The Guardian May 31, 2000


South Lebanon free at last

Israeli troops scuttled out of south Lebanon on Tuesday, taking their 
Arab quislings with them. In a panic move prompted by the collapse of their 
puppet "South Lebanon Army" (SLA) auxiliaries, the Israelis pulled out six 
weeks ahead of schedule. They were racing to the border while the Lebanese 
resistance advanced to the cheers of the villagers who have endured 
occupation and Israeli terror for 22 years.

Stopping only to blow up fortifications and equipment to prevent the 
resistance or the Labanese army using them, the hated Israeli army drove 
south and the Lebanese people hope they will never see them again. Lebanese 
villagers stormed the prison in the village of Khiam, freeing the 140 
patriots jailed by the SLA on Israeli orders. Some had been inside for over 
ten years. Throughout what was once Israel's "security belt" villagers 
greeted the resistance and returning refugees with Lebanese flags and the 
yellow banners of the Hezbullah (Party of God) militia. 

In Israel there is relief at what the people hope is the end of a conflict 
that claimed the lives of hundreds of Israeli soldiers and a realisation 
that their much vaunted army was brought to its knees by the determination 
and courage of Lebanese guerrillas. "We have always wanted to leave 
Lebanon, but now it is happening we cannot escape the feeling that events 
are being forced on us," claimed Israeli General Shaul Mofaz. 

Torn apart

In the 70s, when Lebanon was torn apart by civil war, many Israeli leaders 
thought they could seize southern Lebanon for themselves. Tel Aviv ordered 
the troops in to back the Lebanese right-wing Falange organisation in the 
civil war. They briefly occupied West Beirut and the whole of the south. 
But they were bombed out of Beirut and the rest of south Lebanon, apart 
from a border strip which has been the scene of continuous fighting with 
the resistance.

"This tragedy is over," Labour Prime Minister Ehud Barak said on Israel 
Army radio on Tuesday. He won the election last year pledging to pull-out 
of Lebanon within a year. The fulfillment of this promise has been forced 
on him by the Lebanese resistance. Barak has granted escaping members of 
the South Lebanese puppet army a 12 months asylum-status in Israel but 
their long-term future is in doubt. They will demand Israeli citizenship as 
a reward for their loyal service  they, after all, have nowhere else to 
go. But Israel has no further use for them.

But there is other unfinished business left over from the Arab-Israeli war 
of 1967 following which Israel occupied parts of Lebanon, the Golan 
Heights, the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip and large parts of Egypt. 

An immediate flash point is the Shebaa farms, an area on the tip of the 
Lebanese border. Lebanese premier Saiim al-Hoss stressed on Monday that any 
pull-out that does not include them will be considered a redeployment and 
not a withdrawal. The Shebaa farms were Lebanese and Lebanon has the right 
to fight to regain them, he said. This is also the view of Hezbullah, which 
announced last weekend that the Shebaa farms had become a new focus for 
resistance action.

New flashpoints

Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights is an even more dangerous 
flashpoint now. Barak could have had a negotiated agreement if he had 
responded realistically to Syrian peace proposals. Syria insists that there 
can be no peace unless Israel gives up every inch of occupied Syrian 
territory as well. Barak still wants to retain part of the occupied Golan 
Heights, regardless of the dangers ahead. Maybe now he's having second 
thoughts.

It is also clear that the defeat of the Israeli forces in South Lebanon 
will intensify the struggle by the Palestinians for restoration of their 
stolen lands.

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Material from New Communist Party of Britain

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