Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hours-old truce sees six Hezbollah men killed- The Times of India

The Times of India

JERUSALEM: Israeli troops killed six Hezbollah fighters on Monday in southern Lebanon in four separate skirmishes that illustrated the fragility of an hours-old ceasefire.

Despite the incidents, the UN-imposed truce ushered in a calm that the border region had not witnessed for more than a month, with the first tentative signs that people on both sides could begin rebuilding their homes and lives.

"Except for local incidents, the ceasefire is holding," defence minister Amir Peretz said 6-1/2 hours after the firing was to halt at 8 am.

No rockets fell on northern Israel in the first hours after the truce, but Israelis who deserted their rocket-battered homes remained wary of returning.

In Haifa, Israel's third largest town and a frequent Hezbollah target, stores closed for weeks began to reopen, and a few people returned to the beaches.

In Kiryat Shemona, where more than half the population fled during the final weeks of the war, streets were still mostly empty but traffic lights winked on again.

The few grocery stores that braved more than 700 rockets on the town were still the only places for food, with restaurants and cafes shut. Residents stirred from their bomb shelters, but there was no influx of returning refugees.

In a policy statement to parliament, prime minister Ehud Olmert said the war changed the strategic balance in the region, eliminated Hezbollah's "state within a state", badly damaged its arsenal and undermined its confidence.

Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the opposition Likud Party, said there were serious problems with the war.

"There were many failures, failures in identifying the threat, failures in preparing to meet the threat, failures in the management of the war."

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