Speaker Nabih Berri announced from parliament yesterday that the Kfar Falous crossing will reopen at 9am today, reuniting the stranded population of Jezzine with the rest of their countrymen after 12 years of isolation.
“We hope there will be no unforeseen developments to alter the plan,” Berri said.
The crossing, which links the mainly Christian southern city of Jezzine to the predominantly Muslim capital of the south, Sidon, had residents on either side of Kfar Falous travelling two hours by car or longer to cross a distance that would normally take five minutes.
To render the crossing usable, extensive preparation by the Lebanese army’s logistical teams involved carefully removing all remaining land mines.
A select team of reporters were invited to a preview of today’s ceremony. With assistance from the Lebanese army, the team was escorted to within a few metres of the Sfaray-Dahr al-Mashnaqa crossroad, the last post manned by the pro-Israeli South Lebanon Army (SLA).
The army had removed the concrete blocks left behind by retreating SLA units along the 2.3km road.
At the far end of Ain al-Mir and the beginning of Kfar Falous, the public works team was busy at the last minute asphalting patches. Meanwhile, Lebanese army technicians were laying cables and pipes to provide telephone and water links between Lebanese army outer posts and the nearby command units.
The Lebanese army has also installed barbed wire on each side of the road to limit traffic on the section they will man. Roadsigns have been put up warning motorists not to overtake cars off the roadside for fear of land mines.
The army has erected two new roadblocks on each side of the road to check IDs.
Reporters also observed prime minister Rafik Hariri’s medical centre, battered by missiles and shells since the 1982 Israeli invasion. On its roof, sandbags used by the SLA over the last 12 years were still in place.
Meanwhile, military sources said SLA units had evacuated all positions between the Russian hill and Nicolas Salem palace and pulled back to the Sfaray-Dahr el-Mashnaqa crossroad.
Bystander Nicolas Libbos was heard commenting that “the word crossing is not adequate to describe this place. Crossings are made to separate two countries. But here we are talking about two parts of one single country”.