U.N. envoy paves way for Lebanon peacekeepers

JERUSALEM, July 24 (JTA) — Two months after Israel completed its troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon, the U.N.’s Middle East envoy announced that Israel and Lebanon have stopped violating each other’s territory.

Monday’s announcement by Terje Roed Larsen paves the way for the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers and the Lebanese army along the border.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the announcement, saying it was a prelude to Lebanon’s “assuming the responsibility” for securing “order and quiet along the border.”

After Larsen made the announcement Monday in Beirut, the office of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said it was seeking a final verification that Israel was no longer violating the border.

Once the United Nations issues its final confirmation that the Israeli withdrawal adheres to U.N. Security Council 425 — which calls for a full Israeli pullback from all Lebanese territories — it will clear the way for the stationing of an expanded contingency of U.N. forces, known as UNIFIL.

Since the Israeli withdrawal in late May, Lebanon has filed dozens of complaints that Israel’s army was violating the border.

During the same period, Israel lodged a similar number of complaints with the United Nations over Lebanese violations, primarily provocations that took place along the border near the town of Metulla.

Since Israel’s pullback, crowds of Lebanese and Palestinians were drawn to the site, where it became something of a ritual to throw stones — and in some case, gasoline bombs — at the Israeli side of the border.

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