Israel could cross into Lebanon: minister
Action against alleged tunnels may expand, Katz says, as diggers cross Blue Line
BEIRUT/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel is prepared to take action in Lebanon against alleged cross-border tunnels if necessary, an Israeli Cabinet minister said Friday, as a report emerged that two Israeli excavators crossed the technical fence separating the two countries and began digging.
Israel’s military said earlier this week it had found a number of passages across the Israel-Lebanon border, which it alleged Hezbollah dug to carry out attacks inside Israel.
The Israeli military sent mechanical diggers, troops and anti-tunneling equipment to the border to shut them down.
The Israeli military, which launched the operation Tuesday, has said its activity would, for now, stop on the Israeli side of the border.
However, the Lebanese state-run National News Agency reported that two Israeli mechanical excavators, accompanied by military personnel and two military Humvees, crossed the technical fence, which runs alongside the Blue Line, before beginning to dig near the town of Mais al-Jabal in Marjayoun.
One of the vehicles reportedly went 100 meters past the Blue Line.
When asked about the report, a UNIFIL spokesperson told The Daily Star that they did not have any additional information.
While a number of Israeli soldiers stopped at the “blue barrels” that mark the border in some areas, another 30 were deployed on the military road, alongside six vehicles.
At 5 p.m., all the vehicles that had crossed the technical fence withdrew to Israeli territory, the NNA said.
Friday’s digging operations came after Israeli news media Thursday quoted an unidentified senior official saying that Israel could extend its activity into Lebanon.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz Friday reiterated that message. “If we think that in order to thwart the tunnels that one needs to operate on the other side, then we will operate on the other side of the border,” Katz told Radio Tel Aviv 102 FM.
Over the past year, at least 15 tunnels from the Gaza Strip into Israel were found and destroyed, the Israeli military said.
UNIFIL Thursday confirmed the existence of a tunnel near the Blue Line, describing it as a “serious occurrence” and adding it was “engaged with the parties to pursue urgent follow-up action.”
In the aftermath of the Israeli allegations around the tunnels, the situation has remained calm on both sides of the border.
But the Israeli operation has brought renewed attention to a frontier across which Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006.
The Israeli military said in a statement Thursday that it “holds the Lebanese government, the Lebanese Armed Forces and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon responsible for all events transpiring in and emanating from Lebanon.”
It added that an Israeli military commander had shown one of the alleged tunnels to UNIFIL head Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, and it urged UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army to clear the area of any passages.
Del Col met separately with Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun and General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim Friday to discuss the situation in the country’s south.
The National News Agency reported that Del Col met with Ibrahim to address the developments on Lebanon’s southern border after Israel’s allegations.
Earlier Friday, Del Col met with Aoun to discuss the “emerging situation” on the Blue Line, according to an Army statement.
Del Col Wednesday headed a tripartite meeting between the Lebanese Army, UNIFIL and the Israeli army.
Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has instructed the Lebanon’s envoy to the United Nations to complain that Israel is waging “a diplomatic and political campaign against Lebanon in preparation for attacks against it,” Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said.
Since the 2006 War, Israel has largely refrained from striking at Hezbollah on Lebanese soil.
However, it has carried out dozens of attacks in Syria against what it said were shipments of advanced weapons to Hezbollah. –
UNIFIL peacekeepers patrol the border at Kfar Kila.