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Lebanon: Israel must withdraw from strategic border village

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati (R) meets with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) commander Major General Aroldo Lazaro (C) at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Lebanon, on July 10, 2023.

Caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati says Israeli military forces must withdraw from the northern parts of the divided border village of Ghajar after the regime’s troops cut it off from the Arab nation in recent weeks.

Mikati made the remarks during a meeting with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) commander Major General Aroldo Lazaro at the Grand Serail in Beirut on Monday.

Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, who also attended the meeting, said that the two sides discussed the security situations in southern Lebanon.

He added that the UNIFIL commander relayed an Israeli request for the removal of a tent that the Tel Aviv regime claims to have been set up by the Hezbollah resistance movement beyond the UN Blue Line – the de-facto border between Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

“Our response was that we want them (Israeli forces) to retreat from northern Ghajar, which is considered Lebanese territory,” Bou Habib said.

He stressed that Lebanon has “recorded around 18 Israeli violations of the borderline.”

Also on Monday, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri stressed that the Hezbollah tent has been erected within the Lebanese territories.

He called on the international community to oblige Israel to observe the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 33-day-long Israeli military onslaught on the country in the summer of 2006.

Ghajar, which lies in a strategic corner where the boundaries between Syria, Lebanon and occupied Palestinian territories meet, was occupied by Israel in the 2006 war. Some 2,000 people live there.

Most of the villagers still consider themselves Syrian Shia Muslims, the community of which Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is part.

In November 2010, the Israeli cabinet approved a plan to withdraw from the northern part of the village. Until this day, however, Israel has not withdrawn from the village.

In recent weeks, Lebanese officials said that Israel has built a wall around the Lebanese part of Ghajar, warning that Israel might annex it to the occupied part of the village.

Hezbollah last week issued a statement, calling Israel’s works around the Lebanese part of Ghajar “dangerous.”

It added that the wall is separating the area “from its natural and historic surroundings in Lebanon.”

Almost at the same time that the Hezbollah statement on Ghajar was issued, an anti-tank missile was fired from Lebanon near Ghajar — with some fragments landing in Lebanon and others inside Israeli-occupied territory. Israel fired shells on the outskirts of the nearby village of Kfarchouba.

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