The United Nations‘ peacekeepers in Lebanon have said two of the four tunnels allegedly discovered by Israel cross the border between the two countries, violating a ceasefire agreement that ended a 2006 war.
In a statement on Monday, the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said it “can confirm that two of the tunnels cross the Blue Line”.
“These constitute violations of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701,” the peacekeeping force said in a statement, referring to the agreement that ended the 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
The resolution bans all unauthorised weapons between the Litani River and the UN-monitored border between Israel and Lebanon.
Under the resolution, Lebanon’s army is responsible for security on its side of the border in a zone from which any other armed force, including Hezbollah, is banned.
Israel accuses Hezbollah of digging the tunnels. The Lebanese armed group has not commented on the UN operation.
On Sunday, the Israeli army said it discovered a fourth tunnel which it proceeded to destroy as part of a military operation launched in early December and aimed at “exposing” and “thwarting” potential incursions into its territory.
The UN peacekeepers said they would continue their technical investigations, describing the recent discoveries as “a matter of serious concern”, requesting “urgent follow-up actions” by the Lebanese authorities.
In Beirut, Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said his country is committed to the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement and respect of the Blue Line.
Hariri said in a meeting with General Stefano Del Col, the UNIFIL head, that the Lebanese army will conduct patrols to deal “with any flaw in the implementation” of the ceasefire.
Earlier on Monday, Lebanese soldiers went on alert after Israeli troops rolled out barbed wire along the border.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said the incident occurred on the edge of the southern village of Mays al-Jabal when Israeli troops installed 200 meters of wire. Lebanese troops protested that the wire was placed on their side of the border.
The Israeli military said its troops were placing concertina wire “adjacent to the Blue Line” when the standoff occurred. It said the wire was installed entirely in Israeli territory, in coordination with the peacekeepers.
“No violent incidents were reported,” it said.
UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said that after reports of a “standoff” between Lebanese and Israeli troops along the Blue Line, “UNIFIL troops were deployed in the area to defuse the situation, prevent misunderstandings and maintain stability”.
“The situation in the area is now calm and our troops are on the ground,” Tenenti said.
Israel and Hezbollah, who are technically still at war, have avoided any major conflict at the border since 2006, though Israel has mounted attacks in Syria targeting what it said were advanced weapon deliveries to the group.
President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, last week said he did not see in Israel’s military operation a threat to peace, adding Beirut was ready to “remove the causes of the dispute”, without adding any further information.