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Israel shells Lebanon amid 'land grab' in southern village

Israel shells Lebanon border amid 'land grab' in southern village of Ghajar
3 min read
06 July, 2023
As part of the UN Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, Israel is to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar, which has not happened.
Despite no rockets from Lebanon hitting Israeli territory, the Israeli army nonetheless shelled a site in Lebanon [Getty]

Two rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel on Thursday, one of them landing in Lebanese territory and the second near an Arab village occupied by Israel and claimed by both Lebanon and Syria, three security sources in Lebanon said.

The tensions come as Israel is building a wall in the village, drawing accusations of a land grab and "consolidation of Israeli occupation" of the village.

Israel's military spokesperson said on Twitter that its army had "found no incident within Israeli territory" but that an explosion had taken place "beyond the border fence". Despite this, hours after the alleged rocket fire from Lebanon, the Israeli army announced it had shelled an area of Lebanon where the rocket attack apparently originated.

Sources in Lebanon said one rocket landed near the Lebanese border village of Wazzani and the second near the Arab village of Ghajar, which straddles the Israel-Lebanon-Syria border.

There was no claim of responsibility for the reported rocket fire and no immediate comment from the Lebanese army or the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Hezbollah, the powerful, Iran-backed Lebanese group that controls southern Lebanon and has fought several wars with Israel, also did not comment on the reports of rocket fire.

But minutes after the explosions, Iran-backed Hezbollah issued a statement about Israel's wall in the village of Ghajar. The village is split into Lebanese and Israeli sides along a border known as the blue line that was demarcated after Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

As part of the UN Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, Israel is to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar, which has not happened. UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon have called on Israel for years to end its building work in northern Ghajar and to withdraw its troops.

"It is not just a routine breach of what the occupation forces are accustomed to from time to time," the statement said. It did comment on the explosions.

On its part, Lebanon's foreign ministry on Tuesday said it was concerned by Israel's building, saying they were creating a "new reality on the ground".

Lebanese soldiers in Mays al-Jabal, another border town, obstructed an Israeli bulldozer accompanied by Israeli soldiers on Wednesday that reached over the technical fence to remove plants and trees from the Lebanese side. The tense standoff did not result in any clashes.

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The situation also has been heated along Chebaa Farms and around Kfar Chouba. Israel captured those areas from Syria during the 1967 war, and they are part of Syria's Golan Heights which Israel illegally annexed in 1981. The Lebanese government says the area belongs to Lebanon.

In early June, Israel filed a complaint with the UN saying that Hezbollah had set up tents several dozen meters inside the territory. Israeli media have since reported that Hezbollah removed one of the two tents, but the group did not confirm the action.

Later that month, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas to disperse scores of Lebanese protesters who pelted the troops with stones along the border near the disputed territory.

In April, Israel struck sites in Lebanon after blaming Palestinian Islamist group Hamas for firing rockets into Israel from there.