Shin Bet: Build wall through Ghajar

Statement from PM's Office: Unilateral withdrawal "totally unlikely."

hizbullah bodies298 88ap (photo credit: AP)
hizbullah bodies298 88ap
(photo credit: AP)
Shin Bet recommended building a wall through the center of Ghajar, located along the Lebanese border to prevent attacks by Lebanese militants, officials said Tuesday. The construction of the barrier along the UN-recognized border would divide the Israeli-controlled town of Ghajar in half, requiring most of the 2,000 residents to move to the southern side, town residents said. Although residents of the farming community can move freely within its limits, the town is surrounded by mine fields, army checkpoints at its southern entrance and bases of the Hezbollah militia on its northern outskirts. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was scheduled to convene a meeting Wednesday to discuss a redeployment of IDF troops in Ghajar, the Alawite Muslim town on Har Dov divided by the border with Lebanon. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office confirmed a Channel 2 report Monday night that one alternative being discussed is to move the 400 families in the northern part of the town - the Lebanese side - to the southern (Israeli) side and to complete the border fence, which is now breached by the village. However, a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office early Tuesday morning rendered the option of a unilateral withdrawal from the town as "totally unlikely." One official in Sharon's office said the impetus for the redeployment talk was Hizbullah's failed attempt to kidnap IDF soldiers in Ghajar in November. The IDF outpost there is just a few hundred meters from a Hizbullah position, with no significant physical barrier between them. According to the Channel 2 report, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz has approved a plan to pay the same type of compensation given the evacuees from Gush Katif to the families in northern Ghajar for moving to the southern part of town, if they desire to do so. Once this is done, the border, which runs through one of the streets of the town, would be closed. Another option being considered, the source said, was to redeploy the troops outside of Ghajar, and have them monitor the border from outside the village. Ghajar was taken from Syria during the Six Day War, and its residents later opted for Israeli citizenship. After Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, UN surveyors determined that two-thirds of the town was inside Lebanon. To get UN recognition of a complete withdrawal from Lebanon, Israel withdrew from two-thirds of the village, but did not close the fence running through the town to avoid completely disrupting life there. Since then, Ghajar has been one of the major flash points on the northern border.