IDF concerned Lebanon planning water diversion (JERUSALEM POST) By YAAKOV KATZ 07/09/12)
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The IDF is deliberating responses ahead of the possibility that
Lebanon will divert water from the Hatzbani River, a move that Israel
has in the past viewed as a casus belli – justification for war.
Israel’s concern stems from the construction of a large tourism
center on the Lebanese side of the river, not far from the Israeli
town of Metulla.
A senior IDF officer in the Northern Command said that construction
of the center needed to be closely tracked due to the possibility it
would be used to divert water from the Hatzbani, which supplies 25
percent of the Jordan River’s waters.
Israel is concerned about the site’s proximity to the border,
particularly in light of a number of near-clashes between IDF troops
and soldiers from the Lebanese Armed Forces.
“It has our attention and we are keeping a close eye on what is
happening there,” the officer said. “Our concerns range from the
diversion of water to the possibility that the tourism center will be
used as cover to launch attacks against Israel.”
In one such case, a small force from the Paratroop Brigade was
patrolling the border near the river two weeks ago when they spotted
Lebanese troops standing 20 meters away and aiming their weapons –
including a rocket-propelled grenade – at them. One of the Israeli
soldiers, who speaks Arabic, heard the Lebanese commander dividing up
targets for his men. The Israeli soldiers called in a backup force
that quickly arrived at the scene, leading the Lebanese to withdraw.
In the meantime, Israel has shared its concern with UNIFIL and plans
to raise the issue at one of the upcoming tripartite meetings, which
the multinational peacekeeping force convenes at its Naqoura Base for
IDF and Lebanese army representatives.
“This could become a strategic problem,” another officer said.
In 2001, Israel threatened Lebanon with military action if it
continued to allow villagers to divert water from the Hatzbani River.
Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon warned Lebanon that diversion of the
river’s waters would be viewed as a “pretext for war.”
Israel’s threats came after Lebanon announced a plan to install a new
pipeline to the river and divert approximately 5,000 cubic meters of
drinking water to five villages nearby.
In 1964, the protracted “battle over water” broke out between Israeli
and Syrian forces over Syrian efforts to divert the waters of the
Hatzbani and Banyas rivers away from Israel. That led to years of IDF
action until the Syrians and Lebanese gave up the idea. (© 1995-2011,
The Jerusalem Post 07/09/12)
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