Israeli officials are denying widespread reports that Israel is ready to pull out of disputed areas on its border with Lebanon.
The Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper in London reported Tuesday that Jerusalem sent a message to Washington saying that it would leave Ghajar Village and Shebaa Farms – in the corner of northern Israel where Lebanon, Syria and Israel meet – if it receives a written guarantee from Beirut that United Nations peacekeepers will control the area.
Senior Israel officials denied the report, according to Israel Radio.
Israel annexed Ghajar along with the Golan Heights in 1981. When the Israeli army withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, the border was drawn through the village, giving Israel the southern half. Israel believes Hezbollah agents have infiltrated Israel through the village, which Israel still polices on both sides of the border.
Gen. Claudio Graziano, the commander of the U.N. force in southern Lebanon known as UNIFIL, convinced Israel to withdraw from the area after several meetings with Israeli officials, a Lebanese source told the Arabic newspaper.
The paper quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying that the agreement was reached last month between Graziano and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
“An Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms will leave Hezbollah with no more excuses to fight Israel,” al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted the official as saying