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Israel okays housing grants for former South Lebanon Army militiamen

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Two militiamen of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army direct a convoy of armored vehicles in southern Lebanon, on June 3, 1999. (File photo by AP)

The Israeli cabinet has approved a proposal to provide housing allowances to hundreds of former members of the Lebanese Christian-dominated militia South Lebanon Army (SLA), who fought alongside the Tel Aviv regime against resistance groups during the Lebanese civil war.

The decision would see some 400 former SLA militiamen who did not hold commanding ranks receiving a one-off grant of 550,000 shekels (around $161,000) towards buying a home over the next four years, the Israeli army said in a statement on Sunday.

The army said the grants will only be given to those who served in the SLA, noting that the assistance would be given to the widows of the militiamen too, provided that they resided in the occupied lands.

The grants will be provided to those eligible from this year until 2026, in accordance with a priority list created by a team to be established for this purpose of the grant distribution, the military said.

The Sunday bill was jointly suggested by the Israeli minister of military affairs Benny Gantz and finance minister Avigdor Liberman, after the army established a panel for addressing “gaps” in the absorption of SLA veterans in Israel, some four years ago.

The SLA was formed in 1976 after the start of the Lebanese civil war and operated from 1977 until its disbandment in 2000. It was originally known as the Free Lebanon Army.

After 1979, the militia mainly operated in southern Lebanon under the authority of Saad Haddad.

The FLA fought against various groups, including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Amal Movement, and the Hezbollah resistance movement.

The militia was trained, funded, and supported by Israel, and became its primary ally in Lebanon during the 1985–2000 South Lebanon conflict.

When the Israeli army withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, thousands of SLA members and their families fled the Arab country for fear of reprisals from the resistance groups they once fought and settled in the Israeli-occupied lands or elsewhere.

Many SLA veterans say they feel Israeli authorities have abandoned them. They often work in low-paying jobs and are unable to return to Lebanon.

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