BEIRUT – The United Nations interim force in Lebanon announced on Wednesday that it would send a technical team to Israel to verify whether the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah had been drilling tunnels from the country’s south across the border into Israeli territory.
UNIFIL’s head of mission and force commander, Major General Stefano Del Col, held a tripartite forum with officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces and Israeli military in the border town of Ras al-Naqoura, where the three parties agreed that UNIFIL would send an inspection team to Israel Thursday, according to a statement on the peacekeeping organization’s website.
Del Col stressed in the importance of “ensuring that UNIFIL has full access to all locations along the Blue Line” (the border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel established by the UN in 2000).
A spokesperson for the Israeli foreign affairs ministry, Emmanuel Nahshon, had on Tuesday accused Hezbollah of building the tunnels.
Nahshon declared them to be a flagrant violation of the UN Security Council’s resolution 1701 that established a ceasefire in the 2006 conflict between the neighboring Middle Eastern nations.
Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli Defense Force spokesman, said that an Israeli military operation dubbed “Northern Shield” would be underway to demolish the tunnels, at least one of which Conricus said extended some 40 meters (131 feet) into the country’s northern border with Lebanon.
Hezbollah has not yet issued an official response to the Israeli allegations.
However, the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament and Lebanese Shiite political leader Nabih Berri said on Wednesday that the Israeli accusations about the tunnels were unfounded.
In response to the Israeli and Lebanese statements, Del Col urged both Israeli and Lebanese sides to use mechanisms in order “avoid misunderstandings and ensure that security and stability along the Blue Line are maintained and reinforced.”