S. Lebanese Army members seek refuge in Israel before pullout

"They will be slaughtered," Rish told Reuters. "There is no doubt Hezbollah will slaughter them. We are not sufficiently aware of the anxiety in which they are living."

He said Lebanese authorities have issued a death warrant for all SLA members.

He added that just as the government is not prepared to accept at face value promises by Syria and Hezbollah but insists on practical security measures, it must also not rely on promises of good intentions regarding the fate of the militiamen and their families.

Rish said the request is for temporary refuge until it is certain that the population will be safe in Lebanon. Until then Israel must offer a safe haven and the right to work to those who want it, he said.

"If Israel can afford to absorb the tens of thousands of immigrants who come every year without having contributed anything to Israel's security, it can afford to take in the militiamen and their families," he said, estimating that the money used to pay the fighters their salaries in the past could now be used to settle them in Israel.

Ret. Maj.-Gen. Yossi Peled, formerly of the Northern Command, told Israel Radio that the request is justified, given the realities of the Middle East.

"One of the problems we have is that we try to understand the other side by using our own way of thinking," Peled said.

"The fact is that any agreement which will include security arrangements for the SLA does not guarantee that they will in fact not be harmed. Does anyone think for a moment that all of the militiamen of all ranks will remain in Lebanon and that guards will be posted around the homes of every one of them to protect them? It isn't that simple, because we have to understand the mentality of the other side."