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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fragile Truce Holding, Barely

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Heavy fighting in southern Lebanon stopped abruptly on Monday after a UN-brokered truce came into effect, but the shooting of two Hezbollah guerrillas by Israeli soldiers underlined the fragility of the calm.

Security sources in south Lebanon said Israeli air strikes and artillery fire continued until just a few minutes before the truce took effect. Then there was silence. Across the border, no more Hezbollah rockets struck Israeli towns.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told parliament that Israel would keep pursuing Hezbollah's leaders "everywhere and any time. ... The leaders of this terrorist organization have gone underground," he said. "They will not get off free."

Israeli soldiers shot dead a Hezbollah fighter in Lebanon after he fired on them, the first casualty since the truce began. The army said soldiers elsewhere shot another Hezbollah guerrilla who was aiming a gun at them. It was not known if he was killed.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese displaced by five weeks of fighting headed south toward their homes, choking bomb-damaged roads with their cars despite a warning from Israel not to return to the area. Drivers honked their horns in celebration.

Ahmed Nassereddine arrived in the village of Shihabiyeh to find out that his building and gas station had been destroyed by an Israeli air strike just 10 minutes before the truce.

"Thank God, we survived. Property can be replaced, souls can't," he said, holding back tears.

In northern Israel, soldiers coming out of Lebanon were greeted with hugs and handshakes by their comrades. Streets became busier as residents emerged from homes and bomb shelters.

Around 1,100 people in Lebanon and 156 Israelis have been killed in the war that began after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.

Israel says around 530 Hezbollah guerrillas were killed in the war, though Hezbollah itself has acknowledged only about 80 deaths.

Thousands of Israeli troops remain in southern Lebanon, and they are not expected to withdraw fully until an expanded peacekeeping force arrives alongside Lebanese troops.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the truce appeared to be holding apart from isolated incidents.

Olmert acknowledged "shortcomings" in the conduct of the war and told parliament he bore full responsibility. Three opposition lawmakers were removed from the session for heckling.

The commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon met senior Lebanese and Israeli army officials at the border to discuss implementing the UN resolution on ending fighting.

Israel's government said it inflicted a heavy blow on Hezbollah. "We did not fail in this war," Interior Minister Roni Bar-On said. "The capabilities of [Hezbollah's] long-range rockets have been minimized almost to zero."

Hezbollah has also claimed victory. A flyer distributed in Beirut proclaimed "the divine victory" and showed a Hezbollah flag flying above a rocket launcher and two guerrillas.

Israel said any vehicles on the roads in south Lebanon still risked attack. An air and sea blockade of Lebanon would also continue, a military source said.