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The BBC's Paul Adams
"The welcome seemed genuine"
 real 56k

Ephraim Seth, Israeli deputy defence minister
"The border now is quiet but it is still a combustible situation"
 real 28k

Dr Avraham Sela, Hebrew University
"I think it is a welcome measure"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Hero's welcome for Lebanese forces
Civilians welcoming Lebanese forces
Lebanese troops head south to a tumultous welcome
Lebanese Government troops and police have been given a rousing welcome by residents of southern Lebanon as they reoccupy territory lost to the Israelis more than 20 years ago.

A convoy of 1,000 troops in tank carriers, armoured cars and other vehicles set off from Beirut before dawn on Wednesday for the Marjayoun base.

In each community through which they passed, residents turned out to shower them with rose petals and rice.

The Lebanese security forces were quickly deployed in bases which, until May, had housed Israeli troops.

Hezbollah fighters

Reports say there was little evidence of Hezbollah guerrilla fighters who had been controlling the area since the Israeli withdrawal.

Border sign
The border has seen continuing tensions despite the withdrawal
"For 25 years, we have waited to even catch a glimpse of an army soldier in this town," said Amira, an elderly woman holding a tub full of rice to throw at the troops.

"We spent all night waiting for them and can't contain our joy," she said.

Other units are reportedly headed for the towns of Kfar Tibnit, 9.6 km (6 miles) north of the Israeli border and Bent Jbeil, another major town in the west.

Tensions

United Nations peacekeepers completed their own deployment in the area on Saturday, but some tensions between Israel and Lebanon over peacekeeping in the zone continue.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed senior aide Rolf Knutsson to coordinate UN activities in the south.

UN peacekeepers
UN peacekeepers deployed at the Lebanese-Israeli border
On Tuesday Israel's deputy defence minister, Ephraim Sneh, said he doubted whether the Lebanese Government really intended to take control from the Hezbollah fighters.

This followed violent confrontations between Israeli troops and Lebanese civilians, who were reportedly attempting to throw a firebomb over the border fence at Fatma Gate.

Four people were injured after Israeli forces opened fire, and it remains unclear whether Lebanon will deploy its forces in Fatma Gate area.

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See also:

09 Aug 00 | Middle East
In pictures: Lebanese troops return
07 Aug 00 | Middle East
Trouble flares on Lebanon border
27 Jun 00 | Middle East
UN demands end to Israeli 'violations'
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