NEW YORK - Coinciding with the discovery of Katyusha rockets in southern Lebanon after a rocket was fired into Israel, the UN envoy to the region told the Security Council that Hizbullah was violating a UN resolution by keeping arms stores and conducting paramilitary activity both inside and outside Lebanon.
In a closed meeting on Tuesday, Terje RÃ¸d-Larsen briefed Council members on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's semi-annual report on Resolution 1559. The nine-page report concluded that Hizbullah was violating the resolution and suggested Hizbullah renounce its paramilitary activities and become a full-fledged political faction.
"The threats posed by the existence of militias outside the control of the State, especially Hizbullah's vast paramilitary infrastructure, cannot be overstated," the report said.
"Disbanding and disarming militias is of vital importance to strengthen Lebanon's democracy and sovereigntyâ€¦ For this reason, I appeal to all parties, inside and outside Lebanon, to halt immediately all efforts to transfer or acquire weapons and to build paramilitary capacities outside the authority of the State."
Indeed, the report referred to the border between Syria and Lebanon, citing "the permanent presence of paramilitary infrastructures" of Palestinian militias who "de facto control parts of the land border."
The report also noted with "deep concern" that Hizbullah has spoken publicly about its support of "Palestinian militants, including military assistance."
It said that Hizbullah operatives remain in detention in Egypt on charges of weapons possession, conspiracy to commit murder, and conducting terrorist attacks.
Earlier this month, two individuals were sentenced to 15 years in prison by Azeri authorities for "plotting attacks against the Israeli embassy in Baku. The Azeri judicial authorities alleged that these were operatives of Hizbullah, which Hizbullah itself denied. Such activities constitute a threat to the stability of the region."
In a separate development on Tuesday, American authorities charged an Indian man living in New York with agreeing to provide guns, ammunition, vehicles and night vision goggles to Hizbullah operatives in Lebanon. Prosecutors said 46-year-old Patrick Nayyar unknowingly gave an FBI informant posing as a Hizbullah employee a handgun, a box of ammunition and a pick-up truck meant to be delivered to Hizbullah operatives in Lebanon.
Ban's report also cited explosions on August 17, August 24 and October 7 and 8 in and around Tripoli.
"While these incidents were contained, they are an ongoing test to Lebanon's stability," the report said. "They also highlight the presence of weapons outside the government's control."
On Wednesday, Ban told reporters during a monthly press briefing that, "Unfortunately we have seen many such cases where these resolutions have been violated, as we have seen recently over the last several weeks."
Preliminary investigations, in particular into explosions in southern Lebanon, he added, "suggest that those were clear violations of 1701," the 2006 resolution that brokered an end to violence along the Israel-Lebanon border.
"On many occasions, whenever or wherever I have been meeting with the Lebanese and Israeli authorities, I have been emphasizing and urging them to fully comply with these resolutions," he said. He rejected the notion - suggested by some countries in the Security Council - that Larsen's work was overstepping the boundaries of his mandate. "They conduct their missions strictly under my guidance and instructions," Ban said.
Tuesday's rocket, which landed near Kiryat Shmona, caused a fire upon impact, but no casualties. The IDF subsequently fired artillery into southern Lebanon. On Wednesday, Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL troops found three or four more Katyushas at the site in southern Lebanon.
In response to the rocket launching, Israeli UN envoy Gabriela Shalev on Tuesday filed a complaint with Ban, stating that in the past months there had been an increase in hostile activity in southern Lebanon and urging the Security Council to include the violations in its periodic reports.
In her complaint, Shalev wrote that the Lebanese government should be held responsible for the rocket launch, also reminding Ban that for the past three years Israel had been alerted the UN to the rehabilitation of Hizbullah's military capabilities.
"Israel holds the government of Lebanon fully responsible for any and all activities emanating from its territory," she wrote. "Hizbullah embeds itself into the civilian population while its operatives and affiliated individuals harass UNIFIL, threaten its soldiers, and impede the implementation of Resolution 1701."
Defense officials assessed later on Wednesday that the pace of arms smuggling to Hizbullah had increased dramatically and was now at its highest point since the Second Lebanon War. The officials said that the munitions were probably transferred through Syria's border with southern Lebanon, where security is lax at best.
"The daily deliveries from both Iran and Syria to Hizbullah have not escaped our notice, we are well aware of them," said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, adding that he hoped "Hizbullah has learned its lesson."