Ghajar leaders: Divide would kill us

"We're not willing to become refugees in Lebanon and have Hizbullah massacre us," mukhtar says.

ghajar mukhtar Abu Hasan El Hatib 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
ghajar mukhtar Abu Hasan El Hatib 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
Leaders of the village of Ghajar visited the Knesset on Tuesday and told Deputy Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee Ayoub Kara that dividing their hometown would be "a death penalty" for them. They received an overview from Kara following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to assign Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman the task of preparing recommendations on a solution for their village, as well as for the nearby Shaba Farms. "We did not want to be refugees in Israel, and thus we took upon ourselves Israeli citizenship under the Golan Law, and we are not willing to become refugees in Lebanon and have Hizbullah massacre us," said the village's mukhtar, Suleiman Muhammad Abu Hassan el-Khatib. "We were born Syrians, and some of us served in the Syrian army, and after the war, when the Golan Law was passed, we accepted it and became faithful citizens of the state," he went on. "The division of the village of Ghajar is a death penalty for us, and is equivalent to taking us out to be killed in the town square." Kara said Ghajar's leaders had requested that he set up meetings with Netanyahu, Lieberman and US Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham to convince them to allow the village to remain in Israeli territory. The deputy minister added that he intended to demand an urgent meeting with Cunningham, preferably to be held in Ghajar itself so the ambassador could see for himself the problems facing the village's citizens. On Monday, Kara warned that should the village be handed over to Lebanon, Hizbullah would, he believed, take revenge on its inhabitants for their willingness to live in Israel. The small town northeast of Kiryat Shmona sits along on the country's northeastern border, where the lines distinguishing among Syria, Lebanon and Israel are still up in the air. The approximately 2,000 residents of the village belong to the tiny Alawite sect, a breakaway faction of Islam with which the majority of Syria's ruling elite identifies, and villagers prefer to be returned to Syrian rather than Lebanese control. When the IDF pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, the UN determined that the border ran through the middle of the village, dividing the village between North and South. In the ensuing years, local residents and law-enforcement officials complained that the semi-divided village had becoming a pooling point for stolen goods leaving Israel and forbidden goods, particularly narcotics, entering. Following the Second Lebanon War, however, Israel kept a military presence in the northern part of Ghajar and built a security fence around it. In May of this year, Israel considered staging a withdrawal from the northern part of the town, but stopped in advance of the Lebanese elections, out of concern that the security situation along the border could deteriorate should Hizbullah prove victorious in the polls.