The Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, urged those who had titles deeds to land in Shebaa Farms, to quickly compile them before a visit next week by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the mayor of Shebaa, Omal al-Zuheiri, said."Liberating the Shebaa Farms" was one of Hezbullah’s justifications for maintaining its arms after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. The area has been in dispute ever since.

Although Syria has staked a claim to the territory, Shebaa farmers and the Lebanese government argue that it belongs to Lebanon.

Dozens of farmers brandished title deeds in this Southern Lebanese town in a bid to reclaim lost land at the foot of Mount Hermon, the region’s highest peak. They came to Zuheiri’s office first in groups of two and three, and then by the dozens, waving worn manuscripts and land-register photocopies that had already been shown to Lebanese officials without result.

After the 1967 war, Israel began to occupy their land, part of a 20-square-kilometer territory that rises from 400 to 2,000 meters in altitude, the farmers said.

The displacement grew in the wake of attacks by Palestinian fighters against Israeli troops in what the former call Fatahland. When Israel invaded in 1982 and established a ‘security zone’ in the region, the Sunni farmers were allowed to tend to their olive groves, vineyards and orchards.

But they had to make a long detour along an electrified fence to pass through the only approved crossing point at Bustara, said 72-year-old Omar Qassem Hashem, a prominent landowner. "The last time I was able to go was in 1999," he said. The passage was closed a year later.

Another farmer insisted: "We are not Syrian, we are Lebanese." Also present was Mussa Marquise, who had come from Dubai, where he has been working for the past 19 year. Marquise came to visit his native village after the cease-fire.

The region benefits from a mild climate and the town’s population of 5,000 swells to around 18,000 when the summer sun bakes much of the Middle East.

Mussa had not heard of the call to present land titles at the town hall, but his family nonetheless claimed it too was thrown off its land.

"The Israelis made a ski slope on my grandfather’s land," he said.

The Lebanese Army has reoccuped the region for the first time in almost 40 years. They settled into an abandoned school at the end of a winding road bordered by apple, olive and walnut trees.

The troops said Israeli soldiers were posted 200 meters away.