering in the hospital.

Few civilians ventured out into the streets of northern Israel, where the residents who have not fled south to escape Hezbollah rocket attacks have spent much of the last month in bomb shelters.

Victory claims

Within hours of the ceasefire, Israeli soldiers shot at a group of Hezbollah fighters in the town of Hadatha in south Lebanon, killing one of them, the army said.

A spokesman said an Israeli patrol felt "under threat" when the fighters approached it and had not broken the terms of the ceasefire.

Lebanon deaths:
1,071 (Lebanese govt)
900 - 1,150 (news agencies)
Israeli deaths:
Soldiers: 114 (IDF)
Civilians: 43 (IDF)
Lebanon displaced:
700,000 - 900,000 (UNHCR; Lebanese govt)
Israeli displaced:
500,000 (Human Rights Watch)

Both sides claimed victory. Hezbollah distributed leaflets congratulating Lebanon on its "big victory" and thanking citizens for their patience during the violence.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Hezbollah's "state within a state" had been destroyed, as had its ability to fire at Israeli soldiers across the border.

Israeli still has thousands of troops deep inside southern Lebanon after expanding its ground offensive throughout the weekend. However, some Israeli forces did start withdrawing as the ceasefire came into effect.

Informal talks are taking place within the Lebanese government about how to implement the deployment of UN and Lebanese troops in the south, which is called for in the ceasefire resolution.

Israeli soldiers returning from fighting in Lebanon as ceasefire came into effect
The ceasefire came into effect at 0500 GMT
On Sunday, the Lebanese cabinet postponed a meeting on the subject indefinitely after talks broke down.

The BBC's Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the ceasefire is likely to be fragile at best.

Numerous Hezbollah fighters may be located in areas through which Israeli troops have advanced and the possibility for encounters or friction is high, our correspondent says.

Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said over the weekend that his fighters would respect the ceasefire but would resist any continued Israeli presence in Lebanon after the deal came into force.

Overnight violence

Israeli air strikes continued until 15 minutes before the truce began, hitting areas in the east and south of Lebanon.

All Olmert has, like his fellow appeaser Chamberlain before him, is a piece of paper
Mark Robertson, Lisbon, Portugal

At least 23 civilians were killed in Lebanon in a day of violence preceding the ceasefire, while seven Israeli soldiers were killed in action, and Hezbollah fired 250 rockets into Israel.

Overnight Israeli raids killed at least seven Lebanese in the east. One person died in a strike on a Palestinian refugee camp near the southern city of Sidon.

Mark Malloch Brown, the UN's Deputy Secretary General, told the BBC it might take a month before a joint UN-Lebanese force was fully in place.

But EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana suggested that the first international troops could be in place within the next week.

Some 1,000 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis, 114 of them soldiers, have died in the 34-day conflict, which began when Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July.

Israeli soldiers' relief as ceasefire begins

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