Ghajar. Soon under UN rule
Photo: Avihu Shapiro

Cabinet approves Ghajar withdrawal

Security Cabinet ministers vote in favor of withdrawing IDF forces from north of village which straddles Lebanese border, transferring it to UN rule. Residents vow to keep UN out, demanding to be returned to Syria with Golan

The Security Cabinet approved on Wednesday a plan to withdraw Israeli forces from the northern part of Ghajar, an Arab village which straddles the Lebanese border.


No date has been set yet for the withdrawal from the northern section of the village, which has been under Israeli rule since the state's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.


According to the ministers' decision Wednesday, the IDF will withdraw from the northern part of the village and leave it under the UN's authority, rearranging forces on the southern side of the border.


The Cabinet has ordered the Foreign Ministry to complete negotiations with the UN force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, as soon as possible "while maintaining the regional security of Israel and the quality of life of the village residents".


The final deal will be brought before the ministers before its implementation. A government statement says that "in this way Israel continues to show its commitment to Security Council Resolution 1701".


But Ghajar residents continued to express fervent opposition to the move, holding a protest attended by some 400 people who vowed to prevent UN forces from entering the village.


"The entrance of UN forces to the northern part of Ghajar means effectively splitting the village in two," said council spokesman Najib Khatib.


"This is why we will not agree. We demand that the village remain whole and that the debate on it be part of a peace agreement with Syria stipulating the return of the Golan Heights. Ghajar is part of Syria and we have no connection to Lebanon… We demand retention of the status-quo."


Khatib Hussein, a resident of the village's northern part, is an outspoken objector. "How do they want to divide a village of 2,000 people? Will they run a fence through the middle? A checkpoint? All of the infrastructure here is united: There is one school, and my children study in the south," he said.


There were more aggressive objectors, such as Khatib Gamal, who lives in the south. "I have lived under Israel since 1967. I was a Syrian citizen, and stayed because of my land. We have close to 12,000 dunam (about 3,000 acres) and no one will move us. Who are these UN and America? They should leave us in peace," he said.


Ghajar, originally a Syrian village, moved into Israel's hands in 1967, when its residents decided to take on Israeli citizenship in addition to that of Syria. But during Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon the village extended beyond the border, leaving half of it in Lebanon after the IDF withdrawal in 2000.


This status-quo was maintained until 2006, when UN Resolution 1701 ended the Second Lebanon War. It stipulated that Israel must withdraw forces from all of Lebanon, including the northern part of the village.



פרסום ראשון: 11.17.10, 12:38
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