Israel to construct barrier on Lebanese border

Israel to construct barrier on Lebanese border

Israel plans to build a wall that would separate its northernmost town from a Lebanese village in a bid to quell tensions in the area, Xinhua reported.

The military has begun preparations for the construction of a five-meter-high wall between Metulla, a community of 1,400 people, and the southern Lebanese village of Kleya.

"The area in question has been a source of friction in the past. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces), UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) and LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces) are assessing available options in order to reduce this friction in the future," an Israeli army spokesman told Xinhua on Monday.

Work on the barrier is due to begin in the coming weeks. Once completed, it will stretch one kilometer and be equipped with electronic surveillance measures, including cameras and motion sensors.

The move came on the heels of escalating tensions in the area in recent years. The Lebanese village is located just meters from the international border and Metulla's apple orchards. The Israel police says the area has become a hot spot of drug smuggling activity. There are also intermittent incidents of friction between Israeli army patrols and Lebanese military forces, while Metulla's farmers complain about falling victim to rock throwing while working in their fields.

"The situation is very sensitive and has a potential to easily inflame the northern border," a senior officer in the Israeli army 's Northern Command told local daily Yediot Aharonot.

"The wall will be the first of its kind on that border, and will raise the level of security in the area, as well as the confidence of Metulla's residents ... the Lebanese side will most likely raise objections to the wall, but the current reality necessitates its construction," he said.

In a statement, the Israeli army said it is exploring " different options" to reduce tensions in the area in conjunction with UNIFIL and coordinating the project with the organization.

In a related development, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced that Israel plans to build a barrier along its eastern border with Jordan, similar to one currently under construction along its border with Egypt.

The government is investing some 360 million U.S. dollars in a steel fence along its 240-km-long western border, which is scheduled for completion by September.

"When the security barrier along the Egyptian border is finished, one will be built along the border with Jordan," Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly Cabinet session.

Both structures are intended to thwart cross-border attacks by militant groups operating in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and stem the flow of African infiltrators and contraband.

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