Israel to end Lebanon blockade

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Israel's air and sea blockade of Lebanon is to end Thursday evening according to a statement issued by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The blockade has been in place since the beginning of the Israel-Hezbollah war on July 12 and will end tomorrow at 1800 local time (1500 UTC). It continued despite the declaration of a ceasefire three weeks ago with Israel declaring the blockade necessary to prevent arms shipments to Hezbollah. International forces are to take up command positions at Lebanese seaports and airports in order to block future smuggling of arms.

German experts are to take up positions monitoring Beirut's airport on Wednesday while German naval vessels will be deployed off the Lebanese coast. There are currently over 3,000 international troops in Lebanon, a figure expected to rise to 5,000 by next week. Under UN Resolution 1701 15,000 international peacekeepers are to police the border with Israel along with approximately the same number of Lebanese government troops.

Lifting the blockade will make it easier for Lebanon to rebuild after the devastating 38 day war and allow the country to resume use of its normal trading and travel routes.