Israel freezes village exit due to Lebanon crisis

AFP , Monday 7 Feb 2011

Israeli withdrawal from a village along the border with Lebanon was put on hold due to political deadlock

Israel has frozen plans to withdraw from a village along the border with Lebanon, an official source said on Monday, due to the political turmoil which last month toppled the government in Beirut.

"The plan was put on the back burner after Hezbollah brought down the Lebanese government" of prime minister Saad Hariri, a senior official told AFP.

"Israel agreed to hand over control of a certain part of the village to UNIFIL, but it was understood that (UNIFIL) needed a green light from the Lebanese government," he said, referring to the UN peacekeeping force stationed along the border.

Israel approved the pullout in November.

But two months later, Hariri's Western-backed government collapsed, and a new administration has yet to be appointed, making it "impossible in the current situation to reach such an agreement with the Lebanese authorities," the source said.

Should it eventually happen, the pullout will see Israel withdrawing its troops from the northern part of Ghajar village and redeploying south of the UN "blue line" demarcating the border, he said.

North Ghajar lies in Lebanon and the rest lies in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, but Israel took over the Lebanese part during its devastating 2006 war with Hezbollah.

Most of the village residents, who number around 2,200, are against the re division of the village, which would leave 1,700 people in the north and 500 on the Israeli side.

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