US slams rocket attack from Lebanon

Troops dismantle 4 more

By JPOST.COM STAFF
October 28, 2009 09:34
4 minute read.

 
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The US on Wednesday condemned the previous day's firing of a Katyusha rocket into Israel from Lebanon. "We strongly condemn last night's rocket launch, which is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701," US Ambassador Michele Sison said after meeting with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. In a statement released by the embassy, Sison said that a recent series of incidents, "highlights the urgent need to extend the state's control over all of Lebanon's territory, to disarm all militias." Subsequent to the rocket attack, a joint force of Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL troops discovered four more Katyushas at the site where a rocket was fired into Israel on Tuesday evening, a Lebanese news agency reported. A Lebanese official said the short-range rockets were discovered in a building under construction in the Houla area, adding that three of the four Katyusha rockets found were set up on the veranda of the building, ready to be fired. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations. The Lebanese and UNIFIL troops dismantled the rockets and began to investigate the incident. Tuesday's rocket, which landed near Kiryat Shmona, caused a fire upon impact, but no casualties. The IDF reacted by firing artillery into southern Lebanon. The IDF assessed on Wednesday morning that the Islamic Jihad was responsible for the attack, and that the incident would not compromise the relative quiet on the Northern front. The Lebanese press on Wednesday described the reaction of Houla residents to the rocket attack. One woman expressed concern over the involvement of what she termed "Palestinian hands" in the incident, describing it as a foreign presence which brought danger to the village. In response to the rocket launching, Israeli UN envoy Gavriela Shalev on Tuesday filed a complaint with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, stating that in the past months there has been an increase in hostile activity on the Lebanese border and expressing hope that the Security Council's periodic report would reflect these recent violations. In her complaint, Shalev wrote that the Lebanese government should be held responsible for the rocket launch, also reminding Ban that Israel had for the past three years alerted the UN as to the rehabilitation of Hizbullah's military capabilities. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said on Wednesday morning that "Lebanon is responsible for everything that takes place in its territory," adding that "international forces in the area must enforce UN Resolution 1701 and Israel must make sure of this." Also speaking on the attack was Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who condemned both the rocket launching and Israel's retaliatory attack. "[The IDF's reaction] was an act of aggression and a violation of international law," he was quoted by Israel Radio as saying. Meanwhile, senior Christian Lebanese political figure Samir Geagea, of Beirut's March 14 coalition, asserted that the firing of rockets did not serve the interests of the Lebanese people, defining it "a crime against the residents of Lebanon." He also accused Hizbullah of fostering paramilitary activity in southern part of the country. Geagea stated that the Lebanese government was responsible for the launching and called on officials to apprehend the perpetrators. He added that if 25,000 Lebanese army and UNIFIL troops did not know who had fired the rockets, there was obviously a problem. A Christian Lebanese MP, however, said later on Wednesday that the Lebanese army and UNIFIL knew very well who had launched the rocket. He explained that the perpetrators would not be caught easily, as they had probably sought refuge in a Palestinian refugee camp after the fact. In related news, UN Lebanon envoy Terje Rød-Larsen said during a closed Security Council session on Tuesday that Hizbullah was violating UN Security Council Resolution 1559 by keeping arms stores and conducting paramilitary activity both inside and outside Lebanon. The 2004 resolution called for the disbanding of militias in Lebanon and in particular the disarmament of Hizbullah, and urged the nation and its military to reinstate their sovereignty. During the discussion, Larsen stressed that it was time for Hizbullah to renounce its paramilitary activities and become a full-fledged political faction. Larsen's comments came in response to Ban's semi-annual report concerning the implementation of the resolution, which was released on Tuesday. In the report, Ban emphasized that the continued existence of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias construed "a threat to the stability of the country" and especially its efforts to form a national unity government. The UN secretary-general recalled the Taif Agreement of 1989, which led all militias which had participated in the Lebanese civil war - with the exception of Hizbullah - to lay down their arms. The presence of an armed militia within a sovereign state "creates an atmosphere of intimidation incompatible with the conduct of the normal democratic process," he said, adding that Hizbullah "maintains a substantial paramilitary capacity and infrastructure separate from the state," jeopardizing "the stability of the region." He also expressed concern over Hizbullah's support "to Palestinian militants," while calling on Israel to cease overflights. Ban also 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 stated that the UN had sent a letter of protest to the Lebanese army following past occurrences of rocket launchings against Israel, as well as a letter of concern to the IDF over its retaliation fire. Defense officials assessed later on Wednesday that the pace of arms smuggling to Hizbullah has increased dramatically and is 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." AP contributed to this report.

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