UN Warns Israel Against Annexing Lebanese Village
The United Nations has warned Israel not to stage another attempt to annex the village of Ghajar, amid growing indications that Israeli authorities are worried about potential infiltration via the divided community, the Daily Star reported.
The warning was delivered recently by UN Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen after the Israelis expressed unhappiness at what they consider to be a persistent security threat.
“They were told very firmly by Larsen’s office not to disturb the status quo,” a diplomatic source told the Daily Star.
The Israeli Army views the Alawite village of Ghajar as a weak link in the security cordon being erected along the 110-kilometer frontier with Lebanon, said the paper.
Ghajar is split by the UN-delineated Blue Line, with the northern two-thirds lying inside Lebanon and the rest in Israeli-occupied Syria.
In a related development, Lebanon on Friday warned any change in the status of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) would be "unacceptable," even as UN Security Council members prepare to reduce the number of operatives there, said AFP.
In a report to the council earlier this month, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan recommended that UNIFIL continue its mission along the "Blue Line," the highly-contested border with Israel, but reduce its presence from 5,800 peacekeepers to 3,600 over objections from Beirut.
The reduction is seen as a first step toward potentially changing UNIFIL's overall status, in line with Annan's recommendations from January in which he indicated UNIFIL's duties were evolving from peacekeeping into monitoring the border ceasefire.
"It would be unacceptable to change that mission to an observer mission," said Lebanese ambasador Selim Tadmoury in a letter to the Security Council.
The Security Council is to formally adopt an agreement reached Wednesday to extend UNIFIL's mission by six months while reducing its size.
Annan also has asked Beirut to deploy its own army troops to patrol the Blue Line, in the face of heightened attacks by the militant Islamist Hizbollah, while also strongly criticizing Israeli-initiated violence in the strife-torn ocuppied Shebaa Farms region.
Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000, after 22 years of occupation.
Earlier Wednesday UNIFIL held a farewell ceremony for a 350-strong cadre of departing Finnish peacekeepers, who have lost 11 of their comrades in arms since their battalion joined the task force in 1982 – Albawaba.com
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