If Hezbollah will “have the arrogance” to attack Israel – either with their terrorist tunnels or missiles – “we will bury it in the rubble of Lebanon,” Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Wednesday at a UN Security Council meeting on the tunnels.
“Let me be crystal clear: If Hezbollah makes the mistake of attacking Israel, opposing our actions [against the tunnels] or violating our sovereignty, make no mistake – Israel will act. We will act swiftly. We will act by land, by air, by sea. We will act with our full force and might,” he said.
Danon said that the international community could prevent a future war by taking firm action against Hezbollah.
The ambassador said that not only was Hezbollah violating UN Security Council resolution 1701 which called for the border to be respected and for no armed group to be present in southern Lebanon except for the Lebanese Army, but it also has been exploiting the innocent civilians of southern Lebanon as human shields.
Holding up aerial photographs of the southern Lebanon village of Kafr Kila replete with dots, he said the dots represent bunkers for storing weapons. He pointed to the map and said it was the place where the tunnels start, “in the village, on private property.”
Imagine, Danon said, “what will happen to this village in case we will have to defend ourselves.”
Israel called on the Security Council to condemn Hezbollah, designate it as a terrorist organization, heighten sanctions against it, demand that Lebanon stop allowing its territory to be used for acts of aggression, support Israel’s right to defend itself, and demand that United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon fully live up to its mandate.
Danon charged that UNIFIL passed information Israel had given it on the tunnels to the Lebanese Army, which passed it on along to Hezbollah. Hezbollah then used that information to try to hide the tunnels.
Lebanon’s Ambassador Amal Mudallali, who spoke before Danon, said that it was not Hezbollah that violated Israel’s sovereignty, but rather Israel that systematically violated Lebanon’s.
She came to the debate with props of her own, and held up sheets of paper which she said recorded Israel’s violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701. She said the Security Council would have to meet around the clock to address the Israeli violations.
Judging by other speakers representing the 15 countries on the Security Council, there was little likelihood any measure would be adopted that would come close to Israel’s demands.
While acknowledging that Hezbollah had violated 1701, the representatives of France, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and Russia called on all sides to abide by the resolution.
Kuwait’s representative, Mansour Ayyad al-Otaibi, said that not only was Israel constantly violating Lebanon’s sovereignty, but it was “exaggerating” the danger from the Hezbollah tunnels and continuing to occupy Lebanese territory, including the Shaba Farms. Lebanon has a right to defend itself from Israel, he continued. Resistance, he said, is not terrorism.
Only the US did not imply that both sides were in violation of 1701. “It’s time that this Security Council acts as one and speaks in one voice. Hezbollah is a serious and a real threat,” said Rodney Hunter, who was filling in for Nikki Haley. “To those who do not think Hezbollah is a threat to Israel and the region, we ask this: What further proof do you need?”
He said the US unequivocally supports Israel’s campaign to dismantle the tunnels, and said it is “incomprehensible” that other states do not recognize how serious the threat is.
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, said
that the tunnels are not just an act of aggression but an act of war that is also putting the Lebanese people in jeopardy.
“It is important to understand what Hezbollah is doing here,” Netanyahu said in an English statement to journalists. “It’s targeting Israeli civilians, while hiding behind Lebanese civilians. That’s a double war crime,” he said, in comments he made to the press four hours before the Security Council meeting.
Asked at an impromptu press conference after his prepared comments what message he had for the people of Lebanon, Netanyahu replied: “Hezbollah is putting you in great jeopardy. You should act in your own defense and roll them back, fight Hezbollah for the future of Lebanon.”
Netanyahu said that while Israel does not know if the Lebanese Army was aware of Hezbollah’s tunnel project “in real time,” now that it does know, it is not taking any action against it.
“They should be there, they should be going to the entry of these tunnels, they should be uncovering them and neutralizing them. They are not doing that. It is their obligation to do so,” he said.
The Lebanese Army has been a “total failure,” he said. “They failed to take action to control their own territory, they failed to take action to prevent the use of their territory against the territory of a neighboring state, and they failed to dislodge the tyrannical Hezbollah. They haven’t even tried,” he said.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether his presentation to the foreign press, as well as the well-publicized uncovering of the tunnels, was an attempt to get international legitimacy for a future military action in Lebanon, Netanyahu said he doesn’t “believe in the school of being timid, cowering, and not speaking the truth. We speak the truth, tell the world what there is.”
Hezbollah is a “tool of Iran; both are committed to our destruction,” he said. “The Lebanese government, which should be the first to challenge and protest this, is doing nothing at best, and colluding at worst. That is the truth, that has to be exposed, documented and acted against, and there is no way to hide that with a blanket of silence.”
Netanyahu said that he spoke recently to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and urged Russia to “take the right stance and condemn Hezbollah.” The way to prevent another war – something that Netanyahu noted Russia says it wants to do – “is to prevent Hezbollah from acting aggressively from Lebanon and from Syria,” he said.
Netanyahu, who revealed that the fourth tunnel
recently discovered came from the southern Lebanese village of Ramya and extended under the border near the Israeli community of Zar’it, called on the Security Council to condemn Hezbollah aggression, designate it as a terrorist entity and sanction it, demand that Lebanon stop letting its territory be used to attack a neighboring state, and support Israel’s right to defend itself again “Iranian-inspired and Iranian-conducted aggression.”
Asked to respond to Lebanon’s claims that Israel routinely violates its sovereignty and therefore has no right to complain about the violation of its own, Netanyahu said there was no equivalence between a bank robber, and the police who must use force to stop him.
Hezbollah’s stated goal is to destroy Israel, he said. Israel’s defensive actions are designed to keep it from doing that.
Before his statement to the journalists, an IDF spokesman announced the location of the fourth tunnel, and said it was located by employing sophisticated technology and monitoring changes in soil and terrain. He said that one tip-off was a single tree near the tunnel that caught fire in 2016. He did not elaborate.
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