Foreign Office Minister Alastair Burt condemned Hezbollah last night for building tunnels into Israel and expressed the UK’s support for Israel’s right to self-defence.
Burt said: “This is a blatant disregard of UN resolutions, threatening Israel and Lebanon’s stability. UNSCR 1701 must be implemented. UK supports Israel’s right to defend itself.”
The German Ambassador to Israel, Susanne Wasum-Rainer said that Germany “strongly condemns the aggressive behaviour of Hezbollah, as manifested in the tunnel system built in violation of Israel’s territorial integrity.”
On Wednesday, Russia expressed tacit support for the efforts to expose Hezbollah’s tunnels, while calling on both sides to show restraint.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton released a statement expressing “strong support” for Israel’s “efforts to defend its sovereignty.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Netanyahu told Guterres that he viewed with the “utmost gravity the flagrant violation of Israeli sovereignty and the violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.” He added that this displays Iran’s aggression in the region and that he expects the UN to strongly condemn the violation of Israel’s sovereignty.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said that it will send a team to Israel to “ascertain facts” and called for full access to all locations along the border.
Lebanese officials have questioned the authenticity of the IDF’s claims that the tunnels lead into Israeli territory, while Hezbollah put out a muted statement in which they refer to tunnels “allegedly stretching from south Lebanon to settlements in northern occupied Palestine”. Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon said that Israel did not provide proof that Hezbollah had dug tunnels along the Lebanese border, in a reference to a meeting held between Israel, Lebanon and UNIFIL.
Ali Bazzi, a parliamentarian from the pro-Hezbollah Amal movement said Israel has no evidence to support its claims, calling them a “distraction” and an attempt by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to “evade” an indictment for corruption. Lebanese Prime Minister Said Hariri said Lebanon does not want an escalation and is seeking to maintain calm with “all international and friendly parties concerned.”
The Israeli army has concluded that the Hezbollah tunnels were intended to be used planned to send fighters into Israeli territory to capture an area that overlooks Route 90 near the Lebanese border. This would have cut off the town of Metulla, enabling Hezbollah to carry out a major terrorist attack against civilians and soldiers. A senior IDF officer said yesterday that the tunnels were not yet operational but Israel decided to destroy them before they could be used by Hezbollah fighters. The IDF remain on high alert as a precautionary measure in case of a retaliation from Hezbollah.