Israel will lift its sea and air blockade of Lebanon this evening, the Israeli Government announced Wednesday.
A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said international forces would replace the Israelis at command positions over Lebanese seaports and airports.
Israel imposed the air, land and sea blockade shortly after the 34-day war against the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah erupted on July 12. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has been working to get the blockade lifted since an UN-brokered cease-fire went into effect on August 14.
Israel said the blockade was necessary to prevent new arms shipments to Hezbollah guerrillas.
Some 3,250 UN forces are now in Lebanon, and UN officials expect that figure to reach 5,000 troops by late next week. The UN resolution calls for a beefed-up force of up to 15,000 peacekeepers, who will help police the border with Israel with a similar number of Lebanese troops.
In the statement, Israel says it will leave its command posts at various ports at 18:00 local time today (15:00 GMT) and be replaced immediately by international forces. German experts are to arrive at Beirut airport later Wednesday, the statement said.
German naval forces are also expected to arrive within two week to deploy on the Lebanese coast. Until the German troops arrive, Italian, French, British and Greek troops will carry out their task, the statement said.
The statement said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Annan informed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday that the international troops were ready to move in.
Earlier in the day, Annan said hoped the blockade would be lifted within two days.
"Israel will be ready to lift the restrictions when the Lebanese Government augmented by international forces will be ready to enforce the arms embargo on Hezbollah," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. "If they are ready, we will be ready."
In a sign the embargo may be eroding, British Airways/BMED said it was resuming direct flights to Beirut after the British Government had given assurances that it would be safe to do so.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has said that if the blockade goes on for another 20 days, the economic losses would equal the nearly US$1 billion in aid promised by international donors to help the country get back to its feet after the war.
(China Daily September 7, 2006)