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Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Uneasy calm in Christian village
Hezbollah arresting SLA member
Hezbollah has arrested SLA members in some villages
By Christopher Hack in Alma esh Sheb

Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) militiamen have just left the village of Alma esh Sheb.

Most of the several hundred residents of this Christian village are standing in small groups in the village square, next to the church.


Many have been here since the middle of the night. Whole families are gathered, holding Lebanese flags and talking quietly.

There are just four Christian villages in the area of the occupied zone abandoned in the last few hours, and there had been fears of tension.

Devout Muslim Hezbollah guerrillas have led the war which has driven Israeli troops from Lebanon, but this latest phase of the withdrawal has been carried out without a shot being fired.

Hezbollah low-key

Hezbollah has been scrupulously careful to avoid any confrontation with these Christian villages.

Their armed guerrillas have not entered the village and they are preventing their triumphant supporters from even carrying Hezbollah flags as they drive through.

With each car that does pass through the square, horns blaring, there is a round of rather polite applause.

relatives embracing
There have been joyful reunions in many villages

One man told me the SLA militiamen left overnight and the people are calling on the Lebanese government to reclaim control of the village.

Elsewhere, this area evacuated in the past few hours is silent. There is no guerrilla activity, no Israeli shelling. People here are desperately hoping that this calm will be maintained.

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See also:

23 May 00 | Middle East
Barak: Lebanon 'tragedy is over'
22 May 00 | Middle East
Annan warns of UN withdrawal
22 May 00 | Middle East
Lebanon pullout in chaos
05 May 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Risky strategy exposed
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