UNIFIL deflects border bomb criticism

IDF toughens rules of engagement after Hizbullah explosives found Monday.

Unifil post with soldier (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Unifil post with soldier
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Deflecting criticism from Israel, sources in UNIFIL cast doubt Tuesday on claims made by the IDF that it had failed to properly perform its duties after five explosive devices were planted along the Israeli-Lebanese border in recent days by Hizbullah. On Monday, defense officials slammed UNIFIL and claimed that the peacekeeping force had failed in its job by not preventing Hizbullah guerrillas from returning to the border and planting the explosive devices, discovered Monday, that were disguised as boulders. The bombs were discovered by troops from Battalion 630 on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line international border and were destroyed by the IDF. "What evidence do they have that the bombs were laid recently," asked one senior official in UNIFIL, who claimed that while the IDF alerted the force to the bombs, it had not transferred any material concerning the legitimacy of the claim that they were planted in recent days. The IDF did, however, admit to not having evidence indicating that the devices were planted along the border in recent days and said that the conclusion was based on the testimony of a low-ranking officer who patrolled the border over the past few weeks and claimed that the boulder-disguised bombs suddenly appeared in the terrain on Monday. Following the discovery of the bombs, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot clarified the rules of engagement for units serving along the border. "Soldiers are allowed to open fire at anything that is suspicious on the other side of the border," explained a source in the Northern Command. On Tuesday, UNIFIL conducted an investigation of the incident and concluded that five explosive devices, most probably planted by Hizbullah, were discovered near the border. As a result, UNIFIL has decided to beef up its patrols in the area. "UNIFIL is not in a position to determine if the explosive devices were planted before or after the cessation of the conflict," said UNIFIL spokesman Liam McDowall. UNIFIL sources also questioned the IDF's decision to immediately destroy the bombs - that were on the Lebanese side of the border - without waiting for peacekeeping forces to arrive at the scene. The IDF has so far failed to explain why it did not wait for UNIFIL forces to arrive before destroying the bombs. Had the IDF wanted to prove that the bombs were actually planted along the border following the war, the way to do so, officials said, was to alert UNIFIL and allow them to inspect the devices before they were destroyed. Sources in the IDF Northern Command dismissed the criticism and said that while they believed UNIFIL could have done more to prevent the planting of the bombs, the general feeling in the military was that the peacekeeping force was proving to be effective in preventing Hizbullah from returning to the border with Israel.