A week ago, Israeli newspaper Maariv published an article titled “Kibbutz Lands Over Lebanese Border.” The story indicated that the management of the Misgav-Am kibbutz, a settlement located across from the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, “was informed by the Israeli interior ministry that a part of [the colony] falls on sovereign Lebanese territory.”
The ministry’s statement came in response to the kibbutz’s request to re-zone certain plots of land from agricultural to residential. The ministry said that the request would be considered following “the withdrawal towards Israeli borders and amending the Blue Line.”
It seems the enemy admitted that Adaisseh was confiscated by the occupation – with the collusion of the UN – when the Blue Line was demarcated following the liberation of South Lebanon in 2000.
This is the land where Israeli bulldozers uprooted what became known as the “Adaisseh tree.” That incident in the summer of 2010 led to a battle between the Lebanese army and its Israeli counterpart where soldiers Abdullah Tufaili and Robert al-Ashi, and Al-Akhbar’s correspondent Assaf Abu Rahhal were killed by Israeli fire.
The Lebanese state should raise the issue of occupied lands and reiterate the points of reservation during the drawing of the Blue Line, especially following this latest Israeli admission. This the least of what is expected of the state.All the while, Israel, which today admits that the land where its soldiers are deployed belongs to Lebanon, recently protested at the UN a plot of flowers adjacent to the army point where the Adaisseh operation was launched, claiming it falls inside the Blue Line.
Adaisseh mayor Khalil Rammal took us on a long tour of occupied lands and the Blue Line. From the borders at Hounin and Markaba in the south, to Kfar Kila northwards, the enemy has stolen around 2,500 dunams (1 dunam = 1,000 square meters) of property since before the 1948 nakba in Palestine.
The mayor says that every time a demarcation was made, the town lost more of its land, beginning with the demarcation based on the the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1920, to the international demarcation of the borders between Lebanon and Occupied Palestine in the armistice agreement in 1949, and finally during the drawing of the Blue Line in 2000.
Rammal recounts the history of settlements since 1908, when the wooden settlement of Kfar Giladi was set up at the Adaisseh borders near the point now occupied by the Indonesian contingency of the UNIFIL.
Misgav-Am was set up in 1945 on a hill called al-Tayyara. Later, a military road was built and more land appropriated between al-Thughra and Abl al-Qamh and into Khalleh, Arabsalim, Dabsh al-Awjeh, al-Marj al-Faouqani, and Mussaisah, up until the 1978 Israeli invasion.
Rammal mentions that his father, who was mayor then, went to the governor of South Lebanon, Halim Fayyad, to complain about Israeli violations of Adaisseh, including tens of dunams with title deeds.
Fayyad relayed the message to the Lebanese government, which sent a complaint against Israel in Adaisseh’s name to the UN Security Council. He says his father told him that the Israeli ambassador in the Security Council claimed that “the appropriation of land is a precautionary measure. When Palestinian fighters withdraw, we will leave the land.”
Rammal says that the occupied territories amount to 2,000 dunams taken in 1948 and a further 1,200 in 1948. As for the Blue Line, Rammal maintains that the demarcation committee ignored Adaisseh and did not ask for the statement of the mayor or the inhabitants.
In this respect, a security source indicates that the borders at Adaisseh and Shebaa Farms are under reservation by the Lebanese government, which rejected the demarcation proposed by the enemy and UN Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen. He maintained that they were sovereign Lebanese territories.
What can owners of lands that Israel admitted to be Lebanese do?
Rammal says that the mission of the Lebanese government today should be to ask the UN to return the land, especially since the foreign ministry had requested from landowners, following liberation, to provide it with the deeds to send to the UN.
But the owners were never informed officially of the status of the dossier. One of them is Salim Hassoun, who inherited 15,000 dunams of land from his father, Abdul-Rahman Hassoun, who had in turn inherited it from his own father.
The grandfather had bought the land from Shaker Said through a deed registered at the Marjayoun Department in 1953. Hassoun says that the barbed wire and the Blue Line cut off his land, whose deed indicates the borders with Palestine.Based on this, he will be using the Israeli admission to file a complaint against Israel to return his land, either to the UN or to Israeli courts.
However, informed sources say that Israel would never abandon the Misgav-Am hill. It’s one of the tallest along the southern border and Israel has installed long-range surveillance cameras looking into Lebanon and five military posts.
It should be noted that many of the lands liberated in 2000 are still not free of UNIFIL and Lebanese army roadblocks. These are agricultural lands whose owners have been prohibited from visiting since 1968 due to security concerns and the presence of mines – even though demining operations were completed three years ago.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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