LABBOUNEH, Lebanon: Lebanon will file a complaint against Israel before the U.N. Security Council for violating the country’s southern border, an act which sparked wide condemnation from Lebanese officials.
President Michel Sleiman condemned Monday Israel’s violation of Lebanese sovereignty and 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,” Sleiman said.
An Israeli army unit crossed the border Sunday night and removed concrete barriers and uprooted two trees located about 10 meters inside Lebanese territory.
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.
During the operation, Israel used a heavy machine with a long arm parked on the Israeli side of the Blue Line, the U.N. demarcated border of Israel’s 2000 withdrawal from south Lebanon, security sources told The Daily Star.
A few meters east of Ras Naqoura, an Israeli vehicle was seen removing barbed wires installed there in 2000.
An officer with the U.N. peacekeeping force said Israel’s act 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 of Lebanon’s border, adding that the situation along the Blue Line remained calm.
In a statement, the peacekeeping force also said that Israel had informed UNIFIL of its maintenance work along the technical fence on a short notice.
“ UNIFIL in turn conveyed this information to [the Army] in line with the established liaison and coordination arrangements,” it said.
Speaking to The Daily Star, UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said peacekeepers did not have information regarding the maritime violation and that the Lebanese Army had not yet sent a letter to the peacekeeping force.
Speaker Nabih Berri slammed the “recurrence and escalation of Israeli violations against the border from Wazzani to Naqoura.”
While receiving U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly at his Ain al-Tineh residence, Berri said such violations put the monthly tripartite meetings that officers from both the Lebanese and Israeli armies hold 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,” the speaker said.
For his part, Plumbly said he agreed with Berri 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.”