(photo credit: AP [file])
An independent monitoring group in Lebanon has disputed a claim made by the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) last week that Hizbullah has honored Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War, and called the UN forces "hostages of Hizbullah."
Toni Nissi, the general coordinator of the international-Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559, told reporters on Saturday that all parties involved - particularly Hizbullah - were violating Resolution 1701.
Resolution "1701 also calls for the implementation of [Security Council Resolution] 1559, especially the disarmament of the militias, and calls for sealing the border between Lebanon and Syria and forbidding the entering of arms and weapons via the border, especially to Hizbullah," Nissi said. "So Hizbullah is violating 1701 big time, and not only by hiding its weapons in warehouses in the south. Also, we haven't seen any weapons coming out of the south after the War of 2006, so did Hizbullah throw its weapons used in the 2006 war into the sea?"
Nissi's volunteer committee, which has representatives in Lebanon and several other countries, monitors the implementation of several UN resolutions, including Resolution 1701. The committee acts as a consultative body to the UN and has been registered with the office of the UN Secretary General since September 2005, he said.
UNIFIL's commander, Italian Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano, told reporters Thursday in New York that Israel had been violating Resolution 1701 in several ways but that for the time being, Hizbullah "is one of [the] parties that agrees with 1701."
On Friday, Dan Carmon, acting head of the Israeli delegation to the United Nations, reprimanded Graziano during a personal meeting for ignoring Hizbullah violations.
Nissi also criticized UNIFIL for "coordinating with Hizbullah and not with the Lebanese government." Resolution "1701 says clearly: No arms south of the Litani [River]. No militias south of the Litani. That is why UNIFIL is here," he said.
"Is the UNIFIL mandate to coordinate with Hizbullah or to kick Hizbullah out, south of the Litani?" Nissi asked.
Graziano said Thursday that apart from UN troops, Lebanese soldiers and hunters, no one was armed south of the Litani River, according to media reports. However, IDF Military Intelligence, various media reports and Nissi's committee say Hizbullah has been rebuilding its forces and acquiring additional weapons south of the Litani.
Graziano also said last week that the UN mission had been successful in carrying out its mandate of maintaining the cease-fire that went into effect in 2006.
Timur Goksel, a former spokesman/adviser for UNIFIL, told reporters Saturday that while he did not know enough to speak to Hizbullah compliance south of the Litani, "I know they are careful not to challenge UNIFIL and there is practically no visible Hizbullah fighter to be seen. As far as UNIFIL is concerned, this is compliance."
"In Lebanon, everyone has a gun. What [Graziano] might have been saying is that nobody carries a gun except the army, UNIFIL and hunters. In this, he would be correct," Goksel said.
Rather than being "a classic military organization," Hizbullah is based on village-power and happens to be living there in the south full-time, he said.
Resolution 1701 called for a full cessation of hostilities, for Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon while Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers would deploy throughout the south, for Hizbullah to be disarmed and for no paramilitary forces to be located south of the Litani River.
Nissi acknowledged that UNIFIL was very limited in its ability to implement Resolution 1701 since it required the permission of the Lebanese government to act. The government, for example, has not given UNIFIL permission to prevent Hizbullah from keeping weapons south of the Litani River.
But Nissi also argues that UNIFIL should either ask the UN to change the mandate so that government permission is not needed or leave the country rather than coordinating with Hizbullah. "They mustn't accept Hizbullah blackmailing," he told reporters.
Graziano cited the Israel Air Force flyovers in southern Lebanon, the "occupation" of Ghajar and Israel's failure to provide maps of all the locations where it dropped cluster bombs during the Second Lebanon War as violations of Resolution 1701.
In Israel, a Defense Ministry spokesman declined comment on his remarks.
The UN Mine Action Coordination Center of South Lebanon said on Thursday that it had cleared around half of the cluster bombs left behind by Israel during the 2006 war. Human rights groups say that at least 20 people have been killed by cluster bombs that exploded after the war.
JTA and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report