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The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"They celebrated from the rooftops"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 24 May, 2000, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
South Lebanon celebrates
Lebanese women
A joyful homecoming for these Lebanese women
By Christopher Hack in Marjayoun

There is an overwhelming mood of celebration across the area evacuated by the South Lebanon Army (SLA).


tank and children
Children play on an abandoned tank
In Marjayoun, site of the former SLA headquarters, thousands of cars are queueing up, sometimes three vehicles wide, along tiny roads all trying to enter southern Lebanon.

The cars are hardly moving, but the mood is jubilant.

Directing traffic

In the area of no man's land, which once separated the occupied zone from the rest of the country, the state electricity company is restoring power lines which were long ago cut.

In villages right next to the Israeli border, there are hundreds of people in the streets, with armed Hezbollah guerrillas standing in pairs on the corners of roads, directing traffic.

hezbollah flag waving
Hezbollah supporters are triumphant
The town of Marjayoun appears largely deserted. Hezbollah guerrillas are busy looting the SLA base.

Almost all areas we have passed have been peaceful. There is no gunfire, just celebration.

Tense border

But, at Mettula, unarmed supporters of Hezbollah - teenage boys - are walking along the access road to Israel, daring each other to get closer to the first Israeli position.

Others are riding motorcycles closer and closer to the Israeli troops. There is no-one to stop them, no authority here.

There's a real danger of the Israeli troops opening fire.

In the overwhelming majority of the occupied zone, the situation is peaceful but some force, perhaps the Lebanese army or UN peacekeepers, must be deployed now to prevent an isolated incident leading to a total breakdown of the situation.

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