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Spanish Troops Arrive in Lebanon to Enforce Ceasefire


More international troops are arriving in Lebanon to enforce the one-month-old ceasefire between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hezbollah. The peacekeepers face a complicated mission because, after 34 days of fighting, neither side scored a decisive victory.

About 550 Spanish troops have begun arriving in South Lebanon, beefing up the U.N.-led peacekeeping force. U.N. officials say the international force should reach the target of 5,000 in a few days, mostly French, Italian and Spanish troops. Israel has said that, when there are 5,000 international troops on the ground, it will pull all its forces out of South Lebanon. That could happen by Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in a week.

"Israel would like to depart from southern Lebanon," said Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisen. "We have no territorial ambitions. We have no territorial dispute with Lebanon, and Israel would like to be back on the internationally recognized 'Blue Line' as it's called."

The U.N. recognized the Blue Line as the international border when Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18-year occupation of a self-declared security zone.

That border will now be patrolled by international and Lebanese army forces. Eventually, they will total 30,000 troops - 15,000 international and 15,000 Lebanese.

Their mission is to create a buffer between Israel and Hezbollah, a group that is backed by Syria and Iran. But Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his fighters are still in towns and villages along the border with Israel, and have no plans for pulling out.

That is why Israeli analyst Ephraim Inbar believes it is just a matter of time before the next round of conflict.

"Both sides, the Israelis as well as the Hezbollah, would like to have another round," he said. "Israel is obviously disappointed by what happened, and wants to restore some of its deterrence, while the perception of victory on part of Syria and Nasrallah whets their appetite."

But, for now, the ceasefire is holding, and getting a boost from the arrival of international troops.

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