Lebanon: 350 Soldiers, Police Detained

By SAM F. GHATTAS
The Associated Press
Thursday, August 10, 2006; 2:19 PM

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Israeli troops detained about 350 Lebanese soldiers and police in Marjayoun after capturing the town on Thursday, Lebanon's interior minister said. The Israeli military said nobody was taken prisoner.

Lebanon's Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat told The Associated Press that Israeli troops entered the garrison in Marjayoun Thursday afternoon "and asked to share it with Lebanese troops there."

"The troops refused and said they would leave, but the Israeli did not let them," he said.

Fatfat said the head of the joint army-police force, Brig. Adnan Daoud, was among those detained. "We consider them to be captives," he added.

Fatfat said negotiations were in progress to win the captives' release, but he did not elaborate.

In Israel, a military spokeswoman said troops arrived at a building in the town, where there were soldiers, police and refugees. The Israelis advised them to remain there for their own safety as fighting all around but they are not being detained by force. "Nobody has been taken prisoner," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity because military rules did not allow her to make public comments.

The seizure of the mostly Christian city of Marjayoun and nearby areas overnight appeared to be an attempt to consolidate bases in southern Lebanon before any possible push northward. It gives Israel an important foothold for any deeper drives into the country.

Marjayoun _ about five miles from the Israeli border _ was used as the command center for the Israeli army and its allied Lebanese militia during an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in 2000. The high ground around Marjayoun, including the village of Blatt, overlook the Litani River valley, one of the staging sites for the relentless Hezbollah rocket assault on northern Israel.

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Associated Press writer Steve Weizman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


© 2006 The Associated Press