Newly-installed Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on Sunday threatened to militarily conquer the Israeli-controlled Shebaa Farms region of the Golan Heights if Israel did not agree to surrender the territory.
Suleiman was speaking to reporters at a Mediterranean summit in Paris just hours after Israeli officials confirmed that the Lebanese army had paved a road to and set up a military base just a few hundred yards from the Shebaa Farms.
A long-time ally of Hizballah, Suleiman was head of the Lebanese army until his ascendancy to the presidency earlier this summer as part of concessions that Hizballah extracted from the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.
Hizballah used Israel's continued control of the Shebaa Farms region to justify its 2006 cross-border assault that sparked the Second Lebanon War.
Despite Lebanese claims, the UN verified in 2000 that Israel had fully withdrawn from southern Lebanon, and placed the Shebaa Farms in the Golan Heights, a region taken from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
Nevertheless, the international community has failed to take Lebanon to task for continuing to claim sovereignty over a territory that it never controlled, and for using that artificial dispute to excuse continued aggression against its neighbor.
Emboldened by the lack of an international response to Lebanon's belligerent moves and rhetoric, a senior Hizballah leader at the weekend said his group now insists that Israel surrender not only the Shebaa Farms, but also five small Shiite Muslim villages in northern Israel.
Speaking to the Hizballah daily newspaper al-Akhbar, Sheikh Abd al-Amir Kiblan declared, "It is our intention to liberate the Shiite villages in northern Israel."
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