Lebanon dismissed on Monday Israeli plans to withdraw from parts of a divided border village as a ploy to divert attention from uncovered Jewish state’s spying activities in the Arab state.
"This shrewd propaganda by the Israeli press reflects Israeli anger and embarrassment in the face of several Israeli spy networks uncovered by Lebanese security throughout Lebanon," Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said in a statement.
His comments followed reports in the Israeli press that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to announce this week that Israel wants to withdraw its troops from the northern part of the divided border village of Ghajar.
Siniora said Israeli media reports that the withdrawal was a bid to boost his own government ahead of the June 7 legislative elections were but a ploy to divide the Lebanese.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said on Sunday the United States was pressing Netanyahu for a pullout from Ghajar, which would be a goodwill gesture towards Siniora and could bolster moderates in Lebanon before the elections.
But Siniora said "no one will be fooled by these claims," adding that since the 2006 war Lebanon has been demanding that Israel withdraw from Ghajar unconditionally in line with U.N. Resolution 1701.
Obliged to Withdraw
Israel’s security cabinet is expected to discuss the issue on Wednesday, while a senior U.N. official said he would travel Israel to seek an early withdrawal from parts of the village in line with the Security Council resolution.
Alain Le Roy, U.N. under secretary-general, said during a visit to a south Lebanon base of the U.N. peacekeeping force, UNIFIL, that Israel was obliged to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar by Resolution 1701 that ended a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah in 2006.
He said UNIFIL was pursuing agreement on a proposal it had submitted to Israel and Lebanon last year to secure the pull out but that no date for the withdrawal had yet been set.
"In the next few days I will be travelling to Israel and I intend to press on the Israeli government officials the importance of finding an early resolution on this issue," Le Roy said.
"We are hopeful that we will soon reach an understanding on the UNIFIL proposal that will facilitate Israel’s withdrawal from the area as required by Resolution 1701."
Following the end of Israel’s war on Hezbollah in Lebanon in August 2006, Israel has kept a military presence in the northern part of the Ghajar and has built a security fence to prevent Shiite armed groups from entering.
After the war, Israel said it would keep its troops in northern Ghajar until security arrangements were agreed with U.N. and Lebanese forces, but such accords have not yet been struck.
The village, at the foot of Mount Hermon straddling the Lebanese-Syrian border, is perched on a cliff overlooking the precious Wazzani spring, which has been a source of continuous disputes between Israel and Lebanon.
Ghajar is inhabited mainly by Alawites, most of whom have obtained Israeli citizenship even though they consider themselves Syrian.
The village is an extension of the Syrian Golan Heights plateau, which Israel occupied during the 1967 Six Day War and annexed in 1981.
(Alarabiya.net and Agencies)