KFAR KILA, Lebanon: The Israeli army began construction of a 6-meter-high separation wall along the border Monday, beginning work in a sensitive area that required coordination with United Nations peacekeepers and the Lebanese Army.
On the first day of construction, bulldozers and technical crews removed the supports for the existing electrical fence that faces the border town of Kfar Kila. The crews eventually will replace the wire fence with 4-meter-high concrete blocks that will be topped by several more meters of fencing and barbed wire.
Monday’s work began the early stages of building the 1-kilometer-long wall that will stretch from what used to be known as Jidar al Tayyib Gate to the Fatima Gate crossing. Israeli officials say the wall is intended to protect residents in a nearby town.
There was a heavy military presence on both sides of the border as the preplanned operation began. The Israeli crews worked next to armored Humvees while the Lebanese Army and 10 armored vehicles from the Spanish contingent of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon watched from the other side.
Lebanese officers were given topographical maps to follow the construction as it happened to ensure it met the prearranged conditions. Members of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force worked with the Israeli army to ensure that the wall was erected within Israeli territory.
“This construction, which began on Monday, is being carried out in coordination with UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army. The wall is intended to avoid friction on the border,” an Israeli military spokeswoman told Agence France Presse.
The wall will separate the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila from Israel’s settlement of Metula.
UNIFIL began Sunday installing a 2-meter-high structure covered by an orange tarpaulin on the pavement alongside the fence on the Lebanese side of the border.
Israeli public radio said the wall, which is expected to take several weeks to build, was intended to protect Metula from fire coming from the Lebanese side.
Israel’s military announced the project in January, saying it would protect recently constructed apartment blocks in Metula from sniper fire from the Lebanese border town of Kfar Kila.
Israel and Lebanon are in a state of war but military officers from the two sides meet regularly under with UNIFIL commanders to coordinate security along the border.
The border has recently experienced a period of relative calm. But several rockets were launched into Israel from Lebanon in the past months, while Israeli aircraft continue to violate Lebanon’s airspace. U.N. officials say the period of stability is a positive development but the main underlying issues for the conflict remain unresolved.
Hezbollah maintains an armed presence in the south of the country. Israel fought a 34-day war against the party in 2006 that cost the lives of over a thousand civilians.