‘Goodwill Gesture’: Lebanese Farmers Cross into Israeli Territory to Harvest Olives in Autumn Season
The Israeli army on Thursday announced that it opened its boundary to agricultural workers and farmers from a number of Lebanese villages to harvest olives as part of a goodwill gesture to help improve the country’s ongoing economic crisis.
“For over a decade, the IDF has been making the humanitarian effort of allowing Lebanese farmers to cross the Blue Line into Israeli territory for the seasonal olive harvest,” the IDF said in a statement. “These olive groves, which are located between the Blue Line and the Israeli security fence, prove a vital source of income for Lebanese farmers.”
The Blue Line is a 120-kilometre UN-drawn demarcation line, separating Israel and Lebanon, which was established as the IDF withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000. It is often referred to as the line of withdrawal. The Blue Line is recognized by both Israel and Lebanon and is marked and observed by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Any unauthorized crossing of the Blue Line by land or by air from any side constitutes a violation of Security Council resolution 1701.
Israel said it opened its border to Lebanese farmers from the neighboring villages Al Jabal, Itaron and Balida.
“The direct and indirect economic damage caused to the people of Lebanon and their livelihood by the Hezbollah terrorist army is severe and substantial,” said an IDF official. “While Hezbollah destabilizes the area surrounding the Blue Line and harms the citizens of Lebanon, the State of Israel works to alleviate the plight of the residents living along it.”
In the run-up to US-mediated maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon signed late October, tensions had been rising between the two countries which are technically still at war. The head of Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization Hassan Nasrallah escalated threats to attack Israeli targets in the Karish gas field, located south of the previously contested sea border area, if there is no understanding on the maritime border demarcation.