Lebanon News

UNIFIL urges calm on the border

Sri Lankan UNIFIL peacekeepers patrol the area in Ras Naqoura, Sunday, July 13, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

TYRE, Lebanon: U.N. peacekeepers urged the Lebanese and Israeli militaries Sunday to exercise “maximum self-restraint” and cooperate with UNIFIL to maintain calm on the border hours before rockets were fired from Lebanese territory into Israel, raising tensions between the two countries.

The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon described the firing of rockets into Israel as “a grave violation” of Resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon.

Two rockets fired from south Lebanon struck northern Israel Sunday night, triggering Israeli retaliatory artillery fire on the outskirts of the Lebanese village of Rashidiya, Lebanese security sources said. No casualties were reported.

Three rockets had been fired from the same area a day earlier.

On Friday three other rockets were also fired toward Israel from the village of Mari in Hasbaya.

Acting Force commander Brig. Gen. Tarundeep Kumar immediately established contact with senior commanders of the Lebanese and Israeli armies and urged them “to exercise maximum restraint, to cooperate with UNIFIL in order to prevent further escalation,” according to a UNIFIL statement.

Efforts to locate the launch pads of rockets fired at northern Israel Saturday turned out to be an arduous task with the Lebanese Army only discovering them Sunday afternoon, security sources told The Daily Star.

The sources said the Army found the launch pads in a banana orchard in the valley of Ras al-Ain, 3 kilometers away from the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidieh in Tyre.

Lebanese troops also found an unexploded bomb that was taken from the area by a military expert, the National News Agency reported.

The UNIFIL statement said the peacekeeping force, in coordination with the Lebanese Army, is maintaining enhanced operational presence on the ground, and has intensified patrols across the area of operations to prevent any further incidents.

“The parties have reaffirmed their commitment to the cessation of hostilities and are fully cooperating with UNIFIL in efforts to prevent any further incidents along the Blue Line,” the statement said.

UNIFIL explained that the situation in the area was calmer, adding that it has launched an investigation into the incident “that amounted to a grave violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and endangered human lives.”

Sirens sounded across the Israeli settlement of Nahariya, 12 kilometers from the Lebanese border, after the rockets were fired from the valley of Qulayleh in the Tyre region.

Israel swiftly responded with artillery fire on Zebqin and Qulayleh in the Tyre region. The area houses two Palestinian refugee camps: Bass and Rashidieh.

Mariam Atallah, a woman from Qulayleh, criticized the random firing of rockets into Israel. “We are not against fighting Israel. But the firing of rockets should be controlled with the resistance [Hezbollah] and the Lebanese Army. All of us are with Palestine and Gaza,” she said.

But farmer Mustafa Hammoud from the village of Debbine disagreed. “Let rockets be fired toward the positions of the usurper Israelis wherever they are found and let them be burned all of them. Israel is an enemy that understands only the language of fire. We have tried the [Israeli] aggression. Long live Gaza.”

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket attack and Hamas issued a statement denying that its armed wing, the Ezzeddine al-Qassam Brigades, carried out Saturday’s attack.

The Israeli military said that two rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel late Saturday. No casualties were reported.

Friday, a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya fired rockets at Israel, sources told The Daily Star. They said the man acted of his own volition in solidarity with the people of Gaza against the ongoing Israeli offensive.

Friday’s attack drew Israeli retaliatory artillery shelling of the Lebanese village of Kfar Shuba and heightened tensions on the generally calm border between the two countries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 14, 2014, on page 3.




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