UN probes Lebanon-Israel border row

Resolution 1701 report due to tackle Israel and Lebanon counter-accusations.

    Unifil boats patrolling the Lebanese coastline have said "no smuggling has occurred using the sea" [AFP]

    Israeli flights

     

    French officials in Lebanon said that Israeli aircraft flew at low altitude and high speed over UN positions in south Lebanon earlier this year; they strongly protested and the over-flights stopped.

     

    However, the UN interim force in Lebanon (Unifil), a 23-nation, 15,000-strong force deployed along the Lebanese-Israeli border to maintain peace, hasn't been able to stop Israeli jets which violate Lebanon's airspace almost on a daily basis.

     

    Complaints about Israeli flights over Lebanon
    have not stopped them [Al Jazeera]

    The Israelis have ignored UN protests and say the flights will continue to ensure arms supplies do not reach Hezbollah.

     

    Complaints from Beirut that these flights violate Security Council resolution 1701 haven't stopped them either.

     

    Israel claims that weapons are being smuggled across the Syrian border, violating resolution 1701, but Lebanese officials deny this accusation.

     

    The United Nations maritime task force in charge of patrolling the Lebanese coastline has said that it has not caught any weapons being smuggled to Lebanon.

     

    Andreas Krausi, commander of the Unifil maritime force, said: "We haven't faced any problems and as far as we know no smuggling has occured using the sea."

     

    Israel has said they have evidence to support their claims against the Islamist group.

     

    Unmanned aircraft

     

    Major General Alain Pellegrini, head of Unifil in south Lebanon said exclusively to Al Jazeera that they are waiting for authorisation from the UN to deploy unmanned aircraft to survey the Blue Line, a border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel set by the UN in June 2000.

     

    The use of unmanned aircraft to observe and monitor border areas is not mentioned in resolution 1701.

     

    Pellegrini said: "We have asked to use this kind of equipment for the UN as one more way to undertake our observations."

     

    While Israel operates surveillance flights over Lebanon with the aim of "preventing Hezbollah from rearming", the use of drones by the UN has not been welcomed by the Islamist group who view such operations with suspicion.

     

    It is not clear whether the UN would be willing to get involved in such a controversial arrangement.

     

    Lebanese patrol

     

    Since resolution 1701 was adopted, thousands of Lebanese army troops are now manning posts for the first time in decades.

     

    Ban has urged the Lebanese government to be
    the only authority with weapons [AFP]

    Soldiers have not been ordered to actively seek out Hezbollah weaponry, but told to confiscate them if they are openly displayed.

     

    However, the UN has reported that there are no Hezbollah armed fighters in the area in which the Lebanese army are patrolling.

     

    However, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary general, has said they the groups is armed and is preparing for "what is bigger and more dangerous".

     

    Ban Ki-Moon has urged the Lebanese government to be the only authority and should be the only one with weapons.

     

    "An understanding that incorporates the principles of no rearmament of unauthorised groups and no movement of arms other than through the consent'' of the Lebanese armed forces "should be encouraged."

     

    Ban's phase report to the UN Security Council is expected to include the issue of Israeli surveillance flights and highlight the issue of weapons smuggling across the Syrian border.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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