Tel Aviv [Israel], June 12 (TN/TPS): Tensions continued along the Israel-Lebanon border this weekend as Lebanese residents, encouraged by Hezbollah, try to prevent the Israeli military from carrying out engineering work for a concrete border wall — inside Israeli territory.
Disturbances at the border village of Kfar Chouba, on the slopes of Mt. Hermon began on Friday after morning prayers as residents tried to prevent Israeli bulldozers from working. Lebanese residents crossed the barbed wire fence erected by Israeli soldiers and threw stones at the soldiers who were forced to disperse them with tear gas.
Although the IDF engineering work is taking place on the Israeli side of the border, residents of Chouba and other villages claim the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is failing to stop alleged violations of Lebanese sovereignty by the IDF.
Due to various territorial disputes, there is no officially recognized border between Israel and Lebanon. The de facto border known as the Blue Line was drawn in 2000 by the UN after Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon.
Further complicating the issue is that Israel seized Kfar Chouba and the nearby Shebaa Farms from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967. After Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon in 2000, the UN Security Council in June of that year certified the Israeli withdrawal as complete.
The pro-Hezbollah Al Mayadeen TV channel reported that the residents of the villages managed to damage the border markings and waved Lebanese flags inside Israeli territory. In Lebanon, it was reported that the residents even filled a trench dug on the spot by the Israeli Defense Forces with dirt and tried to remove barbed wire fences that the IDF had put up.
The Lebanese army raised its level of alert and dozens of its men deployed near the village. Some Lebanese soldiers aimed weapons and a rocket-propelled grenade at Israeli tanks, but the UN peacekeepers from UNIFIL intervened, preventing further escalation.
Hezbollah is behind the effort that has been going on for several months with the aim of pushing UNIFIL and Israel from the southern borderline. Lebanese activists and journalists on behalf of Hezbollah repeatedly approach Israeli soldiers, documenting their efforts to provoke a response.
On Sunday morning, Ali Fayed, a member of Hezbollah’s Loyalty Group, visited a Lebanese farmer, Ismail Nasser, who was photographed on Wednesday trying to block an Israeli bulldozer with his body. Lebanese media reports claim the Israeli bulldozer driver deliberately tried to buy Nasser alive.
In a series of interviews in Lebanese media, Nasser, a resident of Chouba, cited Mohammed Salah and Mohammed al-Dura, saying, “They are no better than me.”
Salah, an Egyptian police officer, was killed on Saturday after infiltrating Israel from the Sinai and killing three Israeli soldiers. Dura was a 12-year-old Palestinian boy killed during a shootout in Gaza in 2000. His apparent death was filmed by a French TV crew, turning him into a Palestinian icon. However other video footage suggests the death was staged for the cameras, and no autopsy was ever done.
“We do not know the Blue Line,” said Nasser. “And from our point of view, there is a limit and Israel must withdraw from it.”
The Islamic Action Front in Lebanon saluted Nasser, saying his action “embodies the act of free resistance and rejects Zionist aggression, which aims to destroy and confiscate the lands of Lebanon.”
Although the IDF engineering work is taking place on the Israeli side of the border and the land in question was captured from Syria, Lebanese residents along the border claim the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is failing to stop alleged violations of Lebanese sovereignty by the IDF.
In 1981, Israel formally annexed the Golan Heights, including Kfar Chouba and Shebaa Farms. Lebanon has been claiming sovereignty over the strip of land since Israel’s withdrawal. Syria is not known to have commented on the dispute.
In 2019, the US recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (TN/TPS)