Last updated: 3 January, 2012

Israel mulls building wall along part of Lebanon border

Israel is considering walling off part of its border with Lebanon, fearing sniper fire at newly-built apartment blocks in the frontier town of Metulla, military sources said on Tuesday.

They said Israel was liaising with Lebanese and UN officials with a view to erecting an anti-sniper wall along a kilometre-long section of the frontier between Metulla and Kfarkila, a Lebanese village which at one point had a high-rise casino adjacent to the existing border fence.

Any final decision on such a project would be coordinated with officials in Lebanon, the sources said, in a move which would hopefully prevent sniper attacks during the construction work.

Although the two countries are technically in a state of war, Israeli and Lebanese military officials meet regularly in the company of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL to liaise on border issues.

The sources said Metulla farmers have come under sniper fire in the past and frequently have stones hurled at them from the Lebanese side.

The 79 kilometre (49 mile) frontier is festooned with flags of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, with whom Israel fought a bloody war in 2006, and portraits of its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

The Israel Defence Forces confirmed in a statement that it was looking at ways to beef up border security but did not give details.

“The IDF is working with UNIFIL and the Lebanese army to examine various options to reduce friction,” it said.

UNIFIL spokesman Neeraj Singh also confirmed that the subject was under discussion.

“Given the sensitivity of the area, we consider it imperative to reach agreed solutions with both the sides on practical measures to ease sporadic tensions, minimize the scope for any possible misunderstandings and build confidence among the parties,” he told AFP on Tuesday.

“To this end, we are looking at different ideas at this stage,” he said.

Israel’s Yediot Aharonot daily says that the planned wall would be five metres (16 feet) high and would incorporate electronic detection devices and that the project is expected to begin within weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministerial colleagues on Sunday that he planned to strengthen barriers along the country’s border with Jordan with a new fence costing 630 million shekels ($166 million, 129 million euros).

Israel is currently erecting a giant security barrier along its border with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

The pace of work has sped up since August, when gunmen from Sinai sneaked across the border and staged a series of deadly ambushes in the Negev, putting fresh emphasis on frontier security.