Syria, began moving troops from the hills surrounding Beirut on Tuesday. According to Lebanese sources, some 3,000 Syrian soldiers are being redeployed, and some of them will return to Syria.
Troops will move out of the coastal towns of Aramoun, Chuwiefat, Damour, Doha and Khaldeh, south of Beirut, and Dhour al-Chouair to the north the source said.
Lebanese Defense Minister, Mahmoud Hammoud said Syria will withdraw fully from Lebanon only after Israel ends its occupation of all Arab lands.
Hammoud said that the redeployment was ‘due to an improvement in the security situation and in Lebanon’s stability, and an inseparable part of the brotherly relations and cooperation between the two countries.’
Not satisfied with this move, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Israel Radio, said the Syrian move was not a concrete change, and added, that the move did not signify any real change in Syrian policy.
‘We don’t at this point see a change in Syria’s position,’ he said. ‘Syria is under U.S. pressure these days because it is helping Iraqi terrorists … They have an interest in taking steps that will take off or weaken the pressure’ Sharon added.
Sharon repeated an Israeli demand that Syria crack down on Palestinian resistance groups that operate from its territory, and related that to ‘reopening’ peace talks with Syria if complied with his demands.
Altogether, Syria has some 20,000 soldiers in Lebanon. The previous redeployments largely involved moving troops from Lebanese cities to the Beka’a Valley and the Syrian border.
Some Lebanese slammed Tuesday’s redeployment as yet another ‘cosmetic move with nothing to it.’
As Syrian forces started Tuesday redeploying from the outskirts of Beirut towards the eastern Syrian-Lebanese border, sources in Beirut said that further redeployment of Syrian troops from the northern and central Lebanese areas towards Bekaa will take place soon.
The move comes 19 days after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution demanding Syria withdraw its forces from Lebanon.