Israel has urged a special session of the UN Security Council to condemn the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and designate it a terrorist organization following the discovery of cross-border tunnels stretching into Israel.
Following a stormy session, the council took no action on the Israeli request, though several members sided with Israel and expressed concerns over Hezbollah’s violation of a UN Security Council resolution that ended a 2006 war between the bitter enemies.
Israel has previously urged the UN’s most powerful body to condemn Hezbollah, but has never succeeded because of divisions in the council, and there was no move Wednesday to circulate a draft resolution on the tunnels. A key reason for the lack of council action is that some members would insist that Israeli violations of the 2006 resolution also be included in a resolution.
Early this month, Israel announced the discovery of what it said was a network of cross-border Hezbollah attack tunnels and launched an open-ended military operation to destroy them. It so far has exposed four tunnels that it says were to be used to infiltrate and attack Israeli towns and abduct Israeli civilians.
Ahead of Wednesday’s debate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the council to condemn Hezbollah.
“This is not merely an act of aggression. This is an act of war,” Netanyahu said. “The people of Lebanon have to understand that Hezbollah is putting them in jeopardy and we expect Lebanon to take action against this.”
At the United Nations, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon showed an aerial photograph of what Israel called a “private compound” near the border that concealed a tunnel. He also presented an aerial photo showing what he said were weapons-storage sites concealed in a border village.
He said Israel had given the UN peacekeeping mission, known as UNIFIL, “precise information” about the tunnels that was shared with the Lebanese army. He accused the Lebanese army of then relaying the information to Hezbollah, allowing it to try to conceal the tunnels.
“Lebanese army officials are working for Hezbollah, while UNIFIL is not working to fulfill its mandate in the region in the necessary manner,” Danon said.
The UN’s peacekeeping chief, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said UNIFIL had confirmed four tunnels, including two that cross the frontier into Israel.
Calling them a “serious violation” of the 2006 cease-fire resolution, Lacroix said UNIFIL is “acting judiciously” to complete its investigation and to work with both sides to disable all tunnels that cross the border.
“This is a matter of serious concern,” he said.
Lebanon’s ambassador, Amal Mudallali, said her country took the matter seriously and remains committed to the cease-fire resolution.
“This commitment is not rhetoric, and these are not mere words, because this commitment is in the interest of my country and my people,” she said, adding that the Lebanese army is “deployed heavily” in the south to make sure the cease-fire is honored.
But she also accused Israel of repeatedly violating the resolution by having its air force routinely fly through Lebanese skies.