Lebanese villagers hostage to Israeli troops

An AFP correspondent said Israeli troops were still occupying at least nine parts of Lebanon close to the border. (Reuters)
BEIT LIF, Lebanon (21 August 2006) - A WEEK after a UN-brokered truce ended a month-long onslaught and thousands of Israeli troops withdrew from south Lebanon, residents some borders villages remain hostage of Israeli soldiers.

"They were hiding behind the olive groves and the trees of this hill," Zeinab Ali Merei of the tiny border village of Beit Lif old Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, August 21.

An AFP correspondent said that Israeli troops were still occupying at least nine parts of Lebanon close to the border.

More than 250 Israeli troops, backed by about 30 armored vehicles, were seen at the nine positions.

Zeinab said her son was abducted by Israeli soldiers when he attempted to look for his sheep.

"Abdallah was behind this water tower... and found himself nose to nose with an armed soldier who immediately seized him," she said.

When young men went to ask the Israeli soldiers to release Abdallah, 22, the reply came in Arabic: "Get away from here," the mother said they were told.

Houses Occupied

Israeli soldiers also occupy houses in the area to bolster their positions in southern Lebanon and have repeatedly assaulted villagers.

"They broke everything here," said Sayed, whose house was occupied by the Israeli forces as he showed a wooden inlaid wardrobe reduced to its planks.

The clothes are on the ground, surrounded by canned Israeli food and bottled water.

"They broke down the doors and defecated in the kitchen," cried his mother.

"Now they are just above us. I saw about 50 of them yesterday evening on the edge of the hill" she said of the area several meters from a post of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, manned by soldiers from Ghana.

East at Maroun al-Ras, at least one house remained in the hands of Israeli soldiers, AFP witnessed.

"I was there with my wife and children," said Mohammed Fares, noting that Israeli soldiers fired two warning shots.

"And it's my house that they're occupying," he lamented.

A five-week Israeli came to a halt on Monday, August 14, under UN Security Council resolution 1701.

The resolution calls for an end to hostilities, an Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon, and deployment of Lebanese troops aided by a strengthened UNIFIL.

UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen said on Monday, August 21, that the truce could easily collapse again into "an abyss of violence and bloodshed" if the resolution was violated.

He was speaking a day after an Israeli commando operation in eastern Lebanon, in which an Israeli officer was killed and two others wounded.

No entry

Lebanese villagers were also barred by Israeli forces from reaching their fields in the area.

One resident, Khadigea Baddah, was unable to reach her tobacco field to harvest the leaves because "soldiers insulted her in Arabic," forcing her to flee, said her neighbor Mustapha el-Sayed.

Now, no Lebanese villagers dare to venture into the fields anymore because of the presence of the Israeli soldiers.

"We always lived on our harvest of olives, tobacco, fruits and vegetables with our goats, because to work in Tyre is too expensive," Um Ali said, referring to a main coastal city about 40 kilometers away to the west.

"And here we are again plunged into misery."


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