Lebanon may try to break blockade

UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen calls blockade "totally unhelpful."

blockade 88 (photo credit: )
blockade 88
(photo credit: )
A Hizbullah Cabinet minister on Tuesday said the government may attempt to break the Israeli naval and air blockade of Lebanon by calling on ships and aircraft to travel to Lebanese ports without prior Israeli approval. The government has condemned the blockade, saying it violates the UN cease-fire resolution, and the foreign minister Tuesday called on the international community to force Israel to end the blockade. The Cabinet met late Monday but did not publicly challenge to the blockade, although it called the siege one of Israel's "terrorist practices." "Entry to Lebanon by sea and from air is a matter of sovereignty," Tarrad Hamadeh, minister of Labor said on Hizbullah television. Hamadeh, one of two Hizbullah Cabinet ministers, said the Lebanese "must have be free to enter their country at will. We cannot accept the siege and blackmail." Israel imposed a sea, land and air blockade of Lebanon early on in the July 12-Aug. 14 war with Hizbullah. Israeli warplanes have attacked seaports and intercepted ships, allowing the arrival of only those that apply for and are granted the privilege. Jets have struck major highways and Lebanon's land routes to Syria. The Beirut airport runways were hit. Since the cease-fire took hold Aug. 14, the only land routes in and out of the country - to Syria - have reopened after temporary repairs. Commercial flights to Beirut airport have been allowed only to and from Amman, Jordan, an Arab state with a peace treaty with Israel. Lebanon's government has promised to take measures to improve security screening at the international airport in Beirut and has deployed troops on the border with Syria. Hamadeh said that when Lebanon completes those measures Cabinet is tilting toward "taking a decision on its own to open its areas and rid itself of the siege." Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh also called on Tuesday for the United Nations to act "decisively" against Israeli violations of the cease-fire agreement. "The continuation of offensive operations on Lebanese territory and its continued air and naval blockade on Lebanon are a flagrant and unacceptable violation" of the UN Security Council resolution," Salloukh told reporters after a meeting with Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot. "Israel is challenging the will of the international community and the Security Council. These are actions that go against Lebanon's wishes and that of the international community for a peaceful and secure implementation of the resolution. It has become clear who wants peace and stability and who wants to resume hostilities," he said. Salloukh said the Netherlands, which has ruled out providing troops to a UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, will donate US$8.7 million (€6.8 million) to help Lebanon rebuild. After Monday's Cabinet meeting, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi stressed Lebanon's determination to stand up for its rights. "Israel is attempting to be a guardian of Lebanon ... . The Lebanese government rejects that." Lebanon's demands for an end to the blockade has found support. During the first visit by a head of state to Lebanon since fighting began, Qatari ruler Sheik Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani urged Israel to lift its blockade in line with the requirements of the cease-fire resolution, disclosing that even his flight had to be cleared by Israel before landing in Beirut. Sheik Hamad, whose moderate government has contacts with Israel but no diplomatic relations, rejected the Israeli contention that the blockade was designed to prevent Hizbullah from rearming, saying Lebanon has the same rights to self-defense as Israel. "We are for any country defending its territory and establishing its own state," he said. France also has called on Israel to lift its siege. UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, during a weekend visit to Beirut, said the Israeli blockade was "totally unhelpful" to the Lebanese economy, but added the Lebanese government must control its borders to prevent weapons from reaching Hizbullah.