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BEIRUT — Since the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon, the crisis over their shared border has escalated as disputes over land ownership between Syrian and Lebanese farmers continue. The latest dispute occurred in North Bekaa between people from the Lebanese town of Aarsal and the Syrian town of Al-Maara, leaving a Lebanese and a Syrian man dead and three others wounded. The incident follows a number of similar events over the past four years, one of which also resulted in the death of another Lebanese man.
Baalbek district governor and head of the joint Lebanese-Syrian Security Committee, Omar Yassine, and mufti of Baalbek-Hermel, Sheikh Khaled Salah, contacted the Lebanese army, which responded by sending reinforcements to the border region. Meanwhile, efforts are being made to reduce tension in the area and to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. Aarsal citizens also demanded that the Lebanese army place a permanent observation post at the border.
Located in North Bekaa, Aarsal is a remote town about 120km from Beirut.
Border problems are not limited to Aarsal, but also extend to Marbun, where land claims overlap with those from the Syrian town of Sarghaia, near Al-Nuhair. Not surprisingly, both sides have produced official documents confirming their claims.
Since 2006, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has stressed the need to demarcate the borders between Lebanon and Syria to resolve long-simmering tensions.
The topic of border demarcation between the two countries was first broached in 1946, but abandoned in 1964. Demarcation committees were later established and remained operational until 1975 when they were discontinued due to lack of progress.
Over the next three decades, there was little action until a May 2005 meeting of army leaders from the two countries. Its attendees prepared a report agreeing on the need for border demarcation and the commitment to achieve it. No steps were taken, however, to implement these recommendations and the land disputes continue.