Israel: UNIFIL assisted illegal crossing

Israeli envoy files complaint over matter to UN; top UN official calls on IAF to stop overflights.

unifil 298 88 (photo credit: )
unifil 298 88
(photo credit: )
The UNIFIL troops who have been stationed in southern Lebanon and given a mandate to maintain peace in the region, have in fact done the exact opposite by assisting the small group of Hizbullah supporters in their illegal border crossing into Israel over the weekend, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Gabriela Shalev charged on Monday. On Friday, 15 Lebanese civilians crossed illegally into Israel, shouting and waving Hizbullah flags. IDF troops spotted the group, but did not confront them as they were reportedly unarmed and returned to Lebanon minutes later, without incident. In a letter submitted by the ambassador to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the president of the United Nations Security Council, Shalev accused a contingent of Indian UNIFIL peacekeepers of having done nothing to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the border and even cooperating with the group. "[The demonstrators] stood opposite the UNIFIL force, [which did nothing,] and worse than that, according to statements made by the organizers of the demonstration, they even cooperated with them," the letter read. In her complaint, the Israeli ambassador lashed out at Hizbullah for its "grievous violations of Resolution 1701," which included both the border breach, as well as an attack by Lebanese villagers against UNIFIL troops on Saturday who were investigating an explosion last week in a suspected Hizbullah arms depot in southern Lebanon. Both incidents "demonstrate an escalation and a pattern of behavior in Lebanon, that must be confronted," Shalev wrote in her letter. Israel submitted a separate complaint to the UN over the mission probing Operation Cast Lead, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone. Israel complained that in gathering testimonies, the mission had met with Hamas ministers. Meanwhile, a top UN official issued a call for restraint on Monday, saying that both Lebanon and Israel must renew their commitment to UN Resolution 1701 in order for peace in the area to be maintained. "Any resolution from time to time faces many tests and challenges. There have been some testing incidents in recent days," Michael Williams, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, said. "I take this opportunity to call on all parties to renew their commitment and to exercise the utmost restraint." He said both the explosion of the suspected Hizbullah weapons depot and the clash between villagers and peacekeepers were "testing incidents" that should not be repeated. He spoke Monday following a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. Williams also called on Israel to end daily flights over Lebanon, which he said were "serious violations" of the cease-fire that ended the Second Lebanon War. On Saturday, Lebanese villagers prevented UN peacekeepers from searching an abandoned building near the suspected weapons depot, a Lebanese security official said. The official said dozens of men in Bir e-Salasel surrounded UNIFIL vehicles and ordered the peacekeepers to leave. 14 UNIFIL men were wounded in the incident. When the troops called for backup, the villagers fired at the reinforcements. The village is close to Khirbat a-Silm, the site of last week's explosion, which is about 15 kilometers from Israel. Also Monday, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah blasted what he called Israeli aspirations for a new war. Speaking from an undisclosed location, Nasrallah promised that any Israeli attack against Lebanon would "fail." "We're hearing things about Israel planning for war against Lebanon," he said, referring to recent Israeli troop maneuvers in the north. "It will fail." The Hizbullah leader charged that Israel was motivated by a desire to drive the Lebanese from their country. "This [next war] will be against Lebanon, and its purpose will be [similar to what was done] to the Palestinians in 1948," he said, but added that regardless of the motivation, Israel would never achieve its aim. "I am saying that our enemy has done everything in its power to harm the resistance, and has failed," Nasrallah said, calling on all Lebanese citizens to "embrace the resistance, and the culture of resistance" as a way of fighting against Israel. The Hizbullah leader also took aim at the alleged Israeli spy network in the country, lashing out against those Lebanese citizens who "conspired against the resistance." "In the past few years, we have seen the height of conspiracies against the resistance," he said. In recent months, Lebanese security forces have detained numerous people accused of being part of a vast Israeli spy ring. Israel has not commented on the arrests. AP contributed to this report