The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has demanded that the Israeli army withdraw its troops from the northern part of Ghajar village in a sensitive border area. Israeli troops were apparently carrying out engineering operations in the village, which extends over both sides of the Lebanon-Israel border and has been disputed ever since Israel's occupation its northern neighbour's territory ended in 2000.
The Israelis believe that the village could be used to launch attacks against the Zionist state, or for drug and arms smuggling. For years the Israeli army has insisted on building a fence but strong opposition from the villagers of Ghajar and the Lebanese army led to the project being put on hold.
Within the past two months, however, the Israeli army has renewed its "security" activities in the northern sector of the border and started to build a wall. According to UN officials, following discussions about the issue and the Israelis' attempts to complete the work from one side, UNIFIL decided to issue a statement criticising the Israeli army.
The statement stressed that Israel should not carry out any activities in the northern part of the village because it is located within the Lebanese territory; Israeli withdrawal from the area does not, therefore, require any degree of negotiations. UNIFIL is adamant on this point.
The Israel Defence Forces have agreed to stop work until a meeting scheduled to be held on 8 May attended by representatives from Lebanon, Israel and UNIFIL.
In response to the UN statement, an Israeli security official said: "The events of the past and those taking place today on the borders of Lebanon require instant responses in the field in order to stop attacks and smuggling. The border line is not clear in the village, as there are discrepancies, but everything will be coordinated."