Getting around ‘Israeli’ measures in Occupied South Lebanon
“If none of her family members are available, schoolteacher Alia has to drag her neighbor along to accompany her to work. Her school is only two villages away within the “Israeli”-occupied zone of southern Lebanon, but without her neighbor she risks being shot or having her car seized by the “Israeli” army or its local militia allies. Alia has found in her neighbor`s kindness a way of getting round a two-passenger rule imposed by “Israel” several years ago in its occupation zone” in south Lebanon in a bid to prevent suicide-bombings. “It is prohibited to drive alone,” reads a placard erected at the Kfar Tebnit checkpoint, one of five passageways leading into the zone occupied since 1978. It warns that any offenders will have their vehicle seized. More than six solo drivers have been shot dead in the last 10 years. One of them, a motorcyclist, was a member of the “Israeli” proxy militia in the zone.
He was driving round in plainclothes to tell his men to fire on sight at motorbikes, which are completely banned in the enclave. The last successful suicide-bombing dates back to 1995. Carried out by the Hizbullah resistance movement. There were conflicting theories on how the suicide bomber got round the ban on lone drivers. “Israeli” officers said he had either a dummy in the passenger seat or a young girl who jumped out of the car at the last minute. The risk of being shot is not the only hazard in moving around the zone. And at night, forget it. The area seems completely deserted, with the only visible life a few stray dogs slinking furtively along the walls. The misery is compounded by the manifold inconveniences. Under “Israeli” security measures drivers are forbidden to overtake “Israeli” patrols and have to hang well back from military vehicles. Civilians sometimes drive alone within a village, but if a patrol comes from the opposite direction, a driver must pull into the verge, step down from the car, cross the road and stand on the other side until the patrol passes. “Once, I had to go urgently to Beirut, but a passing “Israeli” foot patrol made me wait half an hour. By the time I reached the crossing point it was closed and I had to wait until the next morning to get through,” said an elderly woman.”
“Visitors to the occupied zone, mainly those hailing from the region and a few foreign journalists, have to obtain special permits from the Lebanese army and the militia which controls the crossing points into the zone. Once the permits are checked and names are registered at the last Lebanese army checkpoint, visitors drive about a mile along an arduous mountain road toward the “Israeli” allied militia-manned crossing. Visitors walk 140 steps through a narrow concrete labyrinth to an office where militia members sign registration papers, then they and their vehicles are meticulously searched.
The drivers have to fix a special license plate to the front of their vehicles. Every resident of the border zone has his own precious permanent plate kept at the checkpoint. When leaving the zone, people are subject to the same nerve-wracking procedures. “These measures prevent us from selling our crops which often perish before even reaching the shelves. It is getting worse and many people have stopped growing anything,” said a farmer. “Anyone would think we civilians are a threat to the armed forces whereas in reality we are only struggling to survive,” he said. But his wife smiled, recalling the time when a mischievous nine-year-old girl wanted to play a trick on an “Israeli” patrol by filling up a bottle with a dark liquid and leaving it in the middle of the road. “They cordoned off the whole area, searched nearby fields and started shooting at the poor bottle. The situation is so tense here it is getting ridiculous,” she said.