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On this day: Israel withdraws from southern Lebanon

May 25 2000: A new quiet on the northern border

    After 22 years of military involvement in the region, Israeli troops left Lebanon and made way for United Nations peacekeepers in armoured cars.

    Some 1,000 Israeli soldiers had lost their lives there in the past two decades (the fate of others, like IAF navigator Ron Arad, remains unknown) making the farewell more than a little bittersweet.

    Concern over what Israel's departure would mean for those who lived near the northern border, with the threats from Hizbollah and nearby Syria still heavy, meant the decision was not a simple one for Israel.

    Some 16,000 residents of the northern town of Kiryat Shemona fled as Israeli troops flocked home. But leaving Southern Lebanon was a campaign promise of Ehud Barak, voted in over incumbent Binyamin Netanayhu the previous year.

    As the last troops left, he said: "Now, we have done something. We have the reins in our hands."

    Hizbollah met Israel's departure with typical cheer, staging a demonstration for tens of thousands of supporters. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah also pledged to remove his organisation from southern Lebanon in the wake of the Israeli move – a promise which when Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were reported missing in July 2006 was proven to be simply empty words.

    What the JC said: The nightmare, said one soldier as Israel completed its retreat from southern Lebanon, is over. Sadly, given the past quarter-of-a-century of bloodletting in southern Lebanon, that may prove too hasty a judgment. But there is, at long last, reason to hope Israel's part in a long tragedy of errors may be drawing to a close…Mr Barak, for his part, remarked this week that "there are no easy withdrawals". But there is no reason to believe that a withdrawal delayed would have been any easier. Je was right finally to pull Israeli forces out of Lebanon.

    See more from the JC archives here.

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