U.N. Security Council to meet on Hezbollah tunnels

IDF, Lebanese Army and UNIFIL officials meet for regular-scheduled meeting; Russia expresses some support for Israel’s anti-tunnel operation.

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December 5, 2018 22:07
4 minute read.
Hezbollah terror tunnel reaching from Lebanon into Israeli territory

Hezbollah terror tunnel reaching from Lebanon into Israeli territory. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

 
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The UN Security Council will hold a meeting in the coming days on the uncovering of Hezbollah terror tunnels that have penetrated into Israel, the country’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said on Wednesday.

Danon said the meeting will deal with Hezbollah’s infringement of Israeli sovereignty, as well as the violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 from 2006 that called for southern Lebanon – the area from the Litani River to the border with Israel – to be free of foreign forces.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the operation on Wednesday with UN Secretary General António Guterres, saying that Hezbollah’s violation of Israel’s sovereignty and UN Security resolutions was “another part of Iran’s aggression in the region.”

Netanyahu briefed Guterres on the details of the anti-tunnel operation, dubbed Operation Northern Shield, and said he expected a strong condemnation of the tunnels by the UN. So far, Guterres has not commented publicly on the matter.

Israel, Danon said, asked the US – one of the five permanent members of the 15-member Security Council – to request the meeting about the tunnels.

The ambassador said that among the issues that Israel will raise is the failure of UNIFIL to fulfill the mandate the council gave it in 2006 to monitor south Lebanon and ensure that it is not used for hostile activities.

Danon said Israel will also raise the Lebanese Army’s failure to reassert its control over the entire country. This army, he said, receives significant assistance from the US and European countries, and “unfortunately allows Hezbollah to operate freely, and even cooperates with them in southern Lebanon.”

While Danon acknowledged that there was no chance of the Security Council passing a resolution against Hezbollah, the very existence of the meeting is significant because it will shine a light on Hezbollah’s activities.

Israel has complained for years that UNIFIL is not fulfilling its mandate, and allowing Hezbollah – in contravention of 1701 – to arm itself right under the monitoring group’s watch.

And Israel was not alone in raising these complaints.

In August 2017, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley leveled withering criticism of Irish Maj.–Gen. Michael Beary, the commander of UNIFIL at the time, accusing him of turning a blind eye to Iran’s covert arming of Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah openly brags about their weapons. They parade them before TV cameras. The secretary-general’s reports have confirmed this. For the UNIFIL commander to deny it... shows that we need to have changes in UNIFIL,” Haley said.


ON THURSDAY, the head of UNIFIL Major General Stefano Del Col chaired a regular tripartite meeting with senior officers from the IDF and the Lebanese army at the UN position in Ras Al Naqoura.

A statement issued by UNIFIL said that the IDF operations against the tunnels were discussed.

“I emphasize the critical role of our liaison and coordination mechanisms in mitigating tensions through continuous communication, at the heart of which is the Tripartite Forum,” he said. He also encouraged both sides to “avoid misunderstandings and ensure that security and stability along the Blue Line is maintained and reinforced.”

These meetings have been held regularly since the end of the Second Lebanon War in August 2006.

In a related development, Russia offered some support on Wednesday for Israel’s operation, but said it hoped these efforts will not conflict with UNSC resolution 1701 that calls for the border between the two countries to be respected by all sides.

The Russian embassy in Tel Aviv posted a tweet saying that there is “no doubt that Israel has the right to protect its national security, including to prevent the illegal entry of anyone into the country.”

At the same time, the tweet continued, “We hope that the actions taken for this purpose will not conflict with UNSC Resolution 1701.”

This tweet paraphrased and condensed comments made by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Wednesday. She said that Russia hoped UNIFIL would fulfill its monitoring mission in southern Lebanon and “not allow any violations.”

Zakharova also said that Moscow called on all parties “to show the necessary responsibility and restraint – to avoid provocative steps and harsh statements that can further aggravate [the] tense situation.”

While IDF and government spokespersons said on Tuesday that the operation was taking place on Israel’s side of the border, there was no guarantee that at some point in time it might spill over to the Lebanese side.

Moscow’s comments came a day after the US gave unreserved support for the operation. US National Security Adviser John Bolton issued a statement saying that the US “strongly supports Israel’s efforts to defend its sovereignty, and we call on Hezbollah to stop its tunneling into Israel and to refrain from escalation and violence.”

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