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Hezbollah fans flames of Israeli border tensions

Lebanese villagers try to stop IDF engineering work near Mount Hermon.

Hezbollah flags during a funeral salute. Credit: Crop Media/Shutterstock.
Hezbollah flags during a funeral salute. Credit: Crop Media/Shutterstock.

Tensions continued along Israel’s northern border this weekend as Lebanese civilians, encouraged by Hezbollah, tried to prevent the IDF from carrying out engineering work for a concrete border wall—inside Israeli territory.

Disturbances at the Lebanese border village of Kfar Chouba, on the slopes of Mount Hermon, began after morning prayers on Friday as residents tried to prevent Israeli bulldozers from working.

Lebanese residents crossed the barbed wire fence erected by Israeli soldiers and threw stones at the soldiers who were compelled to disperse them with tear gas.

Although the IDF engineering work is taking place on the Israeli side of the border and the land in question was captured from Syria, residents of Kfar Chouba and other villages claim the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is failing to stop alleged violations of Lebanese sovereignty by the IDF.

Due to territorial disputes, there is no officially recognized border between Israel and Lebanon. The U.N. drew up the de facto border known as the Blue Line in 2000 after Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon.

Further complicating the issue is that Israel seized Kfar Chouba and the nearby Mount Dov (aka Shebaa Farms) from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967. After Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, the U.N. Security Council in June of that year certified the Israeli withdrawal as complete.

The pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen TV channel reported that the residents of the villages managed to damage the border markings and waved Lebanese flags inside Israeli territory.

In Lebanon, it was reported that the villagers filled a trench dug on the spot by the Israeli Defense Forces with dirt and tried to remove barbed wire fences that the IDF had put up.

The Lebanese army raised its level of alert and dozens of its men deployed near the village. Some Lebanese soldiers aimed weapons and a rocket-propelled grenade at Israeli tanks, but U.N. peacekeepers from UNIFIL intervened, preventing further escalation.

Hezbollah is behind the effort that has been going on for several months with the aim of pushing UNIFIL and Israel from the borderline. Lebanese activists and journalists on behalf of Hezbollah repeatedly approach Israeli soldiers, documenting their efforts to provoke a response from the Israelis.

On Sunday morning, Ali Fayed, a member of Hezbollah’s Loyalty Group, visited a Lebanese farmer, Ismail Nasser, who was photographed on Wednesday trying to block an Israeli bulldozer with his body. Lebanese media reports claim the Israeli bulldozer driver deliberately tried to bury Nasser alive.

In a series of interviews in Lebanese media, Nasser, a resident of Kfar Chouba, cited Mohamed Salah and Mohammed al-Durah, saying, “They are no better than me.”

Salah, an Egyptian police officer, was killed on Saturday after infiltrating Israel from Sinai and killing three Israel soldiers. Al-Durah was a 12-year-old Palestinian boy supposedly killed during a shootout in Gaza in 2000. His apparent death was filmed by a French TV crew, turning him into a Palestinian icon. However other video footage suggests the death was staged for the cameras, and no autopsy was ever done.

“We do not recognize the Blue Line,” said Nasser. “And from our point of view there is a border [beyond the Blue Line] and Israel must withdraw from it.”

The Islamic Action Front in Lebanon, a Sunni Islamist group, saluted Nasser, saying his action “embodies the act of free resistance and rejects Zionist aggression, which aims to destroy and confiscate the lands of Lebanon.”

In 1981, the Knesset voted to apply Israeli law to the Golan Heights, including Mount Dov. Lebanon has been claiming sovereignty over the strip of land since Israel’s withdrawal. Syria is not known to have commented on the dispute.

In 2019, the U.S. recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

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