idf lebanon march 298 .
(photo credit: IDF [file])
Israel is generally satisfied with the deployment of UN and Lebanese forces in the area as outlined in the cease-fire arrangement that ended the war last month, officials said Tuesday morning.
"We have to coordinate with the new and old forces of the United Nations" and Lebanon, said Miri Eisin, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman.
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Gearing up for the complete withdrawal of soldiers from Lebanon by the end of the week, the IDF said on Monday it would continue - even following the withdrawal - to fly surveillance planes over Lebanon until UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was fully implemented.
On Tuesday, Brig.-Gen. Udi Dekel, head of the IDF's Strategic Planning and Foreign Relations Division will meet with UNIFIL commander Maj. -Gen. Alain Pellegrini and representatives of the Lebanese Army at UN headquarters in Nakoura, just north of Rosh Hanikra.
The purpose of the meeting, the officer said, was to iron out outstanding issues between the sides including the way UNIFIL will operate during a Hizbullah attack against Israel. The officer said the IDF was not surprised by Pellegrini's comments to The Jerusalem Post on Friday in which the UNIFIL commander said the peacekeeping force would not engage Hizbullah guerrillas even if they were on their way to or in the midst of an attack against Israel.
"We don't expect UNIFIL to be overly eager to engage and disarm Hizbullah," the officer said. "The reality is that they will probably only use force when protecting themselves."
The officer said the IDF hoped that the large presence of multinational and Lebanese soldiers in southern Lebanon - together close to 20,000 - would "deter Hizbullah from any acts of aggression against Israel." The group, the officer said, had "lowered its profile" since a UN-brokered cease-fire went into effect on August 14 and was not displaying weapons in public.
By Monday, the IDF had transferred control of 95 percent of Lebanon to the Lebanese army via UNIFIL. Several hundred IDF soldiers, the officer said, were still present inside Lebanon although only several hundred meters from the Blue Line, the border between Israel and Lebanon. The officer said the IDF's current plans and intentions were to transfer the remaining territory to UNIFIL by the end of the week.
The Lebanese army had deployed 15,000 soldiers in southern Lebanon, some of which were already stationed along the Blue Line at Nakoura and north of Kiryat Shmona, the officer said. The soldiers were patrolling areas known as Hizbullah strongholds and were checking cars to prevent the transfer of weapons to the guerrilla group at roadblocks they had erected along main roads, he said.
The IDF also hopes to reach a final agreement on Tuesday with UNIFIL and the Lebanese army regarding security arrangements around and within the village of Ghajar, which is half in Israel and half in Lebanon. According to the IDF's proposal, the half on the Lebanese side will be under supervision by UNIFIL and the Lebanese army will ensure that Hizbullah guerrilla do not enter the village. Israel will retain civilian responsibility over the entire village.
To the UN's dismay, the officer said, Israel did not plan to suspend its aerial activity over Lebanon until Resolution 1701 was fully implemented, the kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were released and the Lebanese border with Syria was hermetically sealed to weapons transfers to Hizbullah. Israel would also continue flying surveillance aircraft over Lebanon until Resolution 1559 - which calls for the disarmament of armed groups, including Hizbullah in Lebanon - was also implemented, the officer said.
In response, UNIFIL accused Israel of violating the cease-fire and Resolution 1701. "All the partners must fully respect the Blue Line and there must be no violations of the Blue Line whatsoever," said Milos Strugar, a senior advisor to UNIFIL in Lebanon. "UNIFIL sticks strictly to the text of Resolution 1701 and it calls for the respect of the Blue Line and that includes a cessation of air violations."