Wednesday, 12 Dec 2018

Lebanon says Israel has offered no evidence of border tunnels

BEIRUT – The Lebanese Parliament Speaker said on Wednesday that Israel had not presented any evidence to support its claims that a network of attack tunnels had been built by Hezbollah across the country's common borders, while Prime Minister Israeli minister insisted that the militant group be sentenced.

The US peacekeeping mission announced on Wednesday that it would send a team to Israel to "verify the facts", calling for full access to all locations along the border.

The Israeli army on Tuesday launched an operation open to all to destroy a network of tunnels built by Hezbollah for the purpose of infiltrating northern Israel.

Israeli forces did not enter Lebanese territory. They were seen operating on what looked like a construction site, with trucks bringing equipment, drills and bulldozers digging into the open territory and farmland of northern Israel. Hezbollah has made no immediate comment on Israeli claims or activities on the other side of the border.

On Wednesday, Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament and Hezbollah ally, said that Israel was not providing "coordinates" on the tunnels during the regular weekly meeting held at the UN's southern position. from Lebanon. His comments were picked up by the National News Agency.

In a statement, the Lebanese army described the Israeli reports of cross-border tunnels as "allegations". She called on Israel to provide contact details and accurate information on the location of these tunnels. The army urged Israel not to carry out any work in the interior of the Lebanese territory.

The Israeli army on Tuesday released photographs, video footage and a map illustrating what it says is the first of several tunnels sneaking into Israeli territory that it plans to destroy soon.

The US mission, known as UNIFIL, said its regular weekly meeting with the Lebanese and Israeli armies focused on Israeli "activities" in search of suspected tunnels. The Israeli army said that it took advantage of the meeting to express its opposition to "the grave violation of Israeli sovereignty".

The commander of UNIFIL forces, Major General Stefano Del Col, encouraged both parties to reduce "the high level of rhetoric", to avoid misunderstandings and to ensure that security and stability along the Line blueprint of the UN "be maintained and strengthened". The spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in New York.

He added that the principle of "United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is that building tunnels from one country to another for military purposes is totally unacceptable".

At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he had spoken by phone Wednesday with Guterres, telling him that he was expecting the UK to condemn the violation of Israeli sovereignty. Netanyahu also said he hoped the international community would impose tougher sanctions on Hezbollah in response to Israel's revelation of the tunnels.

Ali Bazzi, a member of the Berri parliamentary group, said that Israel had no evidence of its allegations, calling them "distraction" and Netanyahu's attempt "to avoid" a new act of Charge for corruption in the country. This week, the Israeli police have recommended laying charges against the prime minister. The Attorney General will make a final decision in the coming months.

Under the US resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, Hezbollah is not allowed to operate in southern Lebanon. Israel has long accused it of violating the resolution. Lebanon says Israel has also regularly violated its air, sea and land areas.

"I stress the critical role of our liaison and coordination mechanisms in mitigating tensions through continuous communication, at the heart of which is the tripartite forum," said the UNIFIL chief of mission. General Stefano Del Col.

He called on both parties to use the mechanisms to "avoid misunderstandings and ensure that security and stability" along the border are maintained and strengthened.

The Israeli operation is expected to last weeks or even months. The Israeli army said that it had strengthened its forces along the border and warned Hezbollah to stay clear of the tunnels.


Associated Press editors Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, disseminated, rewritten or redistributed.


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