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Lebanon Truce Holds For Second Day


Israeli army commanders say that starting Wednesday, they will begin moving some troops back from positions they have captured in Lebanon in the past month of fighting Hezbollah. The U.N.-mediated truce in Lebanon is now in its second day with few violations reported.

Israeli military authorities say they hope to complete the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon by the end of next week.

Brigadier-General Shuki Shahur, the deputy chief of Israel's Northern Command says Israeli military units inside Lebanon are preparing to handover positions to U.N. troops, and possibly Lebanese army units, starting Wednesday.

Shahur says by the end of this week, Israel plans to demobilize tens of thousands of reserve troops called up in the largest mobilization in years.

The development came on the second day of the U.N.-mediated truce between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon after more than a month of fighting. Despite sporadic mortar and rocket fire against Israeli forces still inside Lebanon, Israel says the truce is holding.

Israeli officials say they will keep their air and sea blockade of Lebanon in place - to stop weapons shipments to Hezbollah - until international peacekeepers arrive. Israeli officials also criticized remarks made by Syria's President Bashar Assad who called the fighting in Lebanon a failure for Israel and its allies. Israeli Foreign Ministry Tzipi Livni warned Syria not to try to use its Hezbollah allies to influence the government of Lebanon.

Tens of thousands of Israelis began returning to northern towns after Hezbollah rocket attacks stopped due to the cease-fire. But there is growing criticism of Prime Minister Olmert's conduct of the war - especially from right-wing Israeli politicians like Effi Eitan of the National Religious Party who say the conflict did not achieve its aim of destroying Hezbollah as a fighting force.

"I cannot hide the deep feeling of frustration and disappointment from what has been achieved with a very high cost of lives lost until now," he said. "There will be a moment when this government will have to answer very tough questions. I think morally it has come to the end of its credentials."

Israel's prime minister has defended the Lebanon operation, saying it achieved its aim of eliminating Hezbollah's state within a state and largely destroyed the terrorist group's supply of weaponry. Israel's defense minister has also said a military commission will investigate how the operation in Lebanon was conducted.

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