Lebanon News

Israel to build wall along Blue Line: reports

FILE - Two Italian UNIFIL peacekeepers work to clear mines along the Blue Line in south Lebanon. (The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Israel’s army will begin building a 1-kilometer security wall along the border of its northernmost village with Lebanon to prevent potential clashes in the area, media reports said early this week.

"The area in question has been a source of friction in the past. The IDF, 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 was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

The 5-meter-high, 1-kilometer-long, wall would be equipped with surveillance and alarm systems and would separate the Israeli village of Kubbuts al-Matala and Lebanon’s Kfar Kila.

Speaking to Yediot Aharonot, a senior officer in the Israeli army’s Northern Command said: “The situation [in this area] is very sensitive and has a potential to easily inflame the northern border.”

Work on the barrier will begin in a few weeks time, the agency added.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which was introduced to maintain the cessation of hostilities following to end the July-August 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, established a buffer zone around the Blue Line border where only UNIFIL and Lebanese Army troops are permitted.

When contacted by The Daily Star, a Lebanese Army spokesperson said the Lebanese military had learned of the news of the barrier, which, if true, would be the first of its kind on the border with Lebanon.

The source said the Lebanese Army had no direct means of validating the reports and said there were no visible signs of activity to suggest building of the wall had started.

Commenting on the matter, UNIFIL spokesperson Neeraj Singh said the international peacekeepers have been engaged with both Lebanon and Israel to “further improve security arrangements in the Kfar Kila area.”

“Given the sensitivity of the area, we consider it imperative to reach agreed solutions with both the sides on practical measures to ease sporadic tensions, minimize the scope for any possible misunderstandings and build confidence among the parties,” Singh told The Daily Star in an email.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which was meant to end the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, established a buffer zone around the Blue Line border where only UNIFIL and Lebanese Army troops are permitted.

On Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset that Israel should be prepared for new challenges on its northern and southern borders, Israel’ army reported on its website.

There have been several security incidents on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

On Nov.29, rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel with one hitting the Western Galilee region. The Israeli army retaliated, firing six artillery shells.

In early December, a woman was wounded in south Lebanon by a Katyusha rocket that was fired from Lebanon, apparently aimed at Israel.





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