Lebanese border town residents protest at Israeli troop presence
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 Israeli troops from the Lebanese part of the town, dpa reported.
About 500 residents of Ghajar gathered in the town's square then marched toward the street where UN Spanish 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 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."
The demo came in the wake of an Israeli announcement that the withdrawal from Ghajar depends on the new Lebanese government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee earlier this week that he was discussing a withdrawal from the northern half of Ghajar with the UN forces.
In accordance to UN Resolution 1701, which ended Israel's 33-day war with Lebanon in 2006, Israel is obliged to withdraw from the northern part of the village.
The Israeli troops have however kept a military presence in Ghajar following the end of Israel's war on Hezbollah in 2006. The soldiers have also set up a security fence to control entrance to the village.
Israel took over Ghajar in 1967 when it annexed the Syrian Golan Heights. Its soldiers withdrew when it pulled out of south Lebanon in 2000, but reoccupied the northern part of the village in July 2006.