Lebanese troops on Friday pressed their historic deployment to Hezbollah's longtime bastion in the south, taking up positions in the heavily bombed border town of Khiam and other villages.
A dozen military trucks and armored personnel carriers rolled into the Shi'ite hilltop town of Khiam where last month four UN peacekeepers were killed in an Israeli air raid that sparked an international outcry.
The troops, from the 10th Brigade, took up position outside a school in the town of 35,000 people just 7 kilometers from the Israeli border.
The town, site of a notorious prison run by Israel's proxy South Lebanon Army militia during its previous occupation of Lebanon until 2000, was turned almost to rubble by heavy Israeli bombardment during the latest conflict.
Troops also entered the village of Shebaa, where they were given a rapturous welcome by hundreds of locals who threw rice over the soldiers and performed folk dances and the Sunni Muslim community slaughtered two sheep.
Such were the numbers on the streets that tanks proudly flying the Lebanese flag had difficulty passing through. The Sunni village lies close but not in the contested Shebaa Farms area, occupied by Israel.
Further to the west, troops have deployed as far as the coastal village of Mansuri, about 10 kilometers north of the border with Israel, a senior military official said.
At around the same distance from the border, the troops rolled inland and more to the west as far as Jbal Al-Botom, Baraashit, Majdal Selim and Qabrikha, he said.
In the eastern sector, army troops also took up position a few kilometers from the border in Qlaiaa, Marjayun, Khiam, the Arqub region and Kfar Shuba, as well as Shebaa, he said.
Lebanese troops "continued to carry out their deployment in the south, with no incidents or problems reported until now," the official said.
The deployment was in line with a UN-brokered truce that came into force on Monday.
(China Daily August 19, 2006)