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Lebanon Opens Road Between Towns Amid Border Tensions with Israel

Lebanon opened a road between two towns in the border area with Israel, for the first time since 1978, when the two towns arrived, in direct response to the Israeli escalation represented in installing concrete walls in a disputed area in southeastern Lebanon, amid the alert of the Lebanese and Israeli armies.

On Thursday morning, a Lebanese bulldozer began removing concrete blocks and obstacles that Israel had installed years ago, which led to cutting off the road between two Lebanese towns inside Lebanese territory. Field sources said that the bulldozer belongs to the municipality of Kfar Shuba, which took this step to reopen a cut road between two Lebanese towns, and succeeded in that.

The Israeli army built a new wall on the night of Tuesday – Wednesday in the heights of Kfar Shuba, behind the withdrawal line in the area that Lebanon considers occupied, which raised the tension to its climax. The Israeli forces targeted a Lebanese army intelligence patrol that came to the site to inspect the new walls, with two smoke bombs, noting that the patrol was inside Lebanese territory.

The Kfar Shuba area is located on a hill on a border triangle linking Syria, Lebanon and Israel, and it has always been a point of border dispute, as Lebanon confirms that the farms are Lebanese, and the Israeli forces reside in an area of ​​border encroachments, and they have not withdrawn from it since 2000 following the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. The area of ​​Kfar Shuba and its hills has an important strategic location, as it sits on the western slopes of Mount Hermon, overlooking the Hula Plain, the Upper Galilee, and the peaks of Jabal Amel to the south and west.

Lebanese security sources said that the new wall “is 18 meters long, and penetrates the Lebanese territory in an infringement to the depth inside Lebanon,” pointing out that the wall has become a substitute for a barbed wire that the Israeli forces installed years ago at the same point, and built a military site over it bearing the name “Al-Samaqa site.”

The fence erected by Israel on the border with Lebanon (AFP)

The sources confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the wall “was built 2.7 meters deep into Lebanese territory,” pointing out that the Lebanese army had informed the international peacekeeping forces operating in the south (UNIFIL) of these violations, and they are in constant contact with the leadership of the UN mission.

The Lebanese authorities quickly responded to the Israeli move, as the municipality of Kfar Shuba brought in a bulldozer that worked to remove the impurities and cement blocks that the Israeli forces had placed along the metal fence, thus reopening a road between two Lebanese towns, which has been closed since the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in 1978.

The security sources said that the move was “bold,” stressing that all the works “were carried out inside Lebanese territory, behind the withdrawal line.” She said that the road, which opened on Thursday, “connects a paved road with a dirt road that connects the farm of Halta with the town of Kfar Shuba,” which are located at the western slope of Mount Hermon within Lebanese territory.

Lebanese media said that the bulldozing work was “unprecedented since the liberation of the south and western Bekaa from the occupation in 2000,” and it coincides with the concrete blocks raised by the Israeli army on Tuesday night.

The border tension escalated during the past month, as a result of the high metal constructions that Israel built in the town of Ghajar, as a prelude to annexing the entire occupied northern part of the town, which is an area of ​​more than 700,000 square meters. On the other hand, “Hezbollah” set up two tents in the Kfar Shuba farms area, one of which is inside Lebanese territory, and the second is inside the withdrawal line, which Lebanon also considers Lebanese territory.

The sources confirmed that the works, which took place on Thursday, in the Kafr Shuba area, “are at least one kilometer away from the tents that (Hezbollah) built in the farms of Kafr Shuba last month.”

Following the Lebanese works, severe tension was recorded between the Lebanese and Israeli armies in the axis of the town of Kfar Shuba, after the Israeli forces fired a number of smoke bombs at a number of the town’s residents after they tried to approach the border line. On the other hand, the Lebanese army strengthened its procedures, coinciding with the construction of the new road.

And local media reported that the Israeli army threw a smoke bomb that fell in the heights of Kfar Shuba, after a Lebanese army force and a number of journalists approached the area where a new wall was being erected.

These developments add to the complications surrounding the issue of dealing with border disputes. Last Monday, the Israeli army refused to participate in a tripartite meeting hosted by UNIFIL forces at the United Nations headquarters in Naqoura, including representatives of the Lebanese and Israeli armies and representatives of UNIFIL, to address border developments.

On Wednesday, Tel Aviv asked France to help prevent escalation along the Lebanese border.

2023-07-20 23:28:00
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