The Israelis will be replaced by French, Italian, and Greek warships under a United Nations mandate, reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger. Israel says their mission is to prevent the shipment of weapons from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah.
The lifting of the air and sea blockade of Lebanon is seen as a boost to the three-week-old cease-fire. It would wind up Israel's recent campaign against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, and allow desperately needed reconstruction projects there to proceed freely. Up to 15,000 Lebanese soldiers backed by an equal number of international forces are deploying in southern Lebanon to replace the Israelis under an Aug. 14 truce.
Israel plans to pull all its troops out of Lebanon in time for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins in two weeks, reports Berger. Israel is pleased about the deployment of an international force, which will include French, Italian, Spanish and Turkish troops, among others. More than 3,000 foreign troops are already in Lebanon and when the number reaches 5,000 Israel will pull out. UN officials say that should happen in about 10 days.
In other developments:
Israel sealed off Lebanon by air and sea at the start of its war against Hezbollah to keep Syria and Iran from resupplying it with arms. Israel, yielding to intense international pressure, ended its air blockade of Lebanon on Thursday, but said it would maintain the naval blockade until international peacekeeping vessels arrived to monitor the seas.
The U.N. informed the Lebanese government that a joint French, Italian and Greek naval force began patrolling the Lebanese coastline at 12:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. EDT) Friday, a government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Israel has been gradually pulling out its soldiers — whose number peaked at 30,000 at the war's end — as international replacements arrive.