Hundreds protest UN control of Ghajar

Schools and businesses go on strike in disputed Alawite border village.

ghajar AP 298 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
ghajar AP 298 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Some 200 people demonstrated Sunday morning in the disputed northern border village of Ghajar, part of which lies within Israel and part of which lies in Lebanon, to protest the government's decision to place the northern section of the village under UNIFIL control. Schools and businesses also went on strike as part of the protest. Last Sunday, the security cabinet decided that UNIFIL would take over the IDF's responsibility for safeguarding the 2,000 Israeli citizens living in the northern part of the Alawite town. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, the village of some 3,000 people was split in two, with the international border, the Blue Line, running right through the middle. Following the split, Hizbullah has made continuous use of the village as a staging point for attempted infiltrations into Israel. During this summer's Lebanon war, the IDF deployed in northern Ghajar, where it has remained since the August 14 cease-fire to protect Israeli citizens there, despite repeated demands from the Lebanese government and the UN for a withdrawal. The cabinet's decision to hand over control of the village to UNIFIL has been seen as a temporary solution while a more permanent relocation of the Israeli residents is being arranged. All 450 families in Ghajar, two-thirds of whom live in the northern part of the village, would retain their Israeli citizenship. A fence will be built around the northern part of town, and entry into it will be supervised by UNIFIL personnel, with a Lebanese army presence also on the scene, to keep Hizbullah out. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.