'LAF should be deployed in Ghajar after pullout'

Diplomatic source quoted by 'Nahar' demands additional Israeli withdrawal from Shaba Farms, end to IAF overflights.

November 20, 2010 11:09
3 minute read.
LEBANESE SOLDIERS patrol in Kafr Kila, across the border from Metulla, on Wednesday.

Lebanese Soldiers 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

A Lebanese diplomat Saturday warned that a planned Israeli withdrawal from the northern border town of Ghajar would not satisfy the country's demands.

In a statement reported by Lebanese newspaper Nahar, the diplomatic source said that even if
UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) forces are deployed in the divided town, the government would not consider the withdrawal complete until the Lebanese army is deployed in the village. He added that Lebanon expects Israel to also withdraw from the nearby Shaba Farms.

Security Cabinet okays Ghajar unilateral withdrawal
Cabinet set to approve unilateral withdrawal from Ghajar

Earlier this week, the security cabinet approved the pullout in principle, based on a UNIFIL plan put forward by its commander, Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas. It asked the Foreign Ministry to finalize the withdrawal details with UNIFIL.

In so doing, Israel has abided by Security Council Resolution 425 from 1978, under which the UN, in 2000, determined that the Israeli withdrawal line from Lebanon – known as the Blue Line – should run through Ghajar.

Ghajar, an Alawite village of 2,210 people, is located on the Golan Heights and sits on a strategic corner where the boundaries between Syria, Lebanon and Israel are in dispute.

It is anticipated that once the IDF withdraws into the southern part of the village, UNIFIL would then be stationed along Ghajar’s northern perimeter.

According to the Lebanese diplomat, Lebanon has not received any notification from UNIFIL regarding the planned withdrawal, Nahar reported.

The source continued, saying that should such a withdrawal take place, "the majority's [the Western-aligned Hariri government] position would be bolstered at the national dialogue, while the opposition [Hizbullah] would have to acknowledge" the government's choice to resort to diplomacy, effectively undermining the legitimacy of Hizbullah's armed presence on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

However, the report noted that Lebanon would not view a withdrawal as fulfilling international resolutions, saying that it still expects Israel to withdraw from the disputed Shaba Farms and "respect Lebanon's sovereignty by ending its daily air, land and sea violations against Lebanon and dismantling its spy networks in the country."

US, European and United Nations officials have all praised the Israeli decision to withdraw from the northern half of the town "in line with UN Resolution 1701," which ended the 2006 Lebanon War.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry on Thursday said, "Whether the Israeli move toward Ghajar is considered a political maneuver or delayed awareness of Resolution 1701, which required Israel to withdraw from Lebanese territory in the wake of the July 2006 war, thus the return of every inch of Lebanese territory is the return of the right [land] to its rightful owners," according to Hizbullah's al-Manar.

But Berri added, "Pending a unified Lebanese stance on how to deal with the Israeli move and read the dimensions and timing [of the plan], we will keep echoing the same thing from Ghajar, that the 'Resistance will remain a national need,'" al-Manar reported.

Hizbullah MP Kamel al-Rifai called the planned Israeli withdrawal a move intended "to shift attention and elude the international resolution," referring to UNSC resolution 1701, according to the report.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this story.

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