January 5, 2000
LINDSEY HILSUM: A withdrawal, they say, not a retreat. Israel shelled southern Lebanon today, providing covering fire to their troops and Lebanese allies. They attacked Hezbollah fighters carrying the black flag, who were hounding Israeli forces as they abandoned the lands they've controlled for 22 years. Most of the troops pulled out overnight. Young Israelis don't want to risk their lives in a never-ending war which started before they were born. The withdrawal was one of Prime Minister's Barak's election pledges. The plan now is to defend Northern Israeli villages, without sending conscripts across the border.
SPOKESMAN: Our mission is to protect Israel, and if we will do that from our territory, well, it's the same.
CROWD SHOUTING: Hezbollah! Hezbollah!
LINDSEY HILSUM: Inside south Lebanon, it was a day of joy and celebration for Muslims. Supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah militia spearheaded the takeover of Beit Jbail, the biggest Shiite settlement in the Israeli-occupied zone. They moved into at least 20 other villages. (Speaking Arabic)
MAN (Translated): This is a lovely day, a day of rejoicing.
WOMAN (Translated): This is the most beautiful day of our lives. We couldn't believe it when we were told we could cross the barricades.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Hezbollah swept through the Muslim villages in the west of the occupied zone today, the key center being Beit Jbail. There were reports of fighting around Christian villages near Marjayoun in the East. There may be a new flashpoint in the disputed area of the Shebaa farms. Hezbollah says it's part of Lebanon, and they'll continue fighting if Israel doesn't leave it. But Israel says it's part of Syria, and they won't withdraw yet. They're triumphant today, but Hezbollah wants more: The Shebaa farms and the return of their leader, Sheikh Obeid, who's held by the Israelis.
SHEIK HASSAN NASRALLAH, Hezbollah Leader (Translated): We will not consider what is happening now as a full withdrawal, unless it includes a pullout from Shebaa and the release of Sheikh Abed Al-Kareem Obeid. If this doesn't happen, Hezbollah will consider that a full withdrawal has not taken place, and that we will have to free our land and liberate our people.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Hezbollah and Lebanese government forces took great delight in arresting members of the south Lebanon army, Israel's proxy force. These are the people, mainly Christians, who fought on Israel's behalf and earned the hatred of other Lebanese. They may now be tried for treason. They may be killed. Streams of SLA fighters, their families, and other Christians fled to the Israeli border at Metulla today. (Sobbing) This woman's family was left behind. They know they're seen as traitors, and they're terrified of what will happen if they're forced to stay in Lebanon. Some were taken to Galilee, where Israel says it will look after them. The man who as defense minister took Israel into Lebanon more than two decades ago listened to their bitterness.
ARIEL SHARON, Israeli Opposition Leader: They said, "Israel betrayed us." Believe me, I could not look into their eyes, and I couldn't say, after being here, that I couldn't blame the Israel government, in front of them. But this thing is such a tragedy for these people that were acting and fighting together with us for the last 25 years.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Just after dawn, the last Israeli tank drew out of Lebanon. The talk is of chapters closing, eras ending. But Syria controls Lebanon. And Israel doesn't know what Syria will do now. (Applause) Prime Minister Barak today visited communities in northern Israel. He had hoped that the troop withdrawal from Lebanon would be part of a comprehensive peace settlement with Syria, but talks in Damascus have stalled. They're safe, nonetheless. He has to convince Israelis that they're safe, nonetheless. (Speaking Hebrew)
PRIME MINISTER EHUD BARAK, Israel (translated): From the day after the withdrawal from Lebanon, the government is obliged to promise two things: First, that the Israeli defense forces will be fully deployed up on the border; and second, that anyone who dares to try and hurt us will get what he deserves, with all our might. (Applause)
LINDSEY HILSUM: Israel still occupies the Golan Heights. It's agreed that the land will be handed back to Syria, but the two sides have failed to thrash out the details. Up on the border, Israelis and Lebanese Hezbollah, face to face for the first time.
WOMAN: (Shouting) I am a citizen and I believe in peace.
MAN: (Shouting) You, you can't do anything.
WOMAN: I can. I believe I can.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Old enemies, uneasy neighbors. A few hours ago, people in the Lebanese crowd are reported to have thrown Molotov cocktails over the border, setting fires to cars on the Israeli side. Prime minister Barak said today after the cabinet meeting that any firing on Israeli citizens or soldiers would be regarded as an act of war. These are dangerous days.
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