Ban: Parliamentary elections may test Lebanon's stability

Report to Security Council raises concerns over Hizbullah's military capabilities, calls recent rocket attacks on Israel "serious violations."

IDF on Lebanese border 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
IDF on Lebanese border 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The upcoming Lebanese parliamentary elections "may test" the country's political stability, creating a potential security threat, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a new report to the Security Council. The report, initially circulated Friday to members of the Security Council, raised concerns about the continued military capacity of Hizbullah, as well as about Hamas efforts to "strengthen and regroup its members in the refugee camps." According to a copy of the report obtained by The Jerusalem Post, Ban said the recent rocket attacks on Israel constituted "serious violations" of Resolution 1701, which accompanied the cessation of fighting in 2006, and accused Lebanese authorities of failing to prevent the rockets from being fired from within the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line. Israel filed a letter of complaint to the Security Council after a February 21 Katyusha attack injured three Israelis in Mailiyah. Ban said Lebanese authorities were investigating the sources of the continued rocket attacks, which have had no claims of responsibility. Ban added that UN forces had been unable to verify Israel's claims that Hizbullah was building military capacity using private houses within the Blue Line area as bases. Regarding the activities of Palestinian militant groups PFLP and Fatah al-Intifada, Ban reiterated his calls on Syria to use its influence to push Palestinian leaders to dismantle bases inside Lebanon and said he regretted "the unwillingness of the Syrian Arab Republic to engage on the issue." Ban chastised the IDF in turn for responding to an earlier pair of attacks in January without obtaining prior UN clearance, potentially endangering civilians, and called on Israeli leaders to move forward with plans to withdraw IDF forces from the border village of Ghajar. On Tuesday, UN peacekeepers reported that five rifle shots fired from Israel struck a wall 20 meters inside Lebanon painted with a Hizbullah slogan over a blue Star of David. UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe called it "a serious incident" and a violation of Resolution 1701. IDF officials said the shots had been fired by accident and were under investigation. Ban's report was filed just as a long-awaited international tribunal into the death of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri got under way in The Hague over the weekend. Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare said he would call "as soon as possible" for Lebanese authorities to turn over four pro-Syrian generals suspected in the case. Patricia O'Brien, the UN undersecretary-general for legal affairs, said Tuesday in New York that the names of judges appointed to sit on the panel would not be released for security reasons but said the tribunal was striving for transparency with the Lebanese people. "A key element for the success of the tribunal is not only that justice be done, but that justice be seen to be done," O'Brien told reporters.