Israel says it has begun handing over control of some areas of southern Lebanon to United Nations peacekeepers. The development comes as Lebanese troops have begun deploying in southern Lebanon in accordance with a U.N. cease fire resolution.
Israeli military commanders say they expect the Lebanese army to take a "few days" to establish their authority over large parts of southern Lebanon. A Lebanese brigade took control of the largely Christian town of Marjayoun on Thursday, which is about seven kilometers from the Israeli border.
Israeli military authorities say they are also moving quickly to hand over positions to U.N. troops in Lebanon, saying they have already turned over more than 50 percent of the territory they seized in the past month of fighting in Lebanon. Speaking in New York after talks with the U.N. Secretary-General, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni says the process depends on U.N. troops being reinforced, and the Lebanese army exerting its authority in the region.
"The accepted idea is that the Israeli forces will not leave a vacuum in which Hezbollah forces will enter and will not evacuate the place when the Lebanese army comes," she said. "We are not only talking only about the Lebanese army, but the Lebanese army plus international forces."
Under U.N. resolution 1701, passed last Friday by the U.N. Security Council, an expanded U.N. force of 15,000 troops will help the Lebanese army demilitarize southern Lebanon and stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah militants.
The U.N.-mediated cease fire went into effect on Monday, ending more than a month of fighting that led to the deaths of more than 1,000 Lebanese and more than 150 Israelis.