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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 October 2006, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
Most Israeli troops leave Lebanon
Israeli soldiers hug after crossing from Lebanon into Israel

Israel has withdrawn the bulk of its troops from Lebanon, fulfilling a key condition of the UN ceasefire that ended its war with Hezbollah.

About 200 soldiers crossed into Israel after midnight, the army said.

Israel sent thousands of troops into southern Lebanon during a month-long war triggered by Hezbollah's abduction of two soldiers in July.

Some Israeli troops remain on the Lebanese side of the divided border village of Ghajar.

Lebanese and international peacekeeping troops are being deployed to monitor the ceasefire.

"The responsibility for Lebanon right now is in the hands of the Lebanese government and, of course, the UN so every act of Hezbollah is the responsibility of Lebanon," Israeli army spokesman Zvika Golan said.

Fight 'not over'

Over the six weeks since the ceasefire came into force, Israel has been withdrawing troops from a peak of 30,000 during the fighting.

Lebanon had complained in recent days that the pace of the withdrawal was too slow.

Map

The last forces pulled out under the cover of darkness, hours before the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur was due to begin.

Troops padlocked the border gate at Zarit, close to where the two soldiers were seized on 12 July.

The BBC's Matthew Price at the border says that although soldiers laughed and held up flags as they crossed back into Israel, there was no sense of victory.

Hezbollah is still holding captive two Israeli soldiers whose abduction sparked off the conflict - and most Israelis also believe that the fight with Hezbollah is not over once and for all, our correspondent says.

The soldiers on the border said they might have to go back into Lebanon one day, he adds.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Lebanon says there will be relief in the country's southern villages, as well as for the Lebanese authorities.

But she says the onus will now be on the Lebanese and UN forces to make sure the volatile border remains quiet.

Disarming Hezbollah

The UN is expected to give confirmation when it has verified that the pull-out is complete.

The UN-brokered truce, agreed in August, ended 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

UN troops in south Lebanon
Some 5,000 of the planned 15,000 UN troops are in place
The UN ceasefire resolution called on Hezbollah to end attacks against Israel and on Israelis to withdraw. It called for the deployment of 15,000 UN peacekeepers, alongside the same number of Lebanese troops, in south Lebanon.

Some 5,000 UN forces are now in place, together with 10,000 Lebanese soldiers.

But correspondents point out that the resolution also calls for the disarming of Hezbollah - which the militant group has resisted.

The UN has appointed a mediator to try to win the captured soldiers' freedom, most likely through a prisoner swap with Israel.

The completion of the withdrawal comes a day after the Israeli infrastructure minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, called for the assassination of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

"He's bad for the Jews, he's bad for the Arabs, he's bad for the Christians. We should wait for the right opportunity and not leave him alive," he said.

More than 1,100 people - mostly civilians - were killed in Lebanon during the war. More than 150 Israelis - mainly soldiers - were killed.


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