Israeli soldiers speak to UN peacekeepers (UNIFIL) near the border with Lebanon, in the town of Metulla, northern Israel December 4, 2018.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
The IDF asked UNIFIL to “neutralize” Hezbollah attack tunnels after it announced on Thursday that it had uncovered a second underground passageway, which originated from the southern Lebanese village of Ramya and extended into Israeli territory.
On Thursday, the IDF presented the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon with its first concrete evidence of the tunnels, while the head of UNIFIL’s mission Major-General Stefano Del Col visited northern Israel with a technical team.
Earlier this week, Israel announced the discovery of the first tunnel from the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila, and it launched Operation Northern Shield to destroy such cross-border passageways from the Israeli side.
The 10,400 member UNIFIL peacekeeper force representing 41 nations is tasked with monitoring violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 along the border, which would include construction of attack tunnels.
But until the UNIFIL team arrived in Israel, it had no evidence that Hezbollah was constructing such tunnels.
“Based on the site inspection, UNIFIL can confirm the existence of a tunnel at the location,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, told reporters in New York.
“Accordingly, UNIFIL is now engaged with the parties to pursue urgent follow-up action. It is very important to determine the full picture of this serious occurrence. UNIFIL will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon,” he added.
In the hilltops of northern Israel, IDF Northern Command head Maj. Gen. Yoel Strik showed Del Col and his staff the tunnel from Ramya. He showed them on a map the entrance way to the tunnel, which was located under a group of homes, and asked them to “neutralize” it and others as they uncover them.
The IDF holds the Lebanese government and UNIFIL responsible for the construction of the tunnels, Strik said. Israel protests these clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701
, which forbids such territorial violations, Strik said.
The resolution sets out the ceasefire terms that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and forbids territorial breach of the demarcation line between the two countries, also known as the Blue Line.
Strik said that the tunnels were additional proof of serious Hezbollah violations of Resolution 1701 and the terrorist group’s intention of harming Israeli civilians.
Both UNIFIL and the Lebanese government have a responsibility to enforce Resolution 1701, Strik said, adding that anyone who was in the tunnels was taking their lives into their own hands.
In New York, Dujarric told reporters that the tunnels into Israeli sovereign territory were considered a violation of Resolution 1701.
“I think it’s a matter of human logic that it [Resolution 1701] applies in the sky. We reported on violations of airspace. And if you dig underground, that would also be a violation... The existence of a tunnel under the Blue Line would be a violation of the relevant resolutions,” he said.
“And the secretary general has been very clear that the building of tunnels from one country to another is wholly unacceptable,” Dujarric added.
A report by Guterres to the UN Security Council about violations to Resolution 1701, which was published earlier this month, did not contain any information on Hezbollah tunnels.
The EU’s Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret also tweeted support for Israel’s operation to destroy the tunnels.
“Israel has the right to safeguard security of its citizens & territory. UNIFIL has key role to ensure stability, need full support to fulfill its mandate 2 maintain stability & prevent escalation,” he wrote.
The UN Security Council is expected to hold a meeting on the Hezbollah attack tunnels, but a date has not been yet.
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