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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 October 2006, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
UN hails Israel's Lebanon pullout
An Israeli soldier leans on a tank after Israeli troops crossed back into northern Israel from Lebanon, near the town of Avivim

The UN has said Israel has withdrawn the bulk of its troops from Lebanon, fulfilling a key condition of the UN ceasefire ending war with Hezbollah.

But it said some Israeli troops remained in the small border village of Ghajar, where Israeli troops were deployed before the month-long war.

Israeli defence officials said they had complied with the UN resolution.

Lebanese and international peacekeeping troops are being deployed to monitor the nearly seven-week-old ceasefire.

Significant progress has been achieved today
Maj Gen Alain Pellegrini
Unifil commander

The UN resolution also called for Hezbollah to disarm, but the group has refused, saying it is keeping its fighters ready.

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

"Significant progress has been achieved today," UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) commander Maj Gen Alain Pellegrini said in a statement.

"The IDF [Israeli army] have withdrawn their troops from the south, except from the area around the village of Ghajar.

"I expect that they will leave this area in the course of the week thus completing the withdrawal in line with the [UN] Resolution 1701."

Israeli officials say their troops will stay on in Ghajar until a security agreement is reached between Israel, the UN and the Lebanese army.

Ghajar has been divided between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights since Israel captured its side from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Fight 'not over'

Since the ceasefire came into force on 14 August, 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.


"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.

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

Hezbollah is still holding captive two Israeli soldiers whose abduction sparked the conflict - and most Israelis believe the fight with Hezbollah is not over once and for all, says the BBC's Matthew Price at the border.

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

UN truce

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.

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

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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