Haaretz: Israel Wants UN Observers in Shabaa Farms
Israel has asked the United Nations to station observers in the area of the Shabaa Farms, near the Lebanese border, as this region has become the “focus of Hizbollah attacks,” reported Haaretz newspaper.
The UN's Middle East envoy, Terje Larsen, has promised to look into Israel's request, it added.
The Lebanese Hizbollah movement says that the Shabaa Farms area is an occupied Lebanese territory, and both Lebanon and Syria are backing this claim.
The UN, however, has certified the region as Syrian on the basis of maps of the international borders, and therefore not included in Israel's pullback from Lebanon.
Since the UN considers the area part of the Golan Heights, Israel has asked that unarmed observers from the UN's special force on the Golan be placed there, said the paper, quoting officials as saying.
UNIFIL, the armed UN force in Lebanon, cannot deploy in Shabaa because of the UN's ruling that the area is not part of that country, according to Haaretz.
Israel has warned Syria and Lebanon in recent days that continued Hizbollah attacks are likely to ignite the entire border, and has demanded that Syrian President Bashar Assad restrain Hizbollah.
Senior Israeli government sources said that Israel insists on retaining the disputed region as a matter of policy.
"We agreed to a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, but not from the Golan, and we will not vacate any Syrian territory without an agreement," said one source. "If we withdraw unilaterally from Shabaa Farms, we will be expected to withdraw tomorrow from the Golan Heights."
The sources noted that after Israel's withdrawal, France had raised the idea of dismantling UNIFIL with the UN Security Council.
However, this idea was shelved due to the continuing tension in the North. The UN has also shelved another plan, of increasing UNIFIL to 7,900 men, and has instead increased it to only 5,600, Haaretz said -- Albawaba.com
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