The Israeli army abandoned almost all its positions in Lebanon yesterday, nearly fulfilling a key condition of the August 14 ceasefire that ended a month-long war against Hezbollah.
The head of the UN peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon said he expected the troop withdrawal to be completed this week.
Even so, there was none of the jubilation that accompanied the Israeli troop withdrawal in 2000. And a senior Hezbollah official warned that if Israel breached the ceasefire, the guerrilla group would resume attacking Israeli targets.
Witnesses said the Israelis began moving tanks and armoured carriers out of a few pockets near the border in southern Lebanon after midnight.
Israeli military officials said the last soldiers returned to Israel around 2:30am (0130 BST), ahead of the onset of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, at sundown. The pullout clears the way for the full deployment of an international peacekeeping force that will police the border with the Lebanese army.
Chief of the UN force in Lebanon, Major General Alain Pellegrini, said in a statement, "Significant progress has been achieved today."
He said Israel still had troops in the village of Ghajar.
Israel will continue surveillance flights over Lebanon - a potential source of tension because Lebanon and the UN consider them a violation of the border.