Yet disarmament of Hezbollah is exactly what Israel demands, a desire shared by residents of the south's few scattered Christian communities who blame the militia's rocket fire aimed at Israel for provoking the rain of destruction.
"We would love to have the Lebanese army in our area to protect us," said Shahada Maroun, 32, who works in the local bank of Ain Ebel, a Christian village of about 15,000 outside Bint Jbeil that emerged from the bombings bruised but largely intact.
"They are a legitimate force, while Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, not a resistance. And we have no way to protect ourselves from them."
But Maroun and his brother, Georges, a 33-year-old farmer, say they have no confidence that the army will arrive as promised.
"They're not coming, not even in a year," Georges said.
A senior Lebanese military officer in Beirut who asked not to be identified because of a government ban on talking to the media, contended that troops would be deployed across the south by Sunday. And he predicted that Hezbollah would offer no resistance to their arrival.
"These are our people, and we are going there to protect them," the officer said. "Many of the soldiers are from the south and have families and friends there. And many of those in Hezbollah have brothers in the army."
Times staff writers Laura King in Jerusalem and Borzou Daragahi in Beirut and special correspondent Maha al-Azar in Beirut contributed to this report.