The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on Tuesday reported, citing Western diplomatic sources in Beirut, that Israel had asked the United States to intervene with the Lebanese army and pressure it to expose the Hezbollah terror tunnels from the Lebanese side and destroy them in cooperation with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
According to Al-Akhbar, UNIFIL commander Major General Stefano Del Col of Italy visited President Michel Aoun and Army Commander Joseph Aoun following his meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who insisted that detecting and removing the Hezbollah tunnels is part of UNIFIL’s mandate.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which established UNIFIL, calls for it to be deployed along the Israeli-Lebanese border to maintain calm along the 2006 ceasefire Blue Line, and to receive the full support of both Israel and Lebanon in maintaining the “full respect for the Blue Line.”
Israel now demands that both UNIFIL and the Lebanese government respond to the fact that Hezbollah violated Resolution 1701 with its tunnels that penetrate into Israeli sovereign territory, which requires all sides to remedy those violations by force.
However, according to Al-Akhbar, the majority of the countries participating in the international force have expressed their refusal to take up any action that would create a clash with the people of the south Lebanon villages or with Hezbollah.
Additional reports cited by Al-Akhbar suggest that the Israeli bulldozing operations in the outlying areas of Meiss Ej Jabal, a Lebanese village across the border from Kibbutz Menara in Israel, are facing difficulties because the Lebanese army is refusing to permit Israel to dig beyond the Blue Line.
Al-Akhbar said Israel’s problem with the Lebanese side began in the early hours of Operation Northern Shield, when a force from the Fifth Battalion of the Lebanese Army intervened in the border area to prevent IDF units from crossing into Lebanese territory, and called on UNIFIL “to ensure that such violations would not occur.”
Al-Akhbar reported that the IDF brought a Merkava tank to the border, which aimed its cannon at the Lebanese army. Within minutes, a Lebanese portable gun was brought to the scene and installed facing Israeli force. International liaison officers rushed to mediate between the two sides to end tension and prevent friction. Eventually, the IDF removed the tank and an accompanying infantry unit from the confrontation zone.