Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tensions rise as Israeli, Lebanese soldiers face off on northern border - Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff

by Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff

Lebanese soldiers on alert after IDF troops roll out barbed wire along border • UNIFIL troops deploy in the area "to prevent misunderstandings, maintain stability"

Lebanese soldiers went on the alert on Monday after Israeli troops rolled out barbed wire along the border.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said the incident occurred when Israeli troops installed 200 meters (660 feet) of wire.

Lebanese troops protested that the wire was placed on their side of the border.

The IDF said its troops were placing concertina wire "adjacent to the Blue Line" – the border demarcation ‎between Lebanon and Israel set by the U.N. – when the standoff occurred. It said the wire was installed entirely in Israeli territory, in coordination with U.N. peacekeepers.

"No violent incidents were reported," it said.

Andrea Tenenti, spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, said that after reports of a "standoff" between Lebanese and Israeli troops along the Blue Line, "UNIFIL troops were deployed in the area to defuse the situation, prevent misunderstandings and maintain stability."

"The situation in the area is now calm and our troops are on the ground," Tenenti said.

Lebanon's Al-Kataeb newspaper reported Monday that ‎the Lebanese army had forced the IDF to cease its ‎operations near the Blue Line and had demanded two ‎points along the border that were apparently damaged ‎by the excavations be repaired before work was ‎allowed to continue. ‎

The Lebanese troops reportedly relayed their demand ‎through UNIFIL. ‎

The newspaper said the Israeli troops halted ‎the work.

But an IDF statement said, "Operations ‎along the border continue as planned, both on overt and covert levels."‎

Earlier Monday, U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon said that at least two of the four tunnels discovered by Israel as part of an ongoing operation to neutralize terror tunnels dug under the security fence by the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah were in violation of the cease-fire agreement that ended the 2006 war between the two countries.

UNIFIL said it has been investigating the tunnels uncovered in the Israeli operation launched earlier this month, which has been limited to Israel's side of the border.

"This is a matter of serious concern and UNIFIL technical investigations continue," the peacekeeping force said in a statement. UNIFIL said two tunnels cross the Blue Line and called on Lebanese authorities to take "urgent follow-up" actions.

"Based on UNIFIL's independent assessment, UNIFIL has so far confirmed the existence of all the four tunnels close to the Blue Line in northern Israel. After further technical investigations conducted independently in accordance with its mandate, UNIFIL at this stage can confirm that two of the tunnels cross the Blue Line. These constitute violations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701," the organization said in a statement.

Resolution 1701 brought an end to the Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. It requires the parties to end hostilities and prohibits the presence of any armed group south of the Litani River in Lebanon apart from the central government's military, known as the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Israel has called on the international community to impose new sanctions on the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the heavily armed mini-army with an arsenal of some 130,000 of rockets that can reach nearly every part of Israel.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said earlier this month his government was ready to take necessary action following a full report from the peacekeeping force on the tunnels, without offering specifics.

In Beirut, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Lebanon is committed to the full implementation of the cease-fire agreement and respect of the Blue Line. During a meeting with Gen. Stefano Del Col, the head of UNIFIL, Hariri said the Lebanese army will conduct patrols to deal "with any flaw in the implementation" of the cease-fire.

Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff


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