IDF officers meet counterparts to discuss transfer of control in South.
By YAAKOV KATZ
The IDF reported two local incidents in which soldiers fired at armed Hizbullah operatives in southern Lebanon Monday after a cease-fire went into effect in the region.
In the first incident, troops opened fire on a group of gunmen, hitting one man.
According to the IDF, Golani soldiers fired at the armed operatives who moved towards an IDF unit "in a threatening way."
The army said it did not know if the fighter had been killed or wounded, but said the soldiers "fired in self-defense."
No injuries were reported among the soldiers.
A second incident was reported hours later as soldiers spotted an armed man near the village of Faroun in the central sector and opened fire.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, addressing the Labor faction in the Knesset on Monday afternoon, said that "the cease-fire is being maintained, and the government is working on coordinating with UNIFIL on handing over territory. Israel has no intention of remaining in the 'mud' of Lebanon."
Senior IDF officers were meeting with officers from the Lebanese army and UNIFIL at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing to discuss the transfer of control in southern Lebanon.
At 8 a.m. Monday morning, the cease-fire in the Middle East went into effect. The Air Force, Navy, artillery and other units were ordered to halt all offensive operations.
Since fighting erupted 34 days ago, 166 Israelis were killed - 114 IDF soldiers and 52 civilians.
Lebanon said 791 people had been killed since July 12. According to the IDF, at least 530 were Hizbullah guerillas.
Despite the cease-fire's implementation, the Home Front Command urged northern residents to stay vigilant and continue to abide by the current guidelines. Those guidelines were updated Monday afternoon, with an Command Center announcing that it was okay for residents of Tiberias, Afula, Nazareth, Nazareth Elite, Kiryat Tivon, Migdal Emek, and Ramat Yeshi to return to their regular routine. However, there remained an advisory for all residents of the North against localized public gatherings, youth activities, and day camps.
Convoys of weapons entering Lebanon from Syria will not be targeted by the IDF under the regulations of the newly brokered UN cease-fire, a high-ranking army officer said on Monday.
According to the officer, soldiers were deployed in Lebanon in defensive positions and would only engage Hizbullah gunmen if they felt they were under immediate threat. Trucks carrying weapons do not pose an immediate threat and therefore would not be targeted.
"The idea is to open fire at Hizbullah only if soldiers are faced with an immediate threat. Trucks carrying weapons do not fall under that category," he said.
The officer added that soldiers deployed in Lebanon were in the position to begin an immediate withdrawal if ordered to do so or to press forward and occupy additional territory.
Brig.-Gen. Guy Tzur, commander of division 162, said Monday that the IDF would do everything possible to maintain the cease-fire. It is difficult to predict how Hizbullah will act but we are giving the cease-fire a chance."
While the ceasefire agreement was "fragile," the IDF planned to uphold its side of the agreement and to suspend all offensives against Hizbullah Monday morning, a high-ranking officer in the Northern Command told The Jerusalem Post Sunday night.
If Hizbullah fired Katyusha rockets into Israel after the ceasefire went into effect, the IDF, the high-ranking officer said, would see itself allowed to bomb targets throughout Lebanon, including in Beirut. "If Hizbullah breaks the ceasefire, we will see ourselves allowed to respond," the officer said.
Two hours before the cease-fire went into effect, the IAF dropped leaflets on central Beirut Monday, warning it will retaliate for any attack launched from Lebanon.
Addressed to Lebanese citizens, one leaflet said Hizbullah serves the interests of its Iranian and Syrian patrons and has "brought destruction, displacement and death."
"Will you be able to pay this price again?" it asked.
"The Israel Defense Forces will return and act with the required force against any terrorist act that is launched from Lebanon against the State of Israel," it said.
Late Sunday night, officials indicated that the Navy and Air Force would not lift the siege on Lebanon until its government took action to control access into the country.
So with soldiers holding a line along the Litani River, the IDF is now waiting for 15,000 UN observers to deploy in southern Lebanon, together with the Lebanese army, as stipulated under the cease-fire agreement.
Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky told the Post Sunday that the multinational force was expected to begin deploying in the coming days and that there was a chance that the IDF would begin withdrawing from Lebanon by the end of the week.
"It could take just a few days for the multinational force to arrive," Kaplinsky said from a bunker in Northern Command headquarters in Safed. "Until then, we will continue to defend ourselves and we will engage anyone who we believe is endangering our soldiers."
Not all of the details of how the cease-fire will be enforced have been worked out and late Sunday night, senior IDF officers, led by head of the IDF Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Haki Harel, met with top UN officials to iron out the issues left open.
Despite the public uproar over the late launching of the massive ground offensive up to the Litani River on Friday, the high-ranking officer said that the operation created the right conditions for the cease-fire agreement.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz backed up the officer. "We would not have succeeded in creating an agreement favorable to Israel without the operation launched on Friday," Peretz said during a tour of the Northern Command.
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