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Hezbollah motorcade drives length of border to celebrate Israeli withdrawal

Hundreds of Hezbollah and Amal supporters drove a motorcade along the length of the Blue Line – the UN-demarcated border between Israel and Lebanon – on Monday to celebrate 20 years since Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon. Videos on social media show hordes of men riding motorcycles adorned with Hezbollah, Amal and, in some cases, Lebanese flags along the border.

The motorcade split up into 20 groups and rode from the coastal town of Naqoura to Khiam, according to a report in the Daily Star. Sources in the group said that they would respond to a call from Hezbollah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah to liberate all of Palestine.

The group did not cross the border, but soldiers from the UN’s peacekeeping force (UNIFIL) were stationed in the area to prevent a breach of the Blue Line or clashes between forces from both countries. Bikers were prevented by the UN troops from driving towards the road where they were stationed.

Israel occupied southern Lebanon for 18 years but withdrew from most of the country on the 24th May 2000. The withdrawal exposed the conditions in the notorious Khiam Prison, which was administered by the South Lebanon Army, a Lebanese militia which oversaw the detention, torture and murder of thousands of Lebanese citizens in the prison, which has since been destroyed. Even as recently as March this year, the Lebanese authorities have been pursuing some of those who worked there.

Lebanese-American Amer Fakhoury, who was accused of torturing and murdering prisoners while serving in the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army and was known as the “Butcher of Khiam”, stood trial early this year. Fakhoury was acquitted because the alleged offences took place more than ten years ago, and despite a court order barring him from international travel for a period of two months, he was airlifted out of the country from the US Embassy in Beirut.

Tensions between the US and Lebanon rose dramatically during the course of Fakhoury’s six-months in detention, in tandem with an increasing number of incidents at the Blue Line. On 15th April, UNIFIL soldiers broke up a stand-off between Lebanese and Israeli forces, after allegations that troops had breached the Blue Line. On 19th May, Israeli forces shot a shepherd for allegedly crossing the UN-demarcated border.