Village of Ghajar
Photo: Avihu Shapira

Report: Israel prepared to leave Ghajar within hours

Lebanon's al-Akhbar newspaper says Jewish state has informed UNIFIL it will evacuate northern part of Lebanese village shortly. UN official estimates move aimed at reducing international criticism against Israel

The Israeli government has informed the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Southern Lebanon that it plans to evacuate the northern part of the village of Ghajar within hours, Lebanon's al-Akhbar newspaper reported Thursday, quoting a senior UN official speaking on condition of anonymity.


It is unclear from the report whether the village would be evacuated as early as Thursday, or whether the evacuation would take place within hours after an order is given.


The official stressed that Israel would fully withdraw from the northern part of the village, which will remain under UN sovereignty. He told the paper that he believed the move was aimed at reducing the international criticism against Israel.


Despite the report, no special army preparations for an evacuation have been seen on the ground.


An Arab diplomat at the UN said the Israeli were aware of the fact that holding on to the village would prompt a counter-effect on the "battle of reports at the UN", does not serve Israel's strategy in the region, and even relieves the pressure on Hezbollah and Syria.


According to the diplomat, the weapons being held in the village are turning it into a diplomatic and security burden, which is stronger than the military gain. He added that the intelligence benefit from occupying the village was very small.


UNIFIL Commander General Claudio Graziano said about two months ago that the Lebanese government had accepted the offer for a withdrawal from the village in principle. He told a Lebanese newspaper that the matter was still being considered by Israel and that the situation was very problematic for the village's residents.


Several days ago, Lebanon's army chief Jean Kahwaji called on his soldiers to be wary and to prepare defenses along the border for a possible Israeli attack, according to a report by the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.


In a statement published in honor of Lebanon's Independence Day, the general said soldiers should prepare "to handle what the Israeli enemy is scheming against the homeland, and to continue the battle against its violations – in the air, water, and land – with all the tools at our disposal".


פרסום ראשון: 11.26.09, 10:59
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