Israel seizes Lebanese shepherds

Israeli troops have crossed the Blue Line in Ruwaisat district in the Shebaa Farms and arrested two Lebanese shepherds and taken them inside the Israeli territories, Aljazeera's correspondent in Beirut reports.

    Israel captured Shebaa Farms from Syria during the 1967 war

    The Aljazeera correspondent on Friday identified the two as Riyad Hashim, 40, and Hassan Mohammed Zahra, 25.

    Reuters reported that the Israeli army detained two Lebanese shepherds on Friday on suspicions they were spies for the Hizb Allah resistance group after they were found in a disputed area near the Israel-Lebanon border.

    An Israeli army spokeswoman said the two Lebanese men had infiltrated the international border.

    "Two Lebanese men infiltrated the international border near Har Dov, several hundred metres across the border and were arrested," she said, adding that neither was armed.

    Unifil account

    AFP quoted the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) as saying that the two strayed across the the UN-demarcated Blue Line used to locate the border between Lebanon and Israel.

    U

    nifil said it was in contact with all parties to resolve the issue.

    Israel says sending shepherds is
    a Hizb Allah intelligence tactic

    The small mountainous Shebaa Farms area lies at the convergence of the Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian borders.

    Israel captured the area from Syria in the 1967 Middle East, and it is now claimed by Lebanon with Damascus's consent.

    A Hizb Allah spokesman in Beirut declined to comment on the incident.

    An Israeli army commander could not confirm whether the two had been carrying weapons. He said they were being questioned.

    "They were brought to investigation and if it is found they have no onnection to terror, we will hand them back to Lebanon soon," said northern commander Brigadier-General Gal Hirsh.

    Masquerade charge

    Hirsh said Hizb Allah had in the past sent intelligence agents masquerading as shepherds into the disputed Shebaa Farms area, a buffer zone on the Israel-Lebanon border.

    Lebanon and Hizb Allah claim the Shebaa Farms as Lebanese territory occupied by Israel.

    The UN, which certified Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon as complete, says the area is Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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