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Lebanese Troops Move South; Commercial Flight Lands in Beirut


Lebanese troops are deploying in the southern part of the country in line with a U.N. ceasefire resolution on ending the monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.

Soldiers in trucks, armored carriers and jeeps crossed the Litani River at several points early Thursday and began moving further south toward the Israeli border.

A contingent of troops and tanks moved into army barracks in Marjayoun, a mainly Christian town eight kilometers from the Israeli border. Israeli forces vacated the strategic area earlier this week.

Israel says it is handing control of some areas to UNIFIL, the United Nations team of military observers and monitors that has been based in the region for more than 25 years.

The U.N. Security Council, which called for the Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire that began Monday, says Lebanon will deploy 15,000 troops in the southern part of the country, and they will work together with an international peacekeeping force of the same size.

The Lebanese Cabinet has affirmed those plans, and France has agreed to lead the new peacekeeping force.

In Beirut, Lebanese officials said their troops will not force Hezbollah fighters to disarm. However, the VOA correspondent in Beirut reports Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has pledged that no weapons in south Lebanon will be outside the Lebanese state's control.

In New York, representatives of all nations participating in the peacekeeping operation in Lebanon are to meet at the U.N. Thursday to discuss logistical details of the mission.

Also today, a commercial flight has arrived at the Beirut international airport for the first time since Israel bombed the facility at the start of a month-long war against Hezbollah.

A plane from Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines, arrived in Beirut from Amman, breaking an Israeli air blockade.

Airport authorities say a Royal Jordanian airliner was to arrive later in the day.

The Beirut airport - Lebanon's only international airport - was shutdown on July 13, when Israel bombed its runways. Israel also carried out several subsequent raids hitting the runways and fuel tanks.

During the war, Israel allowed planes carrying humanitarian aid to land at the airport, where only one runway remained operational.

Some information for this report provided by AP, Reuters and AFP

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