Israel to Lebanon: Stop Border Violations

Israel urged the Lebanese government and
U.N. peacekeepers on Monday to prevent Hezbollah militants and
their supporters from violating its territory and jeopardizing the
fragile stability along the border.

In identical letters to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the
Security Council, Israel's U.N. ambassador also accused Hezbollah
of violating a council resolution by building new military
facilities and hiding arms in the zone between the Litani River and
the Israeli border.

The resolution, which ended the inconclusive 34-day war between
Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, put the zone under the control of
15,000 Lebanese troops and a 13,300-member U.N. peacekeeping force.
It prohibited Hezbollah from engaging in military activities in
south Lebanon and banned weapon smuggling to the group.

The region has been relatively quiet since the war although
Hezbollah has boasted that it has returned to border areas,
maintaining a clandestine presence.

Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev cited three recent incidents
that she said were "severe violations" of the U.N. resolution.

In the first, on July 14, a Hezbollah arms cache exploded in an
abandoned building in Khirbet Silim, about 9 miles (15 kilometers)
from the Israeli border, she said. Hezbollah has remained silent.

Three days later, 15 Lebanese civilians crossed the U.N.-drawn
Blue Line - the unofficial boundary with Israel - and penetrated
175 meters (yards) into Israel, planting three Hezbollah and
Lebanese flags before crossing back into Lebanese territory, Shalev
said.

The July 17 incident took place near a position manned by U.N.
peacekeepers, but Shalev said the force, known as UNIFIL,
"refrained from taking any action to prevent the crossing of these
individuals into Israeli territory." She noted that Qassem Hashem,
a member of the Lebanese parliament who helped organize "the
illegal action," claimed it was coordinated with relevant
authorities including UNIFIL.

"Given the proximity of the violation to a UNIFIL position,
Israel would have expected that UNIFIL intervene in time to prevent
this violation," Shalev said.

"Israel calls upon the government of Lebanon to exercise its
authority and prevent such violations of the Blue Line that
endanger the stability along our mutual border," she said. "In
addition, Israel calls upon the secretary-general to exercise his
influence and to ensure that UNIFIL will prevent any future
incidents from occurring."

A third serious incident took place the following day, July 18,
in Khirbet Silim, the same place where the arms cache exploded.

Villagers threw stones at U.N. peacekeeping troops, lightly
injuring 14 soldiers, in an attempt to prevent an investigation
near the site of the arms cache explosion, the U.N. said.

Shalev said the presence of arms in southern Lebanon and actions
to prevent UNIFIL from carrying out its mandate "must be
confronted."

In order to ensure that there are no Hezbollah weapons, "the
Lebanese army and UNIFIL must re-adapt their activity to the new
reality in which Hezbollah is rebuilding its military
infrastructure south of the Litani River within the civilian
population," she said.


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