The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reported “blatant” security violations in southern Lebanon on Friday, saying it had seen at least four illegal shooting ranges in the area where it operates.
UNIFIL said they had observed individuals on the shooting ranges “dressed in combat attire” and in the process of conducting live-fire exercises. The shooting ranges do not belong to Lebanon’s Armed Forces, the latter have confirmed.
UNIFIL has informed the U.N. Security Council about the matter. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Lebanon War, stipulates that armed groups – other than the official Lebanese military and UNIFIL – must remain north of Lebanon’s Litani River.
Additionally, the resolution called for the disarmament of the Iranian-proxy terrorist organization Hezbollah.
Neither of the two stipulations have been implemented, whether by Lebanese authorities or by UNIFIL, which is supposed to assist them in the task.
“The presence of weapons and the training activities that appear to be taking place are blatant violations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701,” the UNIFIL spokesperson’s office said. “UNIFIL has underscored concerns to Lebanese political and security authorities at the highest levels and submitted formal requests to follow up and facilitate investigations to ensure accountability.”
UNIFIL has not publicly mentioned anything about who the individuals in “combat attire” were, but a legitimate guess might be that they were members of Hezbollah. Since at least 2017, the IDF has been saying that Hezbollah is establishing outposts in southern Lebanon, in violation of U.N. Resolution 1701.
In June, Israel said that Hezbollah had established at least 15 observation posts along the border with Israel in the preceding weeks, several of them allegedly just meters away from the border between the two countries, known as the Blue Line.
The IDF said that Hezbollah members in civilian clothes, several of them armed, were manning the outposts, which Israel has claimed are being used to do intelligence and reconnaissance work against the Jewish state.
Hezbollah, on the other hand, claimed that the outposts were owned by the environmental NGO “Green without Borders.”
UNIFIL has consistently rejected Israel’s claims, saying that it had “not observed any unauthorized armed persons at the locations or found any basis to report a violation of Resolution 1701.”
Also in June, the IDF said that Hezbollah had stepped up construction of military infrastructure near the border.
“We can see the operatives approaching the border area. We know them – their names, where they come from and where they are working. When the time comes, they will pay the price,” Major General Amir Baram said at the time. He added that the IDF will “destroy all the infrastructure” and “reduce it to nothing.”
He also made it clear that Israel does not think that UNIFIL is doing its job: “Hezbollah is continuing to build its terrorist assets despite the presence of UNIFIL forces close to its positions … Don’t worry; we never rely on anyone else for our safety.”
Also in June, “a group of men in civilian clothes” near the Arab Louaize village in southern Lebanon threatened UNIFIL forces and tried to take their weapons, causing the U.N. force to demand protection from the Lebanese army.
“Attacks, threats and acts of intimidation against UNIFIL peacekeepers … are a matter of serious concern, and we call on the Lebanese Armed Forces to guarantee the safety, security and freedom of movement” of the U.N. force,” UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said in a statement at the time.
Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah are currently high over an ongoing disagreement between Israel and Lebanon over the rights to an offshore gas field in the Mediterranean Sea.
Earlier this year, Hezbollah threatened to attack Israel’s offshore gas rig in the Karish gas field and, in July, the IDF reportedly shot down three unarmed Hezbollah drones that were flying toward the rig.
On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Hezbollah that any attack on Israel’s offshore gas assets could spark a war. The warning came after Hezbollah threatened to “sever” Israel’s hands over the disputed gas field.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.