The office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reported Thursday that while the aerial blockade onLebanon has ended, the naval blockade imposed in the past eight weeks will remain in effect for the time being.
Sources from Olmert's office explained that it was decided to postpone the lifting of the naval blockade because Israel is still waiting for the arrival of the international forces, so that it may implement the weapons embargo on Hizbullah and prevent weapons smuggling along the border.
The decision to delay the lifting of the blockade by 48 hours was coordinated with the international forces.
French warship off Lebanon coast (Photo: Reuters)
Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Thursday he expected Israel to lift a sea blockade on the country on Friday.
"There was a problem at the United Nations that is being resolved," Siniora told a news conference when asked why the end of the naval siege had been delayed. "Be sure the embargo will be lifted... It's a small problem at night, and I think that in the morning, God willing, this thing will be lifted."
According to the original plan, Israeli forces were to leave positions overlooking Lebanese sea and air ports and be replaced by international troops. German security establishment officials arrived in Beirut on Wednesday; they will be tasked with enforcing the embargo along Lebanon’s borders. The Lebanese government and the UN also agreed that German naval forces would position themselves off the country’s coastline.
Lebanese flight attendants go back to work (Photo: AP)
To mark the end of the aerial blockade a Lebanese commercial airliner took off and flew over the country.
Following reports on the government’s decision to lift the blockade the families of the kidnapped IDF soldiers met with Prime Minster Ehud Olmert, who said the blockade would not be lifted but Israeli forces would be replace by international troops.
“The prime minister said that he is doing everything regarding the release of our boys and said that the blockade wasn't being lifted, but rather replaced by international forces. We expect the Israel government immediately to acquire a mediator to negotiate directly between Israel and Hizbullah for the release of our sons,” Shlomo, the father of kidnapped soldier Ehud Goldwasser, said.
Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi al-Aridi commented on Israel’s decision to lift the blockade by saying that “this step was made possible following intensive debates with representatives from Germany, endorsed by the UN, with commanders from the Lebanese army.”
“It is not a matter of Israeli victory. Israel had to implement resolution 1701,” added al-Aridi in an interview on al-Jazeera.
Reuters contributed to the report