IDF cites Hezbollah violations

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JERUSALEM — The Israel Defense Force chief of staff has accused the fundamentalist Hezbollah movement of violating the recent U.S.-brokered cease-fire agreement in southern Lebanon.

Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak's accusation came as representatives from the five nations that will monitor the cease-fire approved long-stalled arrangements for the functioning and operation of the monitoring group.

In remarks broadcast Sunday, Shahak said Hezbollah was still mounting attacks from civilian areas on positions of the IDF and its allied South Lebanon Army.

"They continue to bring civilians into the cycle of violence," Shahak said.

The cease-fire agreement, reached April 27, brought an end to 16 days of cross-border fighting between Israel and Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

The agreement barred both sides from launching attacks on or from civilian areas, but did not halt fighting within the southern Lebanon security zone itself.

The agreement also called for the establishment of a five-nation monitoring group.

But in repeated meetings the group failed to reach an agreement on how it would function; finally, this weekend the United States, Israel, France, Syria and Lebanon successfully concluded their discussions.

U.S. State Department officials said the monitoring group could begin operating within two weeks and would likely be based in the southern Lebanese border town of Nakoura.

The group is expected to have its headquarters in Cyprus, where it will operate 24 hours a day to receive complaints of cease-fire violations.

U.S. and Israeli officials initially wanted the group to have political and economic responsibilities.

But Syria and Lebanon wanted to focus purely on military issues. Their stance ultimately prevailed.