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US proposes Israeli concession for removal of Hezbollah outpost

The U.S. has conveyed to Israel a Lebanese demand that Israel halt construction of a security barrier in a village on the border.

A Hezbollah flag in Lebanon, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, June 27, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
A Hezbollah flag in Lebanon, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, June 27, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

Washington recently proposed that Jerusalem halt construction on a security barrier in a village on the Israel-Lebanon border in exchange for the removal of a Hezbollah outpost set up on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, Channel 11 reported on Monday.

In doing so, the United States was repeating a Lebanese demand made on July 10 during a Beirut meeting between Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Aroldo Lázaro Sáenz.

“We discussed the security situations in the south and they [UNIFIL] relayed to us the Israeli side’s demand that the tent be removed. Our response was that we want them to retreat from northern Ghajar, which is considered Lebanese territory,” Bou Habib told Lebanese media.

Ghajar, an Alawite village, is divided by the U.N.-delineated Blue Line. Its residents hold Israeli citizenship and many in the northern portion also have Lebanese passports.

Prime Minister Mikati also told the UNIFIL commander that Lebanon is ready to permanently fix the boundaries of its southern border. “We told the U.N. that we are ready for a full drawing of the entire southern border,” Mikati told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat.

Tensions have been high along the border since Hezbollah pitched two tents in early April a few meters on the Israeli side of the Blue Line in the Mount Dov region.

The position, located across from an Israeli military base, was reportedly manned by three to eight armed terrorists. While the area isn’t home to any Israeli civilian communities, it’s one in which the IDF operates continuously to thwart incursions into Israeli territory.

Israel hopes to resolve the issue quietly, as does Lebanon.

“We are working diligently to resolve the tent issue diplomatically,” said Mikati.

It was reported on July 2 that Hezbollah had removed one of the tents. A day prior, a Lebanese Parliament member for Hezbollah, Mohammad Raad, expressed defiance in a message to Israel, saying, “If you don’t want war, shut up and walk back [the demand to remove the outpost].” 

According to Channel 11, the remaining tent has become a symbol for Hezbollah, and Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, who allegedly didn’t initially know about the tents, is trying to take advantage of Israel’s desire to end the issue peacefully.

Ongoing border issues with Lebanon, brought on by Hezbollah aggression, continue despite Israel’s signing of a U.S.-mediated maritime border deal with Lebanon on Oct. 27, 2022.

On July 5, several Hezbollah terrorists and dozens of armed Lebanese army soldiers briefly entered Israeli territory. The incident occurred in the area of Menara, a kibbutz adjacent to the Lebanese border in the Upper Galilee region, while the IDF was carrying out work on the border area.

The Hezbollah operatives and uniformed Lebanese soldiers reportedly stayed on the Israeli side of the border for about 20 minutes. The IDF attempted to resolve the issue via liaising with UNIFIL.

A day later, the Israeli military carried out strikes against a missile launch site in southern Lebanon after rockets were fired toward Israeli territory. It is believed that the missiles were fired by Palestinian factions and not by Hezbollah.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry revealed in May that Hezbollah has in the past year constructed no fewer than 27 military posts along the Blue Line.

The posts were built under the guise of Green without Borders, a Hezbollah-affiliated organization that poses as an environmental NGO.

Hezbollah launched the project in parallel to Israel’s construction of a fortified perimeter fence along the 140 kilometer (90 mile) border.

According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the terrorist group is forbidden from operating near the frontier.

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