Le­banon says Is­rael of­fered no proof of bor­der tun­nels

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World -

LE­BANON’S Par­lia­ment speaker said Wed­nes­day that Is­rael has pre­sented no ev­i­dence to prove its claims that a net­work of at­tack tun­nels has been built by Hezbol­lah across the coun­tries’ shared bor­ders, as Is­rael’s prime min­is­ter pressed for in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion of the mil­i­tant group.

The U.N. peace­keep­ing mission mean­while said Wed­nes­day it will send a team to Is­rael to “as­cer­tain facts,” call­ing for full ac­cess to all lo­ca­tions along the bor­der.

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary Tues­day launched an ope­nended op­er­a­tion to de­stroy what it said was a net­work of tun­nels built by Hezbol­lah aimed at in­fil­trat­ing north­ern Is­rael.

Is­raeli forces did not en­ter Le­banese ter­ri­tory. They were seen op­er­at­ing in what looked like a con­struc­tion site, with trucks bring­ing in equip­ment and drills and bull­doz­ers dig­ging in the open ter­ri­tory and farm­lands in­side north­ern Is­rael. Hezbol­lah had no im­me­di­ate com­ment on the claims or the Is­raeli ac­tiv­i­ties across the bor­der.

On Wed­nes­day, Nabih Berri, Le­banon’s par­lia­ment speaker and ally of Hezbol­lah, said Is­rael of­fered no “co­or­di­nates or in­for­ma­tion” about the tun­nels dur­ing the reg­u­lar weekly meet­ing held at the UN po­si­tion in south­ern Le­banon. His com­ments were car­ried by the Na­tional News Agency.

In a state­ment, the Le­banese army called Is­raeli re­ports of tun­nels across the bor­der “al­le­ga­tions.” It called on Is­rael to present spe­cific co­or­di­nates and in­for­ma­tion about the lo­ca­tion of such tun­nels. The army urged Is­rael not to carry out any work in­side Le­banese ter­ri­tory.

The Is­raeli army re­leased pho­to­graphs, video footage and an il­lus­tra­tive map Tues­day of what it says is the first of sev­eral tun­nels snaking into Is­raeli ter­ri­tory that it soon plans to de­stroy.

The U.N. mission, known as UNIFIL, said its reg­u­lar weekly meet­ing with the Le­banese and Is­raeli armies dis­cussed Is­rael’s “ac­tiv­i­ties” search­ing for sus­pected tun­nels. The Is­raeli army said it used the meet­ing to ex­press its ob­jec­tion to “the se­vere vi­o­la­tion of Is­raeli sovereignty.”

The UNIFIL force com­man­der, Maj. Gen. Ste­fano Del Col, en­cour­aged both sides to re­duce “the high level of rhetoric,” avoid mis­un­der­stand­ings, and en­sure that se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity along the U.n.-drawn Blue Line “is main­tained and re­in­forced,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric said in New York. He added that U.N. Sec­re­tary-gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res’ “prin­ci­ple is that the build­ing of tun­nels from one coun­try to an­other for mil­i­tary pur­poses is wholly un­ac­cept­able.”

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, mean­while, said he spoke with Guter­res by phone Wed­nes­day, telling him that he ex­pects the U.N. to con­demn the vi­o­la­tion of Is­raeli sovereignty. Ne­tanyahu also said he hopes the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity im­poses in­creased sanc­tions on Hezbol­lah in re­sponse to Is­rael’s ex­po­sure of the tun­nels.

Ali Bazzi, a law­maker from Berri’s par­lia­men­tary bloc, said Is­rael had no ev­i­dence to its claims, call­ing them a “dis­trac­tion” and an at­tempt by Ne­tanyahu to “evade” pos­si­ble new in­dict­ment at home for cor­rup­tion charges. This week, Is­raeli po­lice rec­om­mended fil­ing charges against the prime min­is­ter. A fi­nal de­ci­sion will be made by the at­tor­ney gen­eral in the com­ing months.

Un­der the U.N. res­o­lu­tion that ended the 2006 war be­tween Is­rael and Hezbol­lah, Hezbol­lah is barred from op­er­at­ing in south­ern Le­banon. Is­rael has long ac­cused it of vi­o­lat­ing the res­o­lu­tion. Le­banon says Is­rael, too, reg­u­larly vi­o­lated its air, sea and land spa­ces.“i em­pha­size the crit­i­cal role of our li­ai­son and co­or­di­na­tion mech­a­nisms in mit­i­gat­ing ten­sions through con­tin­u­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion, at the heart of which is the Tri­par­tite fo­rum,” said UNIFIL head Maj-gen. Ste­fano Del Col. – AP

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