Major-General Alain Pellegrini, the commander of UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) said on Sunday the Israeli army had withdrawn its troops from the south, except from the area around the village of Ghajar.

   

"I expect that they will leave this area in the course of the week thus completing the withdrawal in line with the [UN] Resolution 1701," he said.

 

The Unifil statement said the Lebanese army would start deploying in the vacated areas on Monday.

 

"The LAF [Lebanese army] can now provide security and stability for the people of the south who have already suffered a great deal," Pellegrini said.

 

Ghajar is a divided border village where an unspecified number of Israeli soldiers remained in the Lebanese section, according to Israeli reports.

 

A Unifil statement said peacekeepers were in the process of confirming that there were no Israeli troops present in the areas that Israel declared as vacated.

 

It said that after a full withdrawal, Unifil and the Lebanese army would inspect the length of the border to ensure that there were no violations of the Blue Line.

 

Under the cease-fire resolution that ended the 34-day Hezbollah-Israel war on August 14, Lebanese troops and UN forces are to set up a weapons-free zone in south Lebanon, which borders Israel.

 

Israeli version

 

Earlier, Israeli security sources said that the Israeli army had completed its withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

"The IDF [Israeli army] have withdrawn their troops from the south, except from the area around the village of Ghajar"

Major General Alain Pellegrini, the Commander of UN Interim Force in Lebanon, Unifil

They said that the last Israeli tanks and troops left through the border post of Zarit - close to where two Israeli soldiers were abducted by Hezbollah fighters in a cross-border raid on July 12 - early on Sunday.

Israeli television said that despite the ground pull-out Israel would "retain the right" to overfly Lebanese territory and to patrol Lebanon's coast. It said that Hezbollah was not fully observing UN resolutions.

Major Zvika Golan, an Israeli army spokesman, said: "The responsibility for Lebanon right now is in the hands of the Lebanese government and, of course, the UN so every act of Hezbollah is the responsibility of Lebanon."