LABBOUNEH, Lebanon: Lebanese officials Monday slammed an overnight Israeli operation to remove cement barriers and uproot two trees about 10 meters inside Lebanese territory with the government expected to lodge a complaint to the U.N. Security Council against the Jewish State.
Israel claimed the cement barricades that were placed facing a Lebanese Army post and a number of trees in the southern village of Labbouneh were blocking the view into Lebanon.
On Sunday, Israel used a heavy machine with a long arm parked on the Israel side of the Blue Line, the legally demarcated international boundary between Lebanon and Israel, security sources told The Daily Star.
A few meters east of Ras Naqoura, an Israeli vehicle was seen removing barbed wires installed there since 2000.
An officer with the U.N. peacekeeping force said this was not a violation, and that the Israeli soldiers were working within what is known as the technical fence, which runs parallel to the Blue Line.
Hours later, the Lebanese Army said several Israeli gunboats violated Lebanon's territorial waters near Ras Naqoura and moved existing floating barriers some 20 meters inside Lebanese waters.
The incident took place between 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., the military said in its statement.
UNIFIL said Force Commander Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra decided to launch an investigation into Sunday’s developments to confirm allegations of Israeli violation, adding that the situation along the Blue Line remained calm.
In a statement, the peacekeeping force also said Israel informed UNIFIL of its maintenance work along the technical fence on a short notice.
“UNIFIL in turn conveyed this information to [the Lebanese Army] in line with the established liaison and coordination arrangements,” it said.
Speaking to The Daily Star, UNIFIL Spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said they did not have information regarding the maritime violation and that the Lebanese Army has not yet sent a letter to the peacekeeping force.
During talks with U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly in Ain al-Tineh, Speaker Nabih Berri slammed the “recurrence and escalation of Israeli violations against the border from Wazzani to Naqoura.”
Berri said such violations put the monthly tripartite meetings that officers from both the Lebanese and Israeli armies hold in separate rooms under U.N. patronage at risk.
“Lebanon might suspend its participation in the tripartite commission meeting because they seem to be ineffective in preventing Israel from carrying out such aggressive acts, especially as the repeated complaints to the [U.N.] Security Council do not seem to affect Israel,” he said.
“These meetings do not address the ongoing Israeli violations,” he said.
For his part, Plumbly said he agreed with the speaker on the “importance of the calm along the Blue Line and of safeguarding it, and of course UNIFIL is exerting all efforts to achieve that.”
Meanwhile, President Michel Sleiman condemned the operation as a violation of Lebanese sovereignty.
Sleiman asked Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to file a complaint with the U.N. Security Council in order "to protect Lebanon's sovereignty from Israeli violations and preserve peace and stability in the south."
"This violation is in the hands of the international community so that it can make a decision to deter the enemy and pressure it to stop its violations and attacks,” he said.