Shaba Farms IDF 224 88.
(photo credit: AP)
A Hizbullah official rejected the UN-demarcated Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel this week and laid claim to seven villages in northern Israel and "millions of square meters" that it says belongs to Lebanon.
Hizbullah's international relations official Nawaf Moussawi said Monday that "we don't have to accept the Blue Line" as the border, claiming that it only symbolized the "line of withdrawal" by the Israeli army from south Lebanon in 2000.
The senior Hizbullah official also warned against considering the Blue Line valid as "Lebanon would lose millions of square meters of her national soil."
The UN published the border demarcation known as the Blue Line in June 2000 to determine whether Israel had fully withdrawn from Lebanon.
Moussawi made the comments as he was receiving foreign ambassadors in Lebanon, according to the NOW Lebanon news site.
While similar claims have been made by senior Hizbullah officials in the past, experts say it's interesting the statements were made in an international rather than domestic context. In addition, Moussawi also said that "Zionist terrorist organizations moved the border line from the 1920 line to a new line in 1923, and Lebanon lost its seven villages and 20 farms."
Moussawi is referring to seven Shi'ite villages in the area of the Upper Galilee that were included within Mandatory Palestine in a border demarcation treaty signed by France and Britain in 1923. While the first stage of demarcation included the seven villages in Lebanon, the final agreement between the two colonial powers shifted the boundary and excluded these seven Shi'ite villages, as well as about 20 others.
In 1948, the inhabitants of these seven villages were deported and became refugees in Lebanon. In 1994, following pressure from Hizbullah, they received Lebanese citizenship.
The international community recognizes these villages as a part of Israel.
"What is interesting for me, is that it's an international audience and [Mussawi] may have wanted to get some message across to this sort of audience," says Asher Kaufman, an Israeli scholar and a history professor at the University of Notre Dame. "It needs to be seen within the context as the exchange of inflammatory statements between Israel and Hizbullah, which has been going on now for some time."
Hizbullah's comments demonstrate its desire to find new avenues and modes of confrontation to replenish its bargaining power and its political relevance inside Lebanon, other experts say.
"They are playing with petty issues that no one in mainstream Lebanon cares about," said Magnus Ranstorp, a Hizbullah expert at the Swedish National Defense College. "They are creating an issue that is relatively insignificant, even if Israel withdrew from the Shaba Farms area, there would be the seven villages... There is always something else that they would manufacture."
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