Ghajar Residents Protest Over Planned Israeli Withdrawal

500 residents of the divided border town urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon to end Ghajar's division.

Haaretz Service
DPA
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Haaretz Service
DPA

Residents of a village of located on the border between Lebanon and Israel staged an all-day demonstration Friday to protest the division of village in the wake of ongoing international efforts to secure the withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces soldiers from the Lebanese part of the town.

About 500 residents of Ghajar gathered in the town's square then marched toward the street where United Nations peacekepping troops are stationed, handing them a letter calling on UN chief Ban Ki-moon to end Ghajar's division.

The secretary for the town's council, Hussein Khatib, also read a statement in which he stressed that Ghajar was Syrian.

"Ghajar is Syrian, it's people are Syrian and its land is Syrian," Khatib said.

The statement said Ghajar residents reject an Israeli decision to withdraw from the northern part of the town, adding that the town's division was "just like separating the son from his father or the daughter from her mother."

Like the 18,000 Druze in the Golan Heights, Ghajar residents were Syrians when Israel occupied the region.

But unlike the Druze, the villagers - who are members of the Alawite Islamic minority - accepted Israeli nationality when the Golan was annexed in 1981.

Over the years, the village expanded northward. In 2000, when the UN demarcated the border, Ghajar's northern half came under Lebanese control and the other half remained Israeli territory.

Israel retook the Lebanese part in its 2006 war against Hezbollah militants, and has since built a security fence to prevent militants from entering the enclave.

The demonstration on Friday came in the wake of an Israeli announcement that the withdrawal from Ghajar depends on the new Lebanese government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee earlier this week that he was discussing a withdrawal from the northern half of Ghajar with the UN forces.

In accordance with UN Resolution 1701, which ended Israel's 33-day war with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon in 2006, Israel is obliged to withdraw from the northern part of the village.

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