Shabʿa Farms

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A group of farms near the convergence of Syrian, Lebanese, and (due to Israel's occupation of Syrian territory since 1967) Israeli territories.

Shabʿa Farms became a focus of international conflict in the summer of 2000, after Israel withdrew its forces from South Lebanon, ending a costly occupation that began in 1976. The fourteen farms that make up Shabʿa Farms are named after the village of Shabʿa, on the western slopes of Mount Hermon (in Arabic, Jabal al-Shaykh). The area of Shabʿa Farms encompasses approximately 6.5 square miles. Israel maintains that the farms are Syrian territory and thus argues that it should have rights over them. The Syrian government insists that the farms are part of Lebanese territory. Since the border in this area is not clearly demarcated, the United Nations has asked the Syrian government for documentation to back up its claim that the farms are not part of its territory. Hizbullah, which led the successful resistance movement against Israel's occupation of South Lebanon, argues that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon will not be complete unless and until Israel withdraws from the farms. The Lebanese government supports this position. Israel has established a military post on one of the hills overlooking the area and has exchanged fire with Hizbullah forces. It is unlikely that the status of the farms will be settled before the issue of Israel's occupation of Syrian territoriesthat is to say, the Golan Heightsis resolved. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that all sides recognize the demarcation line drawn after the 1973 ArabIsrael war as a temporary measure. But Israel does not seem ready to leave the farms, and some reports have mentioned the settlement of Ethiopian Jews there.

Syria and Hizbullah may also be interested in keeping the issue of Shibʿa Farms alive as it grant them a reason, or excuse, to escalate or de-escalate, the level of tensions with Israel. However, there is certainly a nationalist basis for both Syria and Lebanon, which explains why every piece of land becomes important.

see also annan, kofi a.; golan heights; hizbullah.

as'ad abukhalil