Israeli soldiers crossing the border with Lebanon into Israel on an armoured personal carrier on May 24, 2000.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
It was 16 years ago Tuesday that the Israeli military officially ended its presence in the so-called "security zone" in southern Lebanon and pulled back to the international border, ending an 18-year presence in Israel's neighbor to the north.
Following through on an election promise, then-premier Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to pull out of southern Lebanon after negotiations with then-Syrian leader Hafez Assad on a possible peace treaty broke down.
The pullout took two days to complete and no soldiers were injured during the withdrawal.
Members of the South Lebanon Army, the Lebanese Christians armed by and allied with Israel, fled for fear of retribution from the locals in south Lebanon.
The Israeli military occupation of southern Lebanon proved a costly one for the IDF, which lost 559 soldiers during the period from 1985-2000.
The withdrawal was criticized by some for the hasty manner in which it was executed. There was also the perception among many that Israel was pushed out of south Lebanon by the Shi'ite militia Hezbollah.
It was widely believed that the pullout served as inspiration for the Palestinians who saw that it was possible to force the IDF out if exacting enough casualties. This belief planted the seeds of the second intifada, which was to follow later that year.