Gabriela Shalev 88 248.
(photo credit: Courtesy photos, Shahar Azran)
NEW YORK - Following an explosion in southern Lebanon that exposed a Hizbullah arms cache, Israel's ambassador to the UN is calling for "concrete" steps to confront a "new reality" in the region.
In a letter sent Friday to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the Security Council, Ruhakana Rugunda, Gabriela Shalev called the July 14 incident a "flagrant" violation of the Security Council resolution that ended hostilities in 2006. The series of explosions that rocked the area reflect "larger efforts by Hizbullah to rearm itself, in direct contravention of resolution 1701," Shalev wrote.
"As Israel has mentioned several times, UNIFIL and LAF [the Lebanese Armed Forces] must adapt their modus operandi south of the Litani River to confront this new reality," she wrote. "Ongoing Syrian and Iranian efforts to support and arm Hizbullah must also be addressed in concrete terms."
"We keep saying that Hizbullah is violating 1701 by smuggling in and having a lot of ammunition, and this only indicates and shows what we [have been] saying for a long time... that Hizbullah is rearming itself," she told The Jerusalem Post. "Hizbullah is getting ammunition in order to target Israel."
The ambassador said Syria and Iran were supplying arms to Hizbullah, despite a UN embargo, and that the UN could impose sanctions. "We want the members of the Security Council to be aware of the fact that Syria, Iran and Hizbullah are to blame if the situation explodes," she said.
In her letter, Shalev also cited reports that civilians, and possibly Lebanese soldiers, had hampered a UN investigation following the explosions. The interference "reflects one of the most severe obstructions of movement" against UNIFIL, she wrote.
Earlier this month, the secretary-general issued an interim report on the cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon, calling the situation "fragile."
In a briefing with reporters, the UN envoy in Lebanon, Michael Williams, said a focus for UNIFIL in the next quarter would be the withdrawal of IDF forces from parts of the village of Ghajar.
Shalev said Israel was cooperating with UNIFIL and characterized Williams as relatively even-handed in his reports to the UN. His most recent report included allegations of Israeli spy networks in Lebanon, in addition to Israeli claims of Hizbullah deployment in southern Lebanon.
Shalev said if the July 14 explosions had happened earlier, the incident would have illustrated to the Security Council Israel's assertions that Hizbullah was rearming and that arms smuggling from Syria and Iran was a threat.
Asked whether Israel would cooperate with Williams's time frame for an IDF withdrawal from Ghajar, Shalev said Israel was in the midst of a policy review. She would not say how the explosions on July 14 would impact Israel's cooperation with UNIFIL's efforts regarding the village, if at all.
"We are approaching a moment of truth," Shalev said. "We hope that the Ghajar problem will be solved soon."
Asked whether progress could be achieved in the next quarter, as Williams suggested, she said, "Well, I don't want to be a prophet, I don't know. We hope so but we are in the midst of a policy review in Israel."
Before the Six Day War, Ghajar, an Alawite village of 2,000, was considered part of Syria. After Israel captured the Golan Heights, the villagers petitioned to be annexed to Israel because they saw themselves as part of the Golan Heights. In 1981, most villagers agreed to become Israeli citizens under the Golan Heights Law.
Over the years, the village expanded northward into Lebanese territory, subsuming the Wazzani settlement north of the border.
In 2000, when the UN drew the Blue Line to determine the final border between Israel and Lebanon following the IDF withdrawal, the northern half of the village came under Lebanese control and the southern part remained under Israel.
The IDF returned to northern Ghajar in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Residents on both sides have Israeli citizenship; those in the northern half often hold passports from both Lebanon and Israel. They work and travel freely within Israel, but those living on the Lebanese side have difficulties receiving services from Israel. There is an IDF checkpoint at the entrance to the village, and a fence surrounding the entire village, but no fence or barrier dividing the Israeli and Lebanese sides of the village.