Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Israel envoy: UNIFIL cooperated with Lebanese infiltrating Israel

Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent

United Nations peacekeeping troops in Lebanon did nothing to stop a group of Lebanese citizens from crossing the border into Israel, said Israel's envoy to the international body. Hezbollah "allowed" 12 Lebanese civilians to infiltrate a few dozen meters into Israeli territory on Mount Dov on Saturday near Shaba Farms, raising a Lebanese flag. They returned to Lebanon shortly thereafter. The Israel Defense Forces said it did not respond because the civilians were unarmed and not dangerous.

In a letter of complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, envoy Gabriela Shalev said that witnesses had also reported seeing the troops cooperating with the infiltrators.
This type of action "demonstrate[s] an escalation and a pattern of behavior in Lebanon, that must be confronted," Shalev wrote. She added is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701., which brought a cease-fire to the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

The border between Israel and Lebanon in the area is not fenced. IDF lookouts said the group, which included children, also had a Hezbollah flag, but did not raise it.

Israeli forces were placed on alert and the IDF informed UNIFIL command of the matter, asking them to intervene. By the time the UNIFIL force went to the site, the group was on its way back to Lebanese territory.

Government officials dealing with the Lebanon issue say UNIFIL soldiers encounter armed Hezbollah fighters or are detained by them, but the incidents do not appear in the reports submitted to the Security Council.

On Saturday it was reported that that area residents prevented UNIFIL soldiers from searching an abandoned building near the building that blew up last week, in which it is believed Hezbollah stored weapons, against the UN resolution.

A government source in Jerusalem said UNIFIL learned a few months ago about the cache of Katyusha rockets that exploded in the southern Lebanese village of Hirbet Salim last Tuesday.

The source said UNIFIL had precise information about the cache and a number of other installations where Hezbollah is storing rockets, but that UNIFIL had done nothing.

A discussion is scheduled in the UN Security Council for late August on renewing UNIFIL's mandate in southern Lebanon; Israel hopes last week's explosion will show the need to strengthen UNIFIL. Israel believes that UNIFIL could sharpen its rules of engagement and act more forcefully with the Lebanese army in southern Lebanese villages. .

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