Israel Completes Promised Withdrawal From Lebanon
Israel today completed the final phase of its three-stage withdrawal from Lebanon on the third anniversary of its invasion, leaving only several hundred troops in a security zone, informed sources said.
Though the army made no official announcement, the sources said the Israeli Defense Force had followed the government’s plan to finish all three stages of the pullout to the international border by June 6.
“We have completed stage three,” the source said. “The idea is we have kept to the schedule but we are making no official declaration because it might weaken the position of southern Lebanese forces.”
The Israeli force in southern Lebanon has in recent months been reduced from a peak of almost 15,000 to only several hundred soldiers confined to a security strip extending between 3 miles and 11 miles, the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said.
Settlers in northern Israeli settlements of Kiryat Shemona and Metulla said they spotted army convoys crossing the border from Lebanon. They reported that Israeli troops were digging trenches and setting devices to make an electronic fence impassable.
Workers at Kibbutz Gash, 12 miles north of Tel Aviv, changed a sign marking the number of days in the war--as they have each day since it began June 6, 1982--saying that “Day 1,095" would be the last. But as the day wore on, there was no official announcement about any final pullback.
Israel’s coalition government decided on Jan. 14 to end the occupation in a three-stage withdrawal.
There were no speeches to mark the anniversary in Israel but in Washington, visiting Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Israel’s “Operation Peace for Galilee” failed to eradicate guerrilla activity in Lebanon. However, he warned that Israeli troops will recross the border and “make life not worth living” in southern Lebanon if guerrilla attacks on northern Israel resume.