LEBANON: Israeli cow incursion sparks border controversy
The Blue Line dividing Lebanon and Israel has been a flash point for conflict ever since the Israeli withdrawal in 2000 and is closely guarded by two national armies, thousands of United Nations troops and the ever-vigilant militant group Hezbollah.
But despite these elaborate security measures, it seems one group has been crossing the security fence daily and with impunity.
Lebanese shepherds report Israeli cows are being driven into Lebanese territory to drink from the Baathail Lake, which they claim lies entirely within Lebanon.
"Each Israeli cow drinks more than 40 of our goats put together," shepherd Ismail Nasser, from the border village Kfar Shuba, told the Daily Star's Mohammed Zaatari. "Why doesn't UNIFIL consider this as a violation of the Blue Line?"
The Blue Line was drawn in 2000 by the U.N. as a withdrawal marker for the Israeli army, but it has since been treated as a de facto border in the absence of a formal demarcation between the two warring countries. To complicate matters further, the Israeli security fence does not follow the Blue Line exactly, veering south in several contested areas.
Although Lebanese shepherds complain that the cows have been crossing through holes in the security fence, former senior U.N. advisor Timur Goksel told Babylon & Beyond that the Blue Line actually runs across the lake, which, he added, is really more like a pond.
"There is no dispute according the U.N. line; this is an Israeli area," Goksel said. "The U.N. doesn't take on the problem because, as far as they are concerned, [the cows are] in Israel."
But residents of Lebanese border towns are unlikely to let the issue rest, especially after a Lebanese teenager was shot and killed within Lebanese territory by Israeli soldiers just three years ago for allegedly approaching the border.
According to the Daily Star article, the mayor of Kfar Shuba has been charged with submitting a formal complaint to U.N. forces regarding the cow incursion.
-- Meris Lutz in Beirut
Photo: Cows graze next to an Israeli artillery position during the 2006 monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah. Credit: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press