Guns fell silent across southern Lebanon on Monday morning as a United Nations ceasefire halting Israel’s month-long war against Hezbollah came into effect, Lebanese security forces say.
Half an hour after the cease-fire took hold, Israeli warplanes were absent from skies across Lebanon, including the Bekaa Valley, where airstrikes had hit about one hour before.
"Suddenly, just after 0800 (0500GMT) there was complete quiet in south Lebanon," a Reuters source said shortly after the ceasefire came into effect.
In the southern port city of Tyre, people began to venture out of their homes for the first time since a curfew was imposed on roads there.
In a Beirut park and in camps across the country refugees were seen packing up their belongings and preparing to return to homes they had fled weeks ago. Many do not know if their homes are still standing.
Meanwhile Israeli military officials said the army had begun withdrawing troops from south Lebanon.
However, Israel has said it will continue its blockade around Lebanon, "until a mechanism is put in place to control smuggling of arms [to Hezbollah]."
In Beirut in the hours immediately after the ceasefire came into effect, Jihad Azour, the Lebanese finance Minister, told France 2 television the truce appeared to be holding.
"The situation is stable along the whole border and the zones of hostilities," he said.
The final hours before the truce saw some of the fiercest fighting
Both Israel and Hezbollah have said that they would observe the truce, but that they also reserve the right to defend themselves.
Israeli planes flew over Beirut just hours before the truce came into effect dropping leaflets that said: "To the Lebanese citizens: Hezbollah which is serving its Iranian and Syrian masters has led you to the edge of the abyss,"
"Know that Israel defense forces will return and work with the required force against any terrorist act that will be launched from Lebanon to harm the state of Israel."
Hezbollah have said that it would observe the truce once it began but would reserve the right to fight Israeli soldiers still on Lebanese soil.
Residents were seen tearing up the leaflets according to an Agence France Presse correspondent in Beirut.
The United Nations (UN) security council resolution envisages a phased withdrawal of Israeli troops from south Lebanon and the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese troops to the region alongside a further 15,000 UN peacekeeping troops.
"I think we will be able to guarantee that the force, as far as the Europeans are concerned will be robust"
Javier Solana, European Union foreign policy chief, said that he would like to see international troops start deploying to southern Lebanon this week or early next week. The UN have said that the deployment could take up to 10 days.
"I’ve been speaking to several countries during the day and night and I think we will be able to guarantee that the force, as far as the Europeans are concerned will be robust," Solana said.
The force which will be led by the French is to include up to 300 troops from Italy. Portugal, Finland and Spain are considering deployments. Solana listed Australia, Canada, Malaysia and Indonesia as non-European Union nations prepared to help.
The Haaretz newspaper reported that the Israeli government was willing to discuss a possible release of prisoners in exchange for the freeing of the two captured Israeli soldiers.
*this article was reprinted from aljazeera.net