IDF, Lebanon, UN discuss Ghajar pullout

Defense official says Israel has no territorial claims there, withdrawal mustn't compromise security.

ghajar 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
ghajar 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The IDF discussed a UN plan Wednesday for its withdrawal from part of an Arab village along the Lebanese border that it has held since the 2006 war with Hizbullah, a UN statement said. Israel has pledged to withdraw from the northern part of the village as part of a cease-fire that ended the Second Lebanon War, but it has never given a timeline. On Wednesday, officials from the Israeli and Lebanese militaries met with UN peacekeeping officials at a border crossing to discuss the UN's withdrawal proposal. The timing of the discussions fueled speculation that Israel's intention is to help Lebanon's pro-Western politicians in a parliamentary election next month in which they face a strong challenge from Hizbullah and its allies. UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy, who is visiting Lebanon, attended Wednesday's meeting and is planning to press the withdrawal issue further when he visits Israel in the coming days. "I hope that the ongoing discussions on the basis of UNIFIL's proposal of last year will lead to a speedy resolution of this matter," Le Roy said, according to a statement from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. Israel took the village of Ghajar when it captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. Its residents are Arabs who were later given Israeli citizenship. The village was divided between an Israeli-controlled part and a Lebanese section by the United Nations after the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in 2000. Israel retook the northern part of the village in the 2006 war with Hizbullah and balked at withdrawing earlier due to security concerns. In Israel, a defense official confirmed Wednesday's meeting and said Israel has no territorial claims there. He said Israel was discussing with UNIFIL how to carry out a pullout without compromising its security. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made.