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The Knesset Finance Committee approved on Thursday the payment of NIS 40,000 per family to South Lebanese Army veterans, expressing the state's appreciation for the soldiers' service to Israel.
A first payment of NIS 11,000 was expected to be granted to 600 families already on Thursday, Israel Radio reported. The complete sum was to be paid over the course of seven years.
In addition, the committee approved the payment of three salaries to former SLA soldiers for every year of service.
MK Isaac Herzog remarked that by compensating the Lebanese soldiers Israel was doing justice to those who had been its allies during the difficult years [of fighting] in southern Lebanon.
During the Lebanon War, the South Lebanese Army, a Christian militia, allied itself with Israel in its fight against Hizbullah. When Israel pulled its forces out of Lebanon in May 2000, SLA fighters and their families' lives were endangered due to their cooperation with Israel.
Soon after the Israeli pullout, nearly all the soldiers and their families escaped from Lebanon. Some of them emigrated to Israel, while others relocated to other countries.
Upon arriving in Israel, many of the families encountered various hardships, including high unemployment and poor living conditions. Some of them moved back to Lebanon after Hizbullah promised that they would not be harmed.