Spanish soldiers of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) clear a road which had been closed by Israeli forces in the town of Ghajar, southern Lebanon, January 18, 2007. REUTERS/Karmallah Daher (LEBANON)
Spanish soldiers of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon clear a road that had been closed by Israeli forces in Ghajar in January.

Lebanon accepts Ghajar proposal



BEIRUT // A UN proposal delivered to both the Israeli and Lebanese governments to end the Israeli occupation of the divided town of Ghajar has been accepted by the Lebanese government and is currently awaiting final approval by the Israeli military, UN and Lebanese officials said yesterday. Both Lebanon and the United Nations have said Israel has unofficially endorsed the plan, which would finally implement an Israeli withdrawal from the last bit of land occupied during the July 2006 war. Ghajar has been a long-standing sore point for Israel, Syria, Lebanon and the UN since after the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, when UN inspectors put the ceasefire line directly through the town. The southern half remained part of Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, whereas the northern side became part of Lebanon. And with most residents of Ghajar having accepted Israeli residency and citizenship in a 1981 agreement, the UN and Israel agreed not to fence the two halves of the village. However, few Lebanese have ever seen the town because Hizbollah tightly controlled access between 2000 and 2006 to prevent the Lebanese from freely mingling with Israeli citizens and military personnel.

Ghajar is perhaps the only town on earth where most residents can travel the world on either Lebanese or Israeli passports - most have been issued both - even if they can never actually travel more than about 800 metres into Lebanon. In a brief visit to Ghajar shortly after the 2006 war, it was possible for journalists to cross between the two countries - which share one of the world's most tense and impassable borders - and talk to local residents who described themselves as 'Israeli Arabs' and seemed mostly content with their Israeli citizenship. Prior to 2006, Ghajar was a key no-man's land for both Israel and Hizbollah, who used the openness of the area to run intelligence and military operations against one another. In one failed attempt in 2005, Hizbollah tried to kidnap members of an Israel patrol in Ghajar and several Arab Israelis have recently been arrested for spying on behalf of Hizbollah in Israel, usually using Ghajar as a point of contact with the group.

In the 2006 war, Israeli forces occupied the northern portion of the town and have so far refused to withdraw. The Lebanese government had demanded that Lebanese Army troops take over security of Ghajar as part of its post-2006 move into south Lebanon - the Lebanese Army had not deployed anywhere in the south for 30 years until after the 2006 ceasefire - but the Israelis demanded any troops be limited to UN forces. "This is a final agreement to end a blemish on the Unifil mission in post-2006," according to Timur Goskel, a former UN official, who spent more than two decades wrangling such deals between Lebanon and Israel. "The Israeli presence in North Ghajar always reinforced the belief by many Lebanese that the UN was in south Lebanon, not as peacekeepers, but to protect Israel's security," he said. "But if this happens, it will finally put Israel mostly into compliance with the ceasefire." A Lebanese official - who asked for anonymity due to the nature of the discussion - said the government hoped this step would lead to serious talks over the adjacent Shebaa Farms, a 20 sq km plot of disputed land that remains under Israeli occupation, and is claimed by Lebanon despite Israel's argument it is part of the occupied Golan Heights taken from Syria in the 1967 war. Israeli media reported yesterday the deal included an Israeli agreement to withdraw from Shebaa Farms as well as Ghajar in exchange for UN troops taking control of both areas, but these reports were quickly denied by both Lebanon and UN officials, who cited Israeli confusion over the precise names of Arab lands. The UN has a mandate to patrol Ghajar, but it would require a new Security Council resolution for UN troops to enter Shebaa, according to UN officials. But the Ghajar agreement comes as both Syria and Israel appear to be creeping towards direct talks over the status of the Golan Heights, whose return would be a key part of any peace deal in the region. Israel has always linked the status of Shebaa and Golan, while Hizbollah has claimed since 2000 that Shebaa is part of Lebanon occupied by Israel and uses this claim to justify its refusal to consider disarming. Israeli officials have openly mulled returning the tiny sliver of land, if only to remove one of Hizbollah's remaining excuses to conduct attacks on Israel. "The best way to hurt the resistance would be for Israel to leave Shebaa today," said one Lebanese official, who refused to be named criticising the group. "No one in Lebanon cares about Ghajar or Shebaa except Hizbollah. Ghajar, we know they will keep because its people have become Israeli citizens, but there's no reason to keep Shebaa and empower Hizbollah's claims Lebanon is occupied."

