"Military service recruits used to account for up to 35 per cent a few years ago, when we needed to reunite Lebanese youths in a single national institution after the [1975-1990] civil war."

  

Civil war split

 

In January 2005, the Lebanese parliament voted to scrap compulsory military service, with the act due to come into effect two years after the law was published and immediately installed opt-out options for those who live abroad, study or those who have a family member in the service.

  

Lebanon's army split during the civil war years, and was reunited after the end of the conflict. It now numbers about 60,000 troops.

  

Backed by UN peacekeepers, the army was deployed in south Lebanon up to the border with Israel last year for the first time in years following the Jewish state's war with the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah.

  

The Lebanese army engaged in its first border clash with Israeli forces last Wednesday, without causing casualties, and in a rare action the next day its troops confiscated a truck-load of weapons belonging to Hezbollah.