In recent days, Israel has unilaterally attempted to build a fence around the northern part of Ghajar, a Lebanese village that it has occupied since 2006. Lebanese security forces revealed to Al-Monitor that Israel had previously erected a barbed-wired fence around the northern Lebanese part of the village, to prevent — according to their claims — armed men from infiltrating the southern part of the village located in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Israel, however, is now intent on replacing this barb-wire fence with a five meter high fence.
Yesterday, Lebanese army leaders contacted UNIFIL leadership, which operates within the Litani line in southern Lebanon (the area specified according to UN Resolution 1701), requesting that the latter issue a complaint to Tel Aviv. Israel's move to build a fence is a violation of international law, which stipulates that the occupation authorities not make any changes to the features of the area they occupy.
There is an explanation for this move that has circulated among UNIFIL leaders in Naqoura, saying that the Israeli step could mean that Tel Aviv has decided to open the road adjacent to the northern Lebanese part of Ghajar, known as SDA, which is located within Lebanese territory. Israel had shut down the road following the 2006 war in order to protect sites within the village. Lebanon has previously requested — via UNIFIL — that Israel reopen this road, given that it serves as a vital means of transport for Lebanese living in the area. It is thought that Israel is erecting this fence around Ghajar to isolate its residents from the neighboring road, as a prelude to responding to the demand that it be opened to Lebanese traffic.
It is worth noting that residents of Ghajar — who are of Syrian origin, including Muslims and Alawites — have received Israeli citizenship at their own request. Israel occupied the village during the 1967 war with Syria, and after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, the United Nations delineated the Blue Line to serve as the border between Lebanon and Israel.
The Blue Line separates the northern part of the village, located in Lebanon, from the southern part, which remained in the occupied Golan Heights. Israel, however, reoccupied the northern part of the village during the July War in 2006, and Resolution 1701 — which ended the war at the time — demanded that Israel withdraw from this part. In 2010, UNIFIL submitted a proposal by which they would take control of the northern part of the village, and the Israeli government has already approved a withdrawal plan in which they would hand it over to UNIFIL. This plan, however, has not been implemented, due to Lebanese objections, and their demand that it be placed under the authority of the Lebanese Army.
This recent Israel move to build a fence around the village represents an escalation that indicates the occupation of the village will continue, in violation of Resolution 1701.
Lebanese security sources says that it appears that recently Israel is exploiting the tense internal situation in Lebanon that has prevailed as a result of repercussions of the Syrian crisis. It is carrying out measures unilaterally on its border with Lebanon, in violation of its commitments according to Resolution 1701. A few weeks ago, Israel closed the road that links Israeli sites in the al-Wazani area to the al-Wazani river bank region, which lies in Lebanese territory. Israel insisted on this decision, despite Beirut raising an objection via UNIFIL.
Nasser Chararah is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor's Lebanon Pulse, head of the Lebanese Institute for Studies and Publications, a writer for multiple Arab newspapers and magazines, author of several books on the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict and has worked for the Palestinian Research Center.