Lebanon blasts Israeli wall as 'threat to regional stability'

Lebanese leaders look to block Israel from building concrete barrier along the border; claim Israeli gas field is in Lebanese territory.

Mordechai Sones,

Patrol on Lebanon/Israeli border near Rosh haNikra, by UN Blue Line
Patrol on Lebanon/Israeli border near Rosh haNikra, by UN Blue Line
Flash 90

Lebanese leaders vowed Tuesday to take action to prevent Israel from building a wall on the border between the two countries, along what is called the "Blue Line," - move Lebanese leaders claim undermines their country's sovereignty, reports Ynet.

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri discussed "Israeli threats", saying that they "see them as a direct threat to the stability of the border region," read a statement released after the three leaders met.

The three also discussed statements made by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman regarding ownership of Block 9 - which in Lebanon claims is within its maritime borders.

"We examined the data before us regarding the implications of the threats from Israel, and we see this as a clear violation of Security Council Resolution 1701 and a direct threat to stability in the border area since the decision was implemented in August 2006, in cooperation with the UNIFIL forces," the three said. They agreed to "continue the effort on all levels to prevent Israel from building the concrete fence inside Lebanese territory."

In a meeting held yesterday between Lebanese and Israeli military personnel, mediated by UN peace inspectors, Lebanon claimed that Israel intended to build a wall on the border violating its territorial sovereignty. The IDF says the wall's construction is located inside Israel's territory. Lebanon also warns of Israeli gas drilling, claiming the field is in their territory.

Defense Minister Liberman addressed the issue last week, accused Hezbollah of provocation, and said that Israel had withdrawn to the international border with Lebanon and that it was building the wall in its own territory. Liberman referred to the first tender published by Lebanon to search for gas and oil on its shores and said it would be a mistake for international companies to participate in it. Lebanon and Israel have an unresolved territorial dispute over a three-square-mile buffer zone.

Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil points at a map during a tour of areas believed to have gas
צילום: Reuters

Israeli and Lebanese representatives met in Rosh Hanikra under UNIFIL supervision as part of their regular meetings in the border area. "The Lebanese government rejects the construction of this wall and sees it as a violation of Lebanese sovereignty," the Lebanese army said in a statement issued after the tripartite meeting in Rosh Hanikra.

According to the IDF, the walls it is building in threatened areas along the border, such as between Kfar Kila and Metullah, are located in Israeli territory and do not cross into Lebanon. With regard to the gas field, this is an area that is not under development and no gas is being extracted from it, therefore there are no military forces protecting it.

The Israeli activity, designed to prevent infiltration of Hezbollah forces into Israeli territory, has been underway for three years - but only recently has it raised concern across the border and provoked Hezbollah. According to Mako News, the exchange between the two sides began when Hezbollah turned to UNIFIL, the UN military force stationed in southern Lebanon, and said it would not accept the work taking place on the other side of the fence. UNIFIL feared an escalation and forwarded the message to the British and US ambassadors to relay it to the Prime Minister's Office.

Defense Minister Liberman recently referred to statements made by government ministers saying that "Lebanon must be returned to the Stone Age" if Hezbollah starts a war.

"First of all, we want fewer declarations, it's always healthy, but at the same time we live in the Middle East," Liberman said. "All our self-flagellation, all our madness, is that we are constantly looking for what else we can do and what we are to blame for - we are not to blame ... In the Middle East you have to follow the Roman proverb, 'if you want peace, prepare for war'. We certainly take into account every possible scenario, we convey a message to the international community, to all relevant parties."


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