Security zone (Israeli in Lebanon)

Strip of Lebanese territory 100 km long, approximately 8 to 20 km wide along the Israel-Lebanon border from Naqura on the Mediterranean to Mount Hermon and the Litani River, which Israel is allegedly tapping for water resources according to reliable sources. In June 1978, at the time of the first Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, this area and its population of 100,000 (60% Shia Muslims and 35% Christians) was placed by Israel under the control of Saad Haddad and his SLA 2,000 militia men, solidly backed by Israeli advisors.

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and a partial Israeli withdrawal from 1983 to 1985, the area under Lahad’s control was extended from 850 km² to 970km² to include the so-called « Jezzine enclave ».

The keeping of this 850 km² buffer zone (nearly 10% of the total area of Lebanon), which was totally dependent on the good will of Tel Aviv inspired many heated discussions at high level in Israel. In the meantime, dozens of Israeli soldiers and officers were seconded to this virtually occupied zone.

After an Israeli blitz further North in April 1996 called « Grapes of Wrath », in which some 103 Lebanese civilians were killed by Israeli shells inside a UNIFIL compound, a monitoring group has been set up comprising France, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and the US.

The Israeli public opinion grown less and less tolerant of this occupation which lead to deadly fightings with the Hezbollah resistance. More than 300 Israeli military lost their live in this area since its occupation started, of which 39 in 1997 and 24 in 1998.

In February 1999, the Israeli Army extended its occupation area to a new village, Arnoun, in a move obviously sparked by Israel’s upcoming elections scheduled for May 1999. A few days later, in two separate incidents, the Hezbollah resistance mouvement killed seven Israeli military. Among them were several high ranking officers, one of whom was a Brigadier General, the most senior officer to be killed in Lebanon since the Israeli invasion of 1982.

Soon after his election to the post of Prime Minister of Israel in May 1999, Mr. Ehud Barak promised to withdraw the Israeli army from this zone by July 7, 2000. Despite the absence of an agreement with Syria regarding the Golan Heights, the withdrawal plan, which was named “New Horizon” in the view of an agreement, was revised and finally named “Dusk”.

The Israeli withdrawal, launched at the beginning of May 2000, ended the 24 May, without major incidents. This withdrawal was nevertheless marked by the exodus of most SLA militia men and their families to Israel, where they now live in precarious conditions, ignored by Israeli Jews and simply hated by Israeli Arabs.

In the absence of a plan concerted with Lebanon and Syria, Israel still hopes, in addition to the redeployment of UNIFIL, for the Lebanese army to take control of the former security zone which the lebanese authorities refuse to do in order to avoid a clash with the Hezbollah, the de facto master on the ground.