JERUSALEM,(Reuters) – Israel’s army has handed over more than two thirds of the territory it captured in southern Lebanon to U.N. troops and Lebanese forces since a truce with Hezbollah took effect, the army said on Thursday.
“The army is controlling less than a third. The rest of the territory was handed over to UNIFIL and the Lebanese army,” a spokesman said, adding that another small patch of territory not far from the border was handed back on Wednesday.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday renewed his call on Israel to withdraw fully from Lebanon as soon as 5,000 U.N. peacekeepers were in the south, around double the number there now.
But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rebuffed the demand, saying troops would stay in southern Lebanon until all parts of a U.N. resolution that halted hostilities on Aug. 14 were met.
The Israeli army said its troops still controlled the entire border line. It began withdrawing soldiers soon after the truce went into force.
Israel’s Maariv newspaper said six brigades, or 6,000-10,000 troops, were still in Lebanon.
At the height of the 34-day war with Hezbollah, some 30,000 Israeli soldiers were fighting inside southern Lebanon.
The army refuses to discuss troop numbers.