UN pressing Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon

May 5th, 2009 - 10:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Beirut, May 5 (DPA) The UN is trying to persuade Israel to withdraw its troops from Ghajjar village in southern Lebanon, a Lebanese government source said Tuesday.
“Members of the Lebanese and Israeli armies along with a senior UN official will meet Wednesday at the Naquora crossing point to discuss the issue of Ghajjar village,” the source said.

Alain le Roy, UN under secretary-general for peacekeeping affairs, who is currently visiting Lebanon, will be present at the meeting in Naquora, a border area between Israel and Lebanon, the source said.

According to a UN source, le Roy visited Ghajjar Monday. He also met Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Seniora Tuesday. The UN official is scheduled to visit Israel Thursday.

Since its 33-day attack on Lebanon in 2006, Israel has maintained a military presence in the northern part of Ghajjar, which lies on the Lebanese soil, and built a security fence to prevent members of the Lebanese Shia movement from infiltrating the village.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is

overseeing a fragile ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel, last year submitted a proposal to facilitate Israel’s withdrawal from part of Ghajjar.

The issue of Ghajjar came into the limelight after media reports over the weekend said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would announce a troop withdrawal from the village this week.

Half of Ghajjar is on the Lebanese side of the “blue line” which the UN drew after Israel evacuated southern Lebanon in June of 2000. Israel annexed Ghajjar in 1981 along with the occupied Golan Heights in a move that has not won international recognition.

According to UN reports, the northern part of the village lies on Lebanese soil while the rest is part of occupied Syrian territory.

Premier Seniora Monday accused Israel of using Ghajjar to distract attention from its anger and embarrassment caused by Lebanese intelligence uncovering several Israeli spy networks.

“Lebanon will not be fooled by these claims,” the premier said.

Lebanese authorities have arrested three more people on suspicion of spying for Israel, taking to 10 the number of alleged spies arrested since January, a security official said Sunday.

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