Posted By RichC on July 6, 2012
After reading a little more about finding the dead pilots and Turkish military jet in the Mediterranean Sea that was shot down in Syrian airspace, I was curious where this occurred and started searching on Google Maps, etc. Eventually I ran across a few border towns along the Syrian and Israel line and eventually noticed the Lebanon-Israel border town of Ouanzzani and Ghajar and thought, “it must be challenging to travel back and forth?” Dangerous too.
In 2000, following the campaign promise and election of Ehud Barak as Prime Minister, Israel withdrew their troops from Lebanon. In an attempt to demarcate permanent borders between Israel and Lebanon, the United Nations drew up what became known as the Blue Line. Due to Ghajar’s location, wedged between Lebanon and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, the northern half of the village came under Lebanese control and the southern part remained under Israeli control. This arrangement created much resentment among the residents, who see themselves as Syrian.
Despite the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, tension mounted as Hezbollah made repeated attempts to kidnap Israel soldiers in the Ghajar area. In 2005, Hezbollah launched a rocket attack on Ghajar and infiltrated it, but withdrew after being repelled by the Israelis. Following another attack in July 2006, Israel invaded southern Lebanon and re-occupied the northern half of Ghajar during the 2006 Lebanon War. Following a month of intense fighting, UNSC Resolution 1701 was unanimously approved to resolve the conflict, and it was accepted by combatants on both sides. Among other things, the resolution demanded the full cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of Israeli forces, the disarming of Hezbollah, the deployment of Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers, and the establishment of full control by the government of Lebanon.
Residents on both sides of the village have Israeli citizenship; those in the northern half often hold passports from both Lebanon and Israel. They work and travel freely within Israel, but those living on the Lebanese side have difficulties receiving services from Israel. There is an Israel Defense Forces checkpoint at the entrance to the village, and a fence surrounding the entire village, but no fence or barrier dividing the Israeli and Lebanese sides of the village.