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Thousands of southern Lebanese set to quit towns

Written by: Staff
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MARJAYOUN, Lebanon, Aug 11 (Reuters) Thousands of civilians prepared today to leave two Christian towns in south Lebanon occupied by Israeli forces this week, witnesses said.

They said hundreds of cars gathered near the Lebanese army barracks in Marjayoun as U N peacekeepers were evacuating about 350 Lebanese soldiers and policemen under an agreement with the Israelis.

''Everyone wants to leave with the Lebanese force,'' one resident said by telephone. ''No one will feel safe with the evacuation of the Lebanese force, we'll be trapped between Hizbollah and Israel.'' The witnesses estimated about 3,000 people were in Marjayoun and nearby Qlaia town with a few hundred people who had left nearby Shi'ite Muslim villages.

The civilians plan to drive behind the bus convoy carrying the Lebanese security men and accompanied by U N peacekeepers.

Israeli forces pushed into the area yesterday as part of a month-old campaign to keep Hizbollah guerrillas away from the border and to stop rockets attacks into northern Israel.

REUTERS DKB HT1532

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