Israel PM tells UN of pull out from Lebanon border village

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UNITED NATIONS: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN leader on Monday of an Israeli plan to withdraw troops from part of a disputed village on the Lebanese border and hand over control to a UN peacekeeping force, an Israeli official said.

Netanyahu informed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the planned move during talks at the UN headquarters in New York, the Israeli leader’s spokesman Mark Regev said.

"The prime minister said that he intends to convene the security cabinet upon his return to Israel in order to approve an arrangement regarding Ghajar, based among other things on Israel’s discussions with UNIFIL," Netanyahu’s spokesman said after the Ban meeting.

Plans to withdraw from the northern sector of Ghajar have been discussed with senior officials from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is deployed along the border with Israel.

The village lies on the border of Lebanon, Syria and the Golan Heights which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981.

UNIFIL has been pressing Israel to withdraw from Ghajar in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended a 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon’s Shia movement Hezbollah.

Northern Ghajar is in Lebanon and the rest lies in the Golan Heights, but Israel took over the Lebanese half during the 2006 war.

The villagers of southern Ghajar were Syrian nationals when Israel occupied the region but they took Israeli nationality after the Golan annexation, a move not recognized by the international community.

Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar has hailed the planned pullout and said it should extend to other areas of dispute along the border such as Kfar Shuba and the Shebaa Farms.

Most Ghajar residents are against re-partitioning the village, which would leave 1,700 people in the Lebanese part and 500 on the Israeli side.

Syria has always demanded the full return of the strategic Golan in any peace deal.

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