Israeli-Allied Militia Pulls Back in Lebanon

From Associated Press

Israeli-allied militiamen early today used dynamite to destroy one of their key outposts in southern Lebanon and retreated to new positions, militia officials said.

The South Lebanon Army's withdrawal from Sojod, a hilltop post with commanding view of a Hezbollah guerrilla stronghold, appeared aimed at cutting casualties ahead of the Israeli army's promised departure from Lebanon this summer.

Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes and guerrilla attacks continued for a seventh consecutive day. The latest air raid was early today on a valley near Sojod, about 15 miles north of Israel's Upper Galilee border.

The new front line is now at Rihan, a mountain village east of Sojod where the South Lebanon Army maintains a position.

Its withdrawal today came amid the worst hostilities in southern Lebanon in six months. Hezbollah guerrillas killed the No. 2 man in the SLA on Sunday and three Israeli soldiers on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak threatened earlier in the week to retaliate for the losses.

Barak has promised to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon by July, and hopes to obtain an agreement involving Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon, that would guarantee security along Israel's northern border.

But the heightened violence throughout the week could hamper efforts to get Israel-Syria peace talks, indefinitely postponed last month, back on track.

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