Abdo Hassan Hashim is the mayor of Shebaa, a town just outside the farms on the Lebanese and the occupied sliver of land should fall under his jurisdiction. He said the area has always been Lebanese, but was a famous way station for smuggling in the 1950s between Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Due to its own weakness and the overall lawlessness in the area, Mr Hashim said Lebanon asked Syria to open a police station in the area to help provide security, which is why both Israel and, occasionally, Syria claim the land belongs to Damascus. "We have deeds from the land owners that proves it's owned by Lebanese landlords and shows that it is a Lebanese land from the beginning," Mr Hashim said. "I support the resistance as they were here protecting us." But conditions in the farms and outlaying areas are terrible because of the occupation and tensions, Mr Hashim said, so he is ready for any deal that would allow economic development. "If the UN will take over, like they are saying lately, we have no problem as long as they give us our land back," he said. "We want to be able to see it again, we want to cultivate, we want to work. Our youth is all outside the country because there is nothing for them to do here." mprothero@thenational.ae

The specs: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E 300 Cabriolet

Price, base / as tested: Dh275,250 / Dh328,465

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder

Power: 245hp @ 5,500rpm

Torque: 370Nm @ 1,300rpm

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Fuel consumption, combined: 7.0L / 100km

if you go

The flights

Flydubai flies to Podgorica or nearby Tivat via Sarajevo from Dh2,155 return including taxes. Turkish Airlines flies from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Podgorica via Istanbul; alternatively, fly with Flydubai from Dubai to Belgrade and take a short flight with Montenegro Air to Podgorica. Etihad flies from Abu Dhabi to Podgorica via Belgrade. Flights cost from about Dh3,000 return including taxes. There are buses from Podgorica to Plav. 

The tour

While you can apply for a permit for the route yourself, it’s best to travel with an agency that will arrange it for you. These include Zbulo in Albania (www.zbulo.org) or Zalaz in Montenegro (www.zalaz.me).

 

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

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The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

DMZ facts
  • The DMZ was created as a buffer after the 1950-53 Korean War.
  • It runs 248 kilometers across the Korean Peninsula and is 4km wide.
  • The zone is jointly overseen by the US-led United Nations Command and North Korea.
  • It is littered with an estimated 2 million mines, tank traps, razor wire fences and guard posts.
  • Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un met at a building in Panmunjom, where an armistice was signed to stop the Korean War.
  • Panmunjom is 52km north of the Korean capital Seoul and 147km south of Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.
  • Former US president Bill Clinton visited Panmunjom in 1993, while Ronald Reagan visited the DMZ in 1983, George W. Bush in 2002 and Barack Obama visited a nearby military camp in 2012. 
  • Mr Trump planned to visit in November 2017, but heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing.
Company profile

Name: Yabi by Souqalmal 

Started: May 2022, launched June 2023

Founder: Ambareen Musa

Based: Dubai 

Sector: FinTech 

Initial investment: undisclosed but soon to be announced 

Number of staff: 12 

Investment stage: seed  

Investors: Shuaa Capital

The specs

Engine: 4-cylinder 2-litre
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Power: 252 brake horsepower
Torque: 352Nm
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How to donate

Text the following numbers:

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*numbers work for both Etisalat and du

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
McLaren GT specs

Engine: 4-litre twin-turbo V8

Transmission: seven-speed

Power: 620bhp

Torque: 630Nm

Price: Dh875,000

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THE BIO

Born: Mukalla, Yemen, 1979

Education: UAE University, Al Ain

Family: Married with two daughters: Asayel, 7, and Sara, 6

Favourite piece of music: Horse Dance by Naseer Shamma

Favourite book: Science and geology

Favourite place to travel to: Washington DC

Best advice you’ve ever been given: If you have a dream, you have to believe it, then you will see it.

Dengue fever symptoms
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  • Severe headache
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  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
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If symptoms occur, they usually last for two-seven days

Pakistan World Cup squad

Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez(subject to fitness), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Junaid Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain      

Two additions for England ODIs: Mohammad Amir and Asif Ali

What went into the film

25 visual effects (VFX) studios

2,150 VFX shots in a film with 2,500 shots

1,000 VFX artists

3,000 technicians

10 Concept artists, 25 3D designers

New sound technology, named 4D SRL

 

The Lowdown

Kesari

Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Produced by: Dharma Productions, Azure Entertainment
Directed by: Anubhav Singh
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra

 

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

SNAPSHOT

While Huawei did launch the first smartphone with a 50MP image sensor in its P40 series in 2020, Oppo in 2014 introduced the Find 7, which was capable of taking 50MP images: this was done using a combination of a 13MP sensor and software that resulted in shots seemingly taken from a 50MP camera.

Empty Words

By Mario Levrero  

(Coffee House Press)
 


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