Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star
After Israeli construction of a border wall breached a number of points contested by Lebanon, Lebanese officials said Thursday they would raise the issue with the United Nations Security Council and a top U.S. diplomat. Early Thursday, the Jewish state placed 25 cement blocks near the Israeli settlement of Miskaf Aam, opposite the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, with six blocks placed on disputed points. In response, the Lebanese Army deployed reinforcements to the area.
“What happened today is dangerous and could spark a security incident,” a political source told The Daily Star.
The blocks had been placed “without informing UNIFIL,” a Lebanese Army statement said.
Speaker Nabih Berri expressed his concern over the “dangerous” developments. “This is something that must be carefully monitored because it is very dangerous. There is something I know and it will be time to show it,” he told visitors at his Ain al-Tineh residence in the evening.
Berri said he would discuss Israel’s actions with U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale, who will visit Lebanon next Monday.
At Baabda Palace, President Michel Aoun presided over an emergency meeting of the Higher Defense Council, called for after a regular tripartite meeting between Israeli and Lebanese military officials mediated by UNIFIL.
“This [Higher Defense Council] meeting was a result of the tripartite meeting earlier in the day, because UNIFIL failed to halt Israel’s aggressions into the disputed points,” the political source said.
A UNIFIL statement said that the tripartite meeting, the first to be held in 2019, had touched on the “ongoing engineering works near the Blue Line.”
It said the meeting offered a forum for perspectives from both sides, and that UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, who chaired the meeting, reiterated his call to the concerned parties to continue to coordinate with the U.N. force.
“I again call on the parties to make full use of UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination arrangements.
“Any activity close to the Blue Line should be predictable, with sufficient prior notification to allow UNIFIL to duly inform the other party and so that coordinated security arrangements could be put in place to prevent incidents or violations,” he was quoted as saying.
Nevertheless, Israeli forces continued their work near the disputed border points.
After the Higher Defense Council meeting, which included a presentation by the Lebanese Army command and gathered the country’s top political and security officials, the council said in a statement that it considered the Israeli actions along the southern border to be “an attack on Lebanese territory, which is a clear violation of Article 5 of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.”The council announced that it would submit a complaint to the Security Council and increase diplomatic contacts to explain Lebanon’s stance on the Israeli aggressions. It also decided to request an emergency tripartite meeting “to discuss the developments, as the Lebanese Army will be given the necessary directions to address these aggressions,” the statement said.
“The Higher Defense Council affirmed Lebanon’s commitment to every inch of its land and water as well as its constant readiness to complete the negotiations to resolve existing border disputes.” The council also called on the Security Council and UNIFIL to “assume their full responsibilities in implementing U.N. Resolution 1701 and maintaining border security.”
In its statement, the Lebanese Army demanded an immediate order to stop Israel’s work “to prevent any escalation and for respect for Lebanese sovereignty.” The Army said Israel’s actions “threatened to resume hostilities,” and it stressed the need for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shuba hills and the occupied part of Ghajar.
The Army went on to raise the issue of Israel wiretapping and jamming Lebanese telecoms networks, calling for an immediate halt to the sending of “threatening messages” to Lebanese citizens.
Lebanese citizens have recently reported receiving text messages from Israeli numbers warning them against aiding Hezbollah.
Since the beginning of December, Israel has claimed to have uncovered five “Hezbollah attack tunnels.” UNIFIL has confirmed the existence of four of them, but has not commented on who built them.
Israeli forces last month also resumed construction of another segment of the cement border wall, opposite south Lebanon’s Kfar Kila, but halted due to pressure from UNIFIL after the Lebanese Army disputed several points planned for the wall.
A presidential palace source told The Daily Star that Thursday’s incident was more serious than the works last month. “This time they are building in areas that are disputed and not deemed theirs, so it’s a bit dangerous. Before they were building near the disputed areas and eventually backed away from them,” the source said.