The Israeli prime minister’s security cabinet has finally agreed to the withdrawal of troops from parts of Ghajar village on the Lebanese border, ending a decades-long occupation.
In a Wednesday vote, Benyamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet passed the northern Ghajar pullout, saying that control of the northern part of the village will be handed over to a UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The plan divides the village, which lies between southern Lebanon and the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, into two. While the northern part will be governed by UNIFIL, the southern part will remain under Israeli control.
Tel Aviv, however, has not mentioned a date for the withdrawal and the Israeli Foreign Ministry is to coordinate a withdrawal date with UNIFIL.
The village has been at the center of a row involving Israel, Lebanon, Syria and the United Nations for years.
In 2000, when Israel ended its occupation of south Lebanon after 22 years, the UN determined that the northern part of the village was in Lebanon and Israeli troops evacuated the area. Israel re-occupied the northern part of the village during its war against Lebanon’s resistance movement of Hezbollah in 2006.
UNIFIL has been pressing Tel Aviv to withdraw from northern Ghajar in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 33-day war.
Ghajar was considered part of Syria until after the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel captured the village and the Golan Heights from Syria. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 in a move which has not been recognized by the international community.
The villagers, who became Israeli citizens in 1981, consider themselves as Syrians.
“The village should go back to Syria as part of diplomatic negotiations with Syria,” Ghajar spokesman Najib Khatib told Israel’s Army Radio.