This Village Is Trapped in Semi-closure on Israel-Lebanon Border Amid Escalation

Barely able to enter or leave their village, residents of Ghajar are frustrated: 'If an ambulance had to get here the patient would be better off dying at home'

The Ghajar village, straddling the border between Israel and Lebanon.
Gil Eliahu

Residents of Ghajar, which straddles the border between Israel and Lebanon, have barely been able to enter or leave their village in the past few days on orders from the Israel Defense Forces. The main entrance has been blocked most of the time; the only other way into the village is through the fields, and the gate is only opened intermittently.

Residents say they have been in this situation ever since Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah threatened on Saturday to retaliate for last week's drone attacks on Beirut, which he attributed to Israel.

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In 2015, an IDF officer and soldier were killed by Hezbollah fire on the road leading to Ghajar, an Alawite village that was once part of Syria but was occupied by Israel during the 1967 war.

Maarouf Hattib, a resident who works in Kiryat Shmona, said: “Since Nasrallah’s speech we have been under partial closure. I get messages from the local council – ‘the gate is open; the gate is closed’ – regarding when we can enter and leave. And even when we can travel, any exit from the village is via the farming road that’s suited to tractors or 4x4 vehicles.”

Hattib added that the frequency of the gate's closures and openings is irregular. While speaking with Haaretz on Sunday, he received a message that entry or exit would only be permitted in the event of an emergency.

Israel Defense Forces soldiers on the border with Lebanon, after tensions mount due to Hezbollah threats against Israel following drone attacks on Beirut, which the organization attributed to Israel, August 31, 2019
Gil Eliahu

“Yesterday, when coming back from work, people were stuck for an hour and a half,” Hattib said. “This morning that happened, too, when they tried to leave. There’s no supply of goods, there are no merchants, anyone who wants to stock their grocery store has to go to Kiryat Shmona – and not everyone has a refrigerator truck. There are people who have made appointments with [medical] specialists who can’t get to them. If an ambulance had to get here through the farming road, the patient would be better off dying at home.”

Locals are unsettled by this uncertain situation, Hattib added: “It’s a frustrating feeling. The army doesn’t speak to us, they send messages to the local council. It’s been eight days since any diplomatic or political official has come here, except for the members of the Northern Party, Idan Lev-Ran and Jihad Mustafa, who came to support and express solidarity. We appreciate their effort to identify with us. We would like to see politicians come and talk to us.”

To the members of that local political party, he said, “If this is the situation, why should I vote in the election? In the north everything is routine, but where is our routine? We don’t have the routine they have in Kfar Yuval [a nearby moshav], as all the generals say.”

For his part, Lev-Ran, a resident of Had Nes on the Golan Heights, said that he “hopes very much hopes that the situation will calm down and we won’t have fighting here, and that in the end we can resume our routine. But the routine here is, in fact, state neglect. The plan for reinforcing [security-emergency preparedness] in the north was supposed to bring a billion shekels [$283.2 million] here in 2018 and 2019, but only 150 million shekels got here. That is an excellent example of a state that makes a decision but doesn’t implement it.”