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Israel to Lift Air and Sea Blockade on Lebanon


Israel says it will lift its blockade of Lebanon's air and seaports on Thursday. It is a boost to the fragile ceasefire between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hezbollah.

The Israeli prime minister's office announced the lifting of the air and sea blockade, which was imposed at the beginning of the Lebanon war eight weeks ago. The aim of the blockade was to prevent the shipment of weapons to Hezbollah, which fired nearly 4,000 rockets at northern Israel during the 34-day conflict.

Israel will withdraw from positions at Lebanese sea and airports, and international forces will move in. Italian, French, British and Greek troops will participate in the mission, and German forces are expected to arrive in about two weeks.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev says their mandate is clear.

"To cut off supply lines, to make sure that there is an international arms embargo on Hezbollah, making sure that that organization cannot re-arm and re-group," he said. "Ultimately, the international community is committed to disarming Hezbollah."

Regev says that means dealing with the suppliers.

"The most dangerous support for Hezbollah comes from Iran and from Syria, those lorries after lorries bringing missiles and rockets and explosives for the terrorist movement," he said.

The blockade crippled Lebanon economically, and lifting it will help the devastated country to begin rebuilding. It is a diplomatic breakthrough, showing that Lebanon and Israel can cooperate through international mediation. And it is seen as a sign that the three-week-old ceasefire is solidifying.

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