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UN peacekeepers confronted by Lebanese army

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) clashed yesterday with soldiers from the Lebanese Armed Forces and Hezbollah operatives along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

According to a report in Maariv, UNIFIL and Israeli troops were marking the precise location of the border in the Zarit Salient, where Israeli sovereignty formally extends a few metres beyond the border. UNIFIL troops were approached by six armed Lebanese army soldiers and two unarmed men whom the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) identified as Hezbollah operatives.

A violent confrontation ensued after Lebanese soldiers and Hezbollah operatives blocked the UNIFIL troops’ way and refused to allow them to return to Lebanese territory. The incident ended only after senior officers, including the UNIFIL commander in chief, intervened. Israeli military sources suspect there is a Hezbollah tunnel in the area that penetrates into Israeli territory.

The IDF said the incident was a deliberate act of provocation by Hezbollah. They say that footage of the incident shows Hezbollah operatives in charge and giving orders on the ground. IDF officials add that this incident proves that Hezbollah are in a position to give orders to the Lebanese army.

The French Foreign Ministry yesterday expressed its support for Israel’s ‘Operation Northern Shield’ to expose Hezbollah’s cross border tunnels. The Foreign Ministry said: “France expresses its concern after the discovery by the Israeli armed forces of tunnels on Israeli territory, dug by Hezbollah from Lebanon. These tunnels violate UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which provides for the cessation of hostilities along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel. France has expressed its concern to the Lebanese authorities and will continue the close dialogue it has with them on the situation in southern Lebanon. It calls on all parties to exercise caution and restraint.”

The French Government also reiterated its support for UNIFIL, calling on Lebanese and Israeli authorities to continue their close cooperation with the UN peacekeeping mission.