BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israel began slowly pulling out forces from southern Lebanon and made plans to hand over territory Tuesday on the first full day of a tense cease-fire that already has been tested by skirmishes and rocket fire. Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon shot five Hezbollah fighters Tuesday in two separate incidents, but it was not clear if they were wounded or killed, the army said.
The Islamic militant group also fired at least 10 rockets in southern Lebanon, but none crossed the border into Israel. On Monday, at least six Hezbollah militiamen were killed by Israeli troops waiting for a peacekeeping force before beginning a full-scale withdrawal.
But Israeli and Hezbollah forces avoided any escalation, raising hopes that the U.N.-imposed pact could stick, as governments rushed to assemble international troops to deploy in southern Lebanon and firm up the peace.
Hezbollah's two patrons, Syria and Iran, proclaimed on Tuesday that the guerrillas had won the fight with Israel and thwarted America's plan for a "new Middle East" — a reflection of the two countries' boosted confidence amid Hezbollah's increased popularity around the Arab and Islamic world.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said early in the war between Hezbollah and Israel that any settlement should be durable and lead to a "new Middle East" where extremists have no influence.
But after 34 days of fighting, a cease-fire that took effect Monday brought a fragile truce, with Hezbollah surviving and Israeli forces unable to score a decisive victory. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has declared "strategic, historic victory" against Israel.
Israel and its main backer, the United States, however, portrayed Hezbollah as the loser — and by extension, its main backers, Iran and Syria. "There's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon," President Bush said Monday.
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The leaders of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria have declared this a victory against Israel and the United States and all Zionists around the world, I tend not to agree.
The capability of Hezbollah to be an effective offensive military apparatus has been seriously degraded over the past month, due to the massive bombing campaign and the more recent incursion by the Israeli military forces.
These proclamations of victory over Israel and The United States are nothing more than a deceitful propaganda campaign being waged all over the Arab world with the intent of gathering more recruits and more influence across the Middle East.
Iran and Syria have been continuously pulling the strings of Hezbollah with the aim of total destruction of the Jewish state and the expulsion of all Christians and Jews from the region.
While much focus has been put on this one battle, this is just one battle in an on going war with radical Islam that has been going on for the last 20 years, but its only since Bush took office have we begun to fight back against these savages.
This is a war of ideas and values if nothing else, which is why it is so vital that we do win, we can not allow our country and our way of life to be impeded by those who would impose Islam upon the whole world and kill any who do not bow to them.
This truce is in a very fragile stage and without a significant international military force Israel is forced to keep troops in southern Lebanon until they arrive.
The troops that Lebanon has promised have not been able to disarm Hezbollah in the past, so what evidence do they have that they will be able to do so now?
Hezbollah has stated that they will still engage Israeli ground forces as long as they remain in southern Lebanon and without a substantial international military presence tensions will rise once again and I have no doubt that Hezbollah will fault on its agreements and once again attack Israel.
There can be no peace as long as Hezbollah remains intact, that much is a fact.