Israel warns of ‘violent escalation’ on Lebanon border – Hezbollah calls for less UNIFIL

Middle East Monitor  /  August 29, 2023

Israel’s Defence Minister, on Tuesday, urged the United Nations to intervene to stop tension along the border with Lebanon, Anadolu Agency reports.

In a letter sent to UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, Yoav Gallant said “the potential for a violent escalation on Israel’s northern border is growing” due to what he described as Hezbollah’s “flagrant violations”, Israeli channel i24NEWS reported.

He also accused the Lebanese group of causing tension through its provocations, including putting up a tent in what he called “Israeli territory”.

Gallant urged immediate UN intervention to de-escalate the growing tension “by strengthening UNIFIL authority in the region,” referring to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, and its implementation of its mandate.

Israel “will not tolerate increasing threats to the security of its citizens, and will act as required in their defence,” he warned.

There was no comment from Lebanese authorities or Hezbollah on the letter.

The Israeli-Lebanese border has witnessed tension in recent months amid mutual accusations of violating and crossing the borderline.

In June, Hezbollah set up tents in Shebaa Farms and the Kfar Shouba hills close to the border. Lebanon insists that the Shebaa Farms area, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, is Lebanese territory.

In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in which more than 1,200 Lebanese – mostly civilians – were killed. Some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed in the same conflict


Hezbollah calls for restricted UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon

Jamie Prentis

The National  /  August 29, 2023

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss extending UNIFIL’s mandate on Wednesday

Hezbollah has objected to renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in the south of Lebanon.

The mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which expires on Thursday, was extended last year with an adjustment that allowed the peacekeeping force “to conduct its operations independently”.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah previously described the provision as “a violation of Lebanese sovereignty”.

On Monday, he again spoke out against a proposed renewal.

“A foreign armed force that moves on Lebanese territory without authorization of the government and Lebanese army, without co-ordination with the Lebanese army, where is the sovereignty in all that?” Mr Nasrallah said.

Iran-backed Hezbollah has one of its main power bases in southern Lebanon, which borders Israel.

“The people of the South will not allow a decision to be applied against the will of the Lebanese government,” said Mr Nasrallah.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss extending UNIFIL’s mandate.

UNIFIL began its mission more than four decades ago. It typically co-ordinates patrols and movements in its area of operations with the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Lebanon’s government has also objected to the absence of a stipulation in the force’s mandate that would make such co-ordination mandatory.

Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York on Monday to tell him of Beirut’s position.

UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to monitor the withdrawal of Israeli troops after they invaded Lebanon in pursuit of fighters from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

It was bolstered in 2006 after Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war and was given the task of monitoring a ceasefire between the two sides.

In December 2022, an Irish soldier with UNIFIL was killed and three others wounded when their convoy came under fire in southern Lebanon in an area outside the mission’s normal area of operations.

It is believed that the convoy took a wrong turn from the motorway that runs north to Beirut.

Hezbollah later handed over to Lebanese authorities a man believed to have carried out the attack that killed Pvt Sean Rooney, 23.

The group denied involvement in the attack, although the suspect is believed to support Hezbollah.

Jamie Prentis is a reporter at the London bureau of The